Not even a shaky bullpen outing by PJ Walters late in an 8-1 blowout against the Houston Astros can turn us away from the Colby Rasmus debate, and that is somewhat unfortunate. Unfortunate in that some of the discussions on the new social media networks is turning somewhat ugly, resulting in the Twitter equivalent of storming out of the room in anger (or frustration).
Hey, aren’t we all on the same team here ?
I get both sides of the Rasmus debate: he is an exceedingly gifted athlete that has demonstrated an ability to be an elite player in the major leagues, and …. he is inconsistent. The unanswerable question is what leads to the inconsistency, youth (he’s turns 25 in two weeks) or a bad attitude. None of us knows the answer, so we project our biases on him, either for or against.
Enter Jon Jay. The perfect antagonist for a Shakespeare drama. Jay seems to be all of the things Rasmus isn’t (note the use of the word seems). He is consistent, both at the plate and especially in the field. He hits the ball between the gaps in the outfielders instead of trying to yack everything out of the ballpark – not always an issue with Rasmus, but does come up from time to time. Jay appears to hustle and is alert on every play, Rasmus seems to glide – which has unfairly earned him the label of lazy (that one drives me nuts).
There is an even more important difference – Jon Jay was drafted out of college and Rasmus came straight to the Cardinals from high school. A lot of that baseball IQ that Jay displays came from those additional years playing college ball. Simply put, Jay is two or three years ahead of Rasmus in terms of experience, and it shows. When comparing the two players for the long haul, keep that in mind – what will Rasmus look like in 2013 or 2014 with those extra years of experience behind him, or what did Jay look like 2 or 3 years ago.
But we have to deal with the here and now, and that means the upcoming trade deadline. And no player should be exempt from trade talks, including Rasmus. That doesn’t mean we need to start frothing at the mouth and running around yelling sumsar sumsar (if you don’t get that, check out The Shining on Netflix).
The Cardinals are in an amazing position, dangling one of the league’s most exciting center field prospects in front of the other clubs to see what he might bring in return. It doesn’t mean he will be traded, but you have to be somewhat excited about the thought of what some team may give up for young outfielder that they can build a team around. Somebody did that in 1958 with a skinny kid that didn’t seem to have a spot in the Cincinnati Reds outfield, and a decade later there were three NL Pennants and 2 World Series titles in St. Louis. That kid was Curt Flood, and Bing Devine built a team around him. A forward looking GM might do that again today.
But what if Jay gets hurt ?
If Rasmus is traded and Jon Jay takes over center field duties, there are capable backups in the farm system in Adron Chambers and Shane Robinson. Neither can hit like Jay or Rasmus, but both are skilled defenders and would be an upgrade over Jay and no worse than break even against Rasmus. Chambers is on the 40 man roster, Robinson was but is no longer.
You might even remember Shane Robinson. He was the young man that took over center field duties when Rick Ankiel had that nasty collision with the outfield wall in May 2009. He was also the young man that ran into Andrew Brown earlier this year in Des Moines. It was a terrible collision, and at the time, we thought Robinson’s career might be over. We were wrong. He healed up, recently started his rehabilitation and is now back in Memphis, chasing down fly balls and getting lots of hits. He’s a tough kid that you can’t help but like, even though he’s a long shot to play for the Cardinals.
Chambers is the one to watch though. It is because of Chambers that the team might really be willing to move Rasmus. Chambers appears to be a top of the batting order catalyst with speed and the attitude that comes with that speed. He doesn’t hit for high average yet, but his on-base percentage is respectable, and darn it, he is exciting to watch.
Can I ask a favor ?
If I could ask just one favor, it would be enthusiastic cheering for Colby Rasmus when he is in the lineup. It doesn’t matter if you love or despise the young man, when he is on the field, don’t we want him to have a career day ? Isn’t that the same thing with every player ? Do we really want Ryan Theriot to boot that next ground ball, or do we want him to surprise us with a dynamite play that might even be shown on the ESPN highlight segment ?
It’s OK to be disappointed when a player doesn’t do well, but please start the game with a positive outlook about what they might do, and applaud enthusiastically when they do something good (like Rasmus’ diving catch last night, or his home run earlier in that same game). Those aren’t “I Told You So” opportunities for either side of the argument, just entertaining moments in a long and complicated sports season.
After all, isn’t this supposed to be fun ?