Cardinal Berkman: And Other Forgettable Images

Cardinal Berkman may distort Astro Memories.

The thought of Jeff Bagwell or Craig Biggio ever donning the uniform of another MLB club, especially the flaming red digs of the St. Louis Cardinals is beyond the pale. Now Lance Berkman comes along and signs with the rival Cardinals and its almost as bad.

Never mind the fact that Lance wanted to come home to Houston after his unfortunate brief stay in The Bronx, but he was turned away at the gate by Ed Wade, the man who now answers the door at Minute Maid Park, this town’s version of the Emerald City in Oz.

“But I want to speak to Drayton,” cried Lance.

“Nobody speaks to Drayton these days, Lance,” answered Wade, “not nobody, no how, no way. – Unless, of course, you are prepared to present a buyer’s offer for the club, the  door to Mr. McLane’s private chambers are now closed to any discussion of all other baseball business.”

Well, in all fairness to all parties, the outcome of Lance Berkman’s recently abortive attempt to come home again wasn’t quite that ludicrous or severe. There simply wasn’t any room on the Astros roster for the aging star under the atmosphere of the current rebuilding program. As General Manager Wade put it somewhere, every at bat the club might give to Berkman now would be one less growth at bat opportunity for newcomer Brett Wallace. The club needs to find out if Wallace is the man at first in the future or not. And the club cannot accomplish that aim by giving away all those at bats to Lance Berkman as he plays out the downside of his career.

Now, does Berkman’s signing by the Cardinals set up this familiar headline script? “MAN’S ONCE-UPON-A-TIME BEST FRIEND COMES HOME AS MAD DOG TO BITE FORMER OWNER!”

You bet it does, but it’s short term, maybe for 2011 only, if Berkman and the Cardinals even get through the entire season together. Age-related injury or a performance level that falls totally off the table could limit or end Berkman’s play in 2011, even though we certainly don’t wish that upon him. Chance are, for a while, at least, a late game at Minute Maid Park may indeed  be lost on a late inning gapper hit by Berkman – or by a left-handed, opposite field pop into the Crawford Boxes by the man with the Jay Leno chin.

It’s part of the game and we shall all survive it – as we did in the past with the return of Rusty Staub as a Montreal Expo, the return of Joe Morgan as a Cincinnati Red, the return of Jimmy Wynn as a Los Angeles Dodger, and the brief  return of Larry Dierker as a St. Louis Cardinal.

Let’s not forget too that there is another returning player visit by a former Astro blue-blood coming up in 2011. This one didn’t happen in 2010 because of the schedule, but it no doubt will happen next season, almost assuredly. And this one could be painful for several years to come.

A picture is worth a thousand words:

Roy Oswalt

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