Posts Tagged ‘Lance Berkman’

What If, Lance Berkman….?

February 7, 2014
Lance Berkman: One of the All Time Astro Greats.

Lance Berkman: One of the All Time Astro Greats.

What if Lance Berkman had been able to remain in the big leagues for another five years (2014-18) at the same level he played during his five highest past batting average seasons? Would he have then done enough to have elevated his Hall of Fame estimations in the eyes of the writers’ voting group?

In my mind there’s hardly any doubt about it, in spite of the improbability that any 38-year old veteran could suddenly rip off a string of five amazing seasons at this point, given the damage that already has occurred to Berkman from aging and injury. This exercise is more of a suggestion that, if Berkman been able to sustain a slightly higher level of production and been in better shape to have avoided certain injuries over the course of his career, he might have achieved the HOF induction that now most probably eludes him forever. Lance Berkman had a good career, but not a great one.

First of all, take a look at the career batting stats for Lance Berkman at Baseball Reference.Com. Note that he batted only .293 with 366 HR, 1146 runs, and 1234 RBI over his 15 seasons in the big leagues.

Now let’s take a look at what at what happens to Berkman’s career stats if he could have played those five extra seasons and achieved the identical stat outcomes that he actually produced in his five actual best seasons of 2001, 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2011. For brevity’s sake here, our first table only shows the at bats, runs, hits, rbi, and home runs for each of those seasons by Berkman and then totals what they would have added to his actual accomplishments:

The Career of Lance Berkman with the Theoretically Repeated Addition of His 5 Best Seasons

The table simply shows what could be added to Berkman’s totals from him repeating the stats of his five best seasons over the next five years.

Note: If that level of play could have been added, or interspersed over the course of a career that went to 20 seasons, Lance Berkman would have batted an even .300 and hit a monster total of 535 home runs.
































































Of course, we don’t really live in a world of “what might have been,” even though our minds sometimes get trapped there. Just ask Ralph Branca, Bill Buckner, and so many others, but it is kind of fun to pick a part the question “what separates the Hall of Famers from the larger group of really good ballplayers” and to then come away with the thought that maybe the really good ballplayers fell short from not having their five best seasons more often.

No matter what, Lance Berkman will forever remain one of the best and most liked Astros of all time.

Have a warm inside Friday somewhere, everyone.

Oswalt & Lidge: What Does Free Agency Mean?

November 3, 2011

Roy Oswalt

With the Philadelphia Phillies either declining their options or failing to tender new contract extension offers to former Astros Roy Oswalt and Brad Lidge, both aging pitchers move now to free agency and wide open question about their new worths on the big league level. When you get down to it, “upside” is always the big factor in dealing with the valuation that clubs put on players. All of these people have ability or they wouldn’t even be in the hunt for big league demand and compensation. The fulcrum point on the see saw of decision-making is always where a player is on the slide from prospect to suspect.

Players have an “upside” when clubs still see them as having multiple years of exceptional performance to the level of their demonstrated abilities. They are on the “downside” when some combination of bad years and unavailability due to injury begins to suggest that they are no longer worth the risk of an expensive multi-year deal.

Oswalt and Lidge both seem to have reached the “suspect” stage of present contract considerations. Roy Oswalt will be 35 years old before next season’s end; Brad Lidge will go into the 2012 season at age 35. Both men have experienced arm troubles that have limited their availability to the Phils in recent times – and neither has been able to put up the kinds of results that alone justify big bucks and multiple season guaranties.

On the other hand, look at how the lights-out results of a single late career season can turn everything around. A year ago, Lance Berkman couldn’t even buy an on-the-cheap homecoming one-year deal with the Astros. Now he’s signed with St. Louis, had a great year, batted over .400 in the World Series, will always be remembered as the Cardinal who save the club from their second one-strike-away cliff in Game Six, signed a new $12 million dollars deal with the Cardinals for 2012, and will now be spending the winter walking around Houston with a World Series Championship ring.

Brad Lidge

Charlie Palillo of Radio Station 790-AM made an interesting point last night about Lance. Because of his performance with St. Louis last year, and especially because of his big moments in the World Series, Palillo believes that Lance Berkman will probably always be best remembered by most people as a Cardinal, not as just another career Astro who never quite got there. As much as I hate it, I have to agree with Charlie. Fans remember players best from their moments of great triumph. And sadly in Houston, we are still waiting to build a list that emanates from a World Series victory.

Maybe 2012 will be the season that either Roy Oswalt or Brad Lidge, or both, shall find a place to turn around their own career identities. If they do, it probably will not be in Houston. At their ages, and even playing on the cheap, neither man fits into our Houston plan – whatever that plan may actually be by the time we get the ownership strings untangled.





A Sports Record Overload Night

October 28, 2011

Compliments of Lance Carter, 10/24/11.

Compliments of a shot in the dark by Bill McCurdy, 10/27/11.


By this time Friday morning, the big news from the sports world is old news. The St. Louis Cardinals got off the deck twice from 2-run deficits in the 9th and 10th innings of Game Six last night, each time when they were one strike away from losing the whole World Series, and coming through with the big hit to tie the game and set things up for the game-winning home run blast to deep center field by David Freese, the lead-off man in the bottom of the 11th. With the 10-9 Cardinal win over the Rangers now in the books, we move with speedy anticipation to tonight’s Game Seven, knowing full well that it’s going to be hard to match Game Six for baseball greatness, no matter which team wins it all.

I only got to see innings nine through eleven because of an earlier commitment and loyalty to my alma mater, the University of Houston Cougars and a desire to see Case Keenum extend and settle some new records as a Division I NCAA quarterback, which he did just fine against Rice in spite of the wind and rain. Keenum’s nine touchdown passes pushed him into first place by four in that category while he also extended his records for total yardage and passing yardage by  bunch as well. On the night, Case Keenum rolled up   534 passing yards on 24 completions in 40 attempts with one interception, only his third of the season. WIth Keenum leaving the game in the 4th quarter, the Cougars only scored one TD for that period, but till ended up winning the game 73-28 without really trying to rub it in against the Game, but undermanned Rice Owls. The Owls simply could not defend the deep pass against UH’s speedy, sure-handed receivers and Keenum could not pass up that major chink in their defensive armor. He just hammered ’em.

Now, for the first time in school history, the UH Cougars are 8-0-0 with four games to play from their current number 17 ranking in the BCS poll. They are also the only school among eight remaining undefeated clubs that is not ranked among the top ten. Chalk that one up to part strength of schedule because few big name programs have the courage of UCLA to play UH; part the fact that UH resides in a non-BCS conference; and part due to the fact that UH lacks the empire status that makes it a little easier to get pollster support.

All right things n time, but in the meanwhile, it doesn’t matter to me what the UH haters say. This was the place that gave me my chance a long time ago, and, win or lose, the Cougars shall  hold my heart and get my support as long as I am able to bring it.

I got home in time to watch the rest of Game Six of the World Series from the bottom of the 9th through the walk off homer by Freese in the 11th. I was happy to see Lance Berkman handle the second of the Cards’ one-strike-away from total defeat situations with his two-out single in the 10th. Lance is now hitting .435 in the Series, the only man hitting over .400 on either club. Depending upon what happens in Game Seven, Berkman has to be in the running for Series MVP with Freese and Pujols because of his lights out three home run game. Prince Albert’s presence in the Cardinal lineup makes him the intimidating threat that helps his teammates get heroic opportunities they might otherwise never see.

At any rate, Thursday night was fun for me. I can’t imagine living anywhere away from America. I’m too much a junkie for the things that so many us think are fun. Chilling out on a mountain top – or spending each day on the beaches of some tropical isle where no one had ever heard of American baseball or football would not be my cup of tea for very long – especially during the World Series time.

Lance Gets His Second Chance

October 18, 2011

Berkman Hit Over .300 for 1st Time Since 2008 This Season.

It’s one of those ancient western plot scripts: Local hero loses his magic touch with the six-shooter and has to get out of Dodge to either lose himself completely or find himself again. And that’s pretty much how Lance Berkman rode out of Houston in 2010. For a while there, it looked as though he had locked up his  loss of self in The Bronx Zoo, but he apparently had not gotten the whole picture at season’s end and he took a step back that was based totally upon illusion and delusion.

Lance tried to come back to Houston and make himself available to the Astros again after 2010 at some kind of veteran home boy rate, only to find that there was no longer an extra hitter’s badge hanging on Sheriff Wade’s office wall that the club could spare. It was time to either hang up hope – or else, get out of Dodge for good. Lance chose the latter when the LaRussa Gang up in Missouri let him know that they had a hot plate waiting in their bunk house for an old foe from Texas.

Lance Berkman promptly went out there for St. Louis in 2011, as we all well now know, and put to rest that the idea that his batting gun was done. He hit .301 with 31 homers and 94 RBI, picking up the slack in an early season Albert Pujols down year and also teaming up with the latter year Prince, Matt Holliday, and David Freese as one of the most feared group of hitters in the National League. Now Lance stands on the brink of his second shot at a World Series ring, even if it doesn’t come with the home town Astros who had given him up for dead as a major league slugger.

At this stage in his thirteen season major league career, Lance Berkman rests his case for future contracting on what he’s done this year as proof of his comeback from the injuries that limited in his production in 2010 (.248 BA) and may have also played a part in his 2009 slip (.274 BA). At age 36 going into next season, the evidence from 2011 rests on the side that Berkman has some good production left in him.

His career batting average is now .296. He also has an OBP of .409, 358 home runs, 1,822 career hits, and 1,193 runs batted in. My guess is that he has about three good years left in the tank, if he can avoid injuries, stay in shape, and not lose his legs and bat speed to aging, but that the St. Louis Cardinals will be first in line to make sure he has a decent playing contract, at least, for 2012.

Good luck to Lance Berkman on his 2011 quest for a World Series ring. I, for one among the local many, am just sorry that you had to get out of Dodge to find yourself again. We could have used you here in Houston during the baseball spiritual drought of 2011. To walk out on the streets of our town this year was to get shot at by disappointment from just about every nook and cranny of the Houston professional sports world.

Go Cardinals! Go Berkman!

Return of Fat Elvis: What I Say?

April 29, 2011

Lance Berkman Hit .571 with 2 Homers and a Double in 3 Days Home.

Berkman awaits the incoming pitch from Figueroa,

What I say? What I say about my nightmares over the return of former Houston Astro Lance “Fat Elvis” Berkman to Minute Maid Park as a member of the rival St. Louis Cardinals? Sometimes dreams come true, whether you want the fragrance or their full blossom or not. The first trip home for dear old Puma, the Rice Owl graduate and fellow Houstonian Berkman was definitively a dream come true.

All those premonitions I wrote about in my first column on this subject came true. They simply happened in greater frequency than even I ever imagined in the pits of my most pessimistic slips on the shores of Gloomsville.

The Cardinals took the series from the Astros, two game to one. Along the way, look at the statistical bling that Berkman ran up on his own personal credit account:

In three games here, April 26-28, Lance Berkman had 8 hits in 14 times at bat for a series batting average of .571.  The hit-fest also bumped his 2010 season batting average as an everyday starter in right field for the Cardinals to .410.

Berkman had no walks in Houston, but he also struck out only twice.

He cracked a double and banged out 2 home runs, giving him 8 long balls on the season. Over the course of three days, he also scored 3 runs and batted in 7 more Cardinal red runs.

Who could ask for anything more?

In spite of the bludgeoning his bat broke down upon the fortunes of our beleaguered Astros, and I was part of the crowd that got to witness that 9-run tumor the redbirds grafted on to our chances in the top of the 6th in Game Three, Houston fans seemed mostly amused to happy for Lance Berkman in his successful return home. The man says he came home simply with the desire to play well gain in front of family and friends – and no one around here, other than broadcaster Milo Hamilton, seems to blame Lance for his absence from the current Astros roster. After 2010, it was simply time for Lance Berkman and the Houston Astros to go in new directions.

Lance is hot, but Cardinal pitching is not.

The new direction of Lance Berkman bodes well for the 2011 Cardinals, if the birds can overcome their holes in pitching and defense. Those areas must improve for the Cards to win big. For now, they show other problems, the kinds you cannot overcome by waiting o the offense to come up with another nine-run-inning explosion.

Still, Lance Berkman is doing his part – way more than his part. And one more time, in the language of the famous Ray Charles lyric, I have to ask:

“What I say? – What I say about that Fat Elvis coming back to Houston?”

Fat Elvis Is Coming!

April 18, 2011

…and he won’t be staying at the Heartbreak Hotel.

Fat Elvis is coming in eight days. He’s traveling with the St. Louis Cardinals this season and he’s due to arrive in time for the redbirds’ three-game series with the Houston Astros next week at Minute Maid Park, Tuesday through Thursday, April 26 through 28.

Oh, and if he keeps it up between now and then, he will be coming back to town carrying one of the best batting averages, home run marks, and runs batted in records in the current National League season. At this Monday morning scribble time, Lance Berkman is hitting .308 with 10 runs batted in and 6 home runs on the season as the mostly-everyday right fielder for the now 8-8 St. Louis Cardinals.

As one of his fans from his Rice University and Houston Astro days, I couldn’t be happier for the 35-year-old bright, funny, and talented man from New Braunfels at this late point in his career.  Lance Berkman’s career marks (.296 BA and 333 HR) still hover on the top side of a great career and I would love to see him finish off his remaining time, whatever that turns out to be, as productively as possible, as long as he does it against anyone but our home town Astros.

Somehow I have this image of Lance coming up late in a game at MMP with the Astros leading 2-1 with two birds on base and then watching old “Berkie” either push an opposite field fly into the Crawford Boxes, or else, lashing an uncatchable drive into the gap in right center. I hope it doesn’t happen, but come on now, if you’ve been watching baseball long enough, you’ve also sniffed this script before: Old hero comes back to victimize his former team as a member of their biggest rival club.

We’ll see. Meanwhile, I will try to find a way to ward off my worst fears about the return to Houston of Lance Berkman with this little book I’ve been reading. I’ve sworn not to reveal its title to the haggard little old lady who sold the book to me at the corner of Texas Avenue and Crawford after a game the other night, but I was also led to believe by the old girl that it’s OK for me to ask questions of you that have  arisen from my reading of this work.

That being said, do any of you know where I can find a 16-legged black spider and a three-headed chicken?

Good Egg Lance Goes 2 for 4 in Cards Opener

April 1, 2011

Good Egg Berkman

Lance Berkman is now the starting right fielder for the St. Louis Cardinals and the number 5 hitter in their lineup, backing up # 3 man, Prince Albert Pujols at first, and # 4 guy, Matt Holliday in left. How perversely the world does turn over all the days of our lives in this ongoing soap opera of major league baseball. Thank God we Astros fans did not have to go through this sort of thing with Jeff Bagwell or Craig Biggio. I’ll never forget how it felt in 1974, going to the Astrodome and seeing Jimmy Wynn there for the first time – as a Los Angeles Dodger. I was happy for Jimmy and the resurgence that the Astros trade for pitcher Claude Osteen produced in his career, but I felt the loss that thousands of other Astros fans felt. Now, to a lesser degree for some of us, and to a greater degree for others of us, we get to go through it again in 2011 over the returns to town of Lance Berkman with the Cardinals and Roy Oswalt with the Phillies.

Lance Berkman got started on the right foot offensively yesterday in the Cardinals’ home opening 5-3 loss to the San Diego Padres in eleven innings. He collected two singles in four official trips and scored one of the Cardinal runs. I have no take on how he did in right field, but I presume that side of his game went acceptably. There was no note of it in the brief Houston Chronicle report and the box score reveals that former Cubs second baseman, Ryan Theriot, now playing shortstop for the Cards, made the only error of the game.

We will just have to play through whatever happens and deal with it. The guys we have now are our 2011 Astros, for better or worse. And we would not have certain younger players with greater upsides had we not dealt away Berkman and Oswalt. Go. Happ! Go Wallace! (Just to name the two most prominent Astros newbies.)

All I can add is that life sometimes drops small favors upon us. Aren’t you glad, as an Astros fan, that we did not have inter-league play back in 1989 during Nolan Ryan’s first season as a Texas Ranger? Think that might have heated up interest in the now deadly dull annual competition between the Astros and Rangers for the Silver Boot Award?

Welcome back to Houston, Good Egg Lance! We’ll try not to scramble you too much while you’re back in town.

Cardinal Berkman: And Other Forgettable Images

December 5, 2010

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