Tag:Lance Berkman
Posted on: November 22, 2011 2:04 pm
Edited on: November 22, 2011 3:40 pm

On the final day, Braun got my vote

As I wrote on the final Sunday of the regular season, the National League MVP race was so close that I wouldn't decide until the season was over.

When it was, I picked Ryan Braun over Matt Kemp.

So did the majority of the voters, which is why Braun is this year's NL MVP.

Kemp had an outstanding season. So did Braun.

Braun had a huge impact on the pennant race. Kemp, basically through no fault of his own, did not.

The MVP is an individual award, but baseball is a team game. Everything you do is affected by your teammates.

And in my mind, it's hard (but not impossible) to be the MVP when your teammates aren't good enough to help you contend for a championship.

Would my vote have been different had Kemp won the Triple Crown, as he had a chance to do in the final weeks of the season?

It's possible it would have been. You'll never know, because I'll never know. I never had to make that decision.

I had to decide based on what did happen, and what happened was that Braun's great season helped his team to a championship, while Kemp's great season kept his team from losing more games than it won.

My ballot:

1. Braun.

2. Kemp.

3. Prince Fielder. For the first part of the season, he was even better than Braun. For the whole year, Braun got the edge.

4. Albert Pujols. He started slow (for him), and then he was hurt. But he came back strong, and so did his team.

5. Lance Berkman. Without him, the Cardinals would have been buried early.

6. Roy Halladay. The Phillies were the dominant team in the regular season, and their starting pitching was the reason. The problem was that it was hard to separate out one starter.

7. Justin Upton. Great year, great story, but his home-road split (1.033 OPS at home, .767 on road) held him down.

8. Cliff Lee. Based on June (5-0, 0.21) and August (5-0, 0.45), he was the MVP. For the full season, he just makes the ballot.

9. Joey Votto. Didn't repeat his 2010 season, so he won't repeat as MVP.

10. Carlos Ruiz. His numbers are nowhere near MVP-worthy. I gave him a 10th-place vote because of the impact he has on the Phillies pitching, which was so good that if I could have voted for the rotation as a whole, they would have been the MVP.

Posted on: October 21, 2011 7:14 pm
Edited on: October 21, 2011 7:16 pm

Fair or not, Albert just doesn't get it

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Albert Pujols says it's not fair.

I'm saying he still doesn't get it.

Not the way Michael Young does. Not the way Derek Jeter does.

Not the way Hideki Matsui does.

"I'm not trying to help the media," Matsui tells the huge contingent of Japanese reporters who he talks to before and after every game. "I'm helping the fans."

He's helping you understand what happened in the game you just watched, just as Pujols did Friday, when he finally gave the answers he should have given Thursday night.

Yes, he said, he should have caught center fielder Jon Jay's throw in the ninth inning of Game 2. Yes, he said, it was right that he was charged with an error on the play.

"It hit my glove," he said. "As soon as I saw [Ian] Kinsler take a big turn at third base, I thought I had a chance at him. I took my eyes off the ball, and I missed it. It was a good throw. I maybe make that catch 99 times out of 100."

And that's the best -- and most accurate part -- of what Pujols said Friday.

The worst part was when he claimed that he had no idea any reporters had wanted to talk to him. The worst part was when he said his only responsibilities were "with God and my family" . . . and not, apparently, with his team.

"C'mon guys, I don't think it's fair," he complained. "To rip someone's reputation for something like that, it's not fair."

To twist the truth, as Pujols did Friday, that's what is not fair.

Pujols claimed he was in lunch room after Game 2, claimed that the only reason he didn't talk to reporters was that no one told him that anyone wanted to talk to him.

I wasn't in the Cardinals clubhouse Thursday night. I didn't need to or care to talk to Albert Pujols. But I've been in the Cardinals clubhouse many times this postseason. When Pujols wants to talk, as he has on most nights, he is waiting at his locker when reporters are allowed in the clubhouse, or shortly thereafter.

He knows the deal. He knew that the ninth-inning throw that he didn't catch was a huge play in the game, which the Cardinals lost 2-1 to the Rangers.

He chose not to be there.

You can say that's his choice, and that you don't care. That's basically the Cardinals' position.

"I don't feel he did anything in the wrong," general manager John Mozeliak said.

Technically, maybe he didn't. I think he did, but if you want to say he didn't, fine.

But the reality is that there's a separate responsibility for a team's most prominent player. Young, the face of the Rangers team, understands that and is at his locker after every game.

Jeter does the same with the Yankees. Lance Berkman did the same when he played for the Astros. Heck, when I filled in covering the Detroit Pistons years ago, first Joe Dumars and then Grant Hill did it.

"For one thing, I think you guys would follow me home," Young joked Friday, when I asked him about it. "But it's just a matter of trying to be respectful."

It's being respectful to reporters, and it's being respectful to fans. It's also about being respectful to teammates.

Every question that Young or Jeter or Pujols answers is one that doesn't get thrown at his teammates. Not every player believes this is a big issue, but some of them sure do.

It's enough of an issue that when Rafael Soriano ducked out of the Yankees clubhouse after a bad game in April, Yankees president Randy Levine and general manager Brian Cashman were on the phone next day with Scott Boras, Soriano's agent.

"He's new to this market, so, like everything else, you live and you learn," Cashman told the New York Times.

Pujols isn't in that market, and maybe it's best if he never thinks about going there. Maybe it's best that he stays in St. Louis, which is a fine but also very forgiving baseball town.

Maybe it's best that he stays with the Cardinals, a team that has never been willing to confront him about anything.

Mozeliak said he did speak with one Cardinals player Friday. He talked to Berkman, clarifying a point about whether Pujols could have been requested to go to the interview room. Berkman had gotten it wrong when he phoned a national radio show Friday morning to try to defend Pujols.

But Berkman is one who almost always gets it right. He's one who gets it.

He was the most prominent player when he was an Astro, and he accepted the responsibilities that come with it.

"That's part of being that guy," Berkman said Friday. "Different players embrace that to different levels."

Some get it, some don't.

Thursday, when he didn't talk, Albert Pujols showed he doesn't get it.

Friday, when he did talk, Pujols showed it again.

Posted on: October 18, 2011 8:09 pm

Cardinals and Rangers don't know each other

ST. LOUIS -- The Rangers have never played a game in Busch Stadium.


Many of the Cardinals have never seen Rangers Ballpark.


This is a World Series like few others since baseball went to interleague play in 1997. These teams really don't know each other, and they don't know each other's ballparks.

The Cardinals and Rangers have met just once in the regular season, in a three-game series in Texas in 2004. The winning pitchers in that series: Jeff Suppan, Ryan Drese and Woody Williams.

"It's weird that we've never played them," said Rangers pitcher Scott Feldman, who said he had never even been to St. Louis before the Rangers arrived in town Tuesday.

Some Cardinals players were quizzing Lance Berkman about what it's like to play at Rangers Ballpark. Berkman played there regularly when he was with the Astros, and also last year with the Yankees.

Think of Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park, Berkman told them.

"It's a good hitters' park," Berkman said. "That's well-documented."

Rangers pitchers were asking teammate Mike Adams how Busch Stadium plays.

"I personally think it plays pretty fair," said Adams, who spent much of his career in the National League.

And what about the idea that Rangers Ballpark is like Cincinnati?

"Very much so," Adams said. "Cincinnati is pretty much one of the biggest jokes in baseball. And Texas can play like that, too."

Even some Rangers who have plenty of experience in the National League haven't ever played in the current Busch Stadium. Adrian Beltre came up with the Dodgers, but his last game in St. Louis was in 2004, two years before the current park opened.

Posted on: October 4, 2011 5:48 pm
Edited on: October 4, 2011 8:08 pm

Holliday pinch hits, could return to Cards lineup

ST. LOUIS -- When Matt Holliday is healthy, the Cardinals may have the best 3-4-5 combination in baseball.

The Cardinals now have some hope that they'll have it again before this postseason ends.

After a favorable checkup on his troublesome finger on Monday, and an encouraging batting practice session Tuesday afternoon, Holliday pinch hit for the Cardinals in Tuesday night's Game 3, and delivered a single. Two days after the Cardinals considered replacing him on the playoff roster, there's now hope that Holliday could even return to his regular spot in the lineup.

"It feels pretty good," Holliday said before Game 3.

In that regular Cardinals lineup, Holliday hits between Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman, both of whom should finish high in this year's National League MVP voting. Holliday was limited to 124 games because of various injuries, but he still hit .296 with 22 home runs and 75 RBI.

In Holliday's checkup Monday, doctors considered giving Holliday an injection, but decided against it. They also told him that the injury won't get worse if he plays with it, so that the main issues are pain-tolerance and how effective he can be.

Holliday said he still hasn't tested the finger by trying to throw, but he also said he thinks the bigger question was how much it would bother him when he hit.

The answer he gave after batting practice Tuesday is that he is again available to pinch hit. And that he could be available for even more.

Posted on: September 22, 2011 10:57 am
Edited on: September 22, 2011 11:42 am

Cardinals sign Berkman to extension

The Cardinals have signed Lance Berkman to a one-year contract extension, the team announced Thursday morning. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Berkman will get $12 million.

Berkman, who will turn 36 in February, has been one of the more pleasant surprises this year. He was an early candidate for National League MVP, and while he won't win it, his numbers (31 home runs, 91 RBI and a .967 OPS) are still outstanding. Berkman leads the league in OPS+, which attempts to adjust numbers based on a player's ballpark.

Berkman is the second Cardinal to sign an extension this month, joining pitcher Chris Carpenter, as the Cardinals clear their offseason schedule to deal with Albert Pujols. While the thinking in baseball has been that Pujols is most likely to stay in St. Louis, that's hardly guaranteed.

Berkman has been a much better than expected defender in right field this year, but he could become the Cardinals first baseman if Pujols leaves.

Berkman's career seemed to be nearing an end last year, when he hit just .245 in the final 85 games of his 12-year career with the Astros, then didn't contribute much to the Yankees after going to New York in a midseason trade. The Cardinals were widely panned for their decision to sign him to an $8 million, one-year contract, especially since Pujols' presence meant that Berkman would be playing more or less exclusively in the outfield.

Even this spring, when Berkman was limited by a sore elbow, the deal seemed like a big risk.

But it worked out, so well that there's no question it's the right move by the Cards to bring Berkman back for another year.

Category: MLB
Posted on: May 12, 2011 6:21 pm

Berkman: Drayton is the 'last of a dying breed'

CHICAGO -- Drayton McLane has owned the Astros for more than 18 years. Lance Berkman played for the Astros for 12 of those seasons.

Now Berkman is an ex-Astro, and it appears that soon McLane will be an ex-Astro owner.

"It's kind of sad to see," said Berkman, now an outfielder with the Cardinals. "The individual owner of a baseball team is kind of going the way of the dodo. Drayton was kind of the last of a dying breed."

The Houston Chronicle reported this week that McLane's sale of the Astros to local businessman Jim Crane could be completed as soon as next week. But Berkman said even when the Cardinals were in Houston two weeks back, he felt like things had already changed.

Now, he just hopes Astros fans will appreciate McLane as he does.

"He's not a perfect owner, but I think you'd be hard-pressed to find an owner who wanted to win more," Berkman said. "He catches a lot of flak, I know."

Posted on: May 11, 2011 11:09 pm
Edited on: May 12, 2011 5:54 pm

Spring strugglers lead Cardinals to first place

CHICAGO -- You know that spring training stats don't matter. I know that spring training stats don't matter.

Every spring, I tell you that the stats don't matter.

And then every spring, you get fooled and I get fooled, and we start worrying about a pitcher who can't get anyone out all spring, and a hitter who looks like he has lost it at the plate.

Then we wake up in the second week of May, and that pitcher has the second-lowest ERA in the whole National League. And that hitter has the highest OPS in the whole National League.

We wake up in the second week of May, and we find the Cardinals in first place in the NL Central, and two of the biggest reasons are Jaime Garcia and Lance Berkman.

The pitcher with the 6.26 spring ERA, the .392 opponents batting average, with 40 hits in 23 innings. The hitter with the .182 spring average, and just one home run in 55 spring at-bats.

Garcia, who allowed one run in seven innings in a 9-1 Thursday afternoon win over the Cubs, has already thrown two shutouts. Last Saturday, he took a perfect game into the eighth inning against the Brewers. He and teammate Kyle McClellan are the only two 5-0 pitchers in the league, and Garcia's 1.89 ERA is second only to Josh Johnson among NL starters.

Berkman, who had a sore elbow and didn't even play in the outfield until the final days of spring training, has played well in the field and has been even better at the plate. If you were going to name an early-season NL Most Valuable Player, it might well be him.

Berkman has slowed down over the last few days, with one hit in his last 16 at-bats through the Cards' 11-4 loss to the Cubs Wednesday night. But he's still hitting .357, with 10 home runs and 32 RBI in 33 games.

"He looks healthy," said Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun. "He looks athletic."

He looks nothing like he looked in spring training.

"He paced himself," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said. "That's one thing with veteran players. Early on, I was a little concerned that he wasn't on the field, but he said he would be OK."

Maybe it's a good thing that Mozeliak didn't know what Berkman was really thinking.

"I'm not going to lie," Berkman said. "Coming out of spring training, I was thinking, 'This is not good.' But the one good thing was that at the end of spring training, I felt like I had started to get my swing."

And he did.

"We were hoping to tap into the pre-2010 Lance Berkman," Mozeliak said. "Six weeks in, his performance has been unbelievable."

The same goes for Garcia, who said that his poor numbers in spring training actually might have helped lead to his great first six weeks of the season.

"It makes me a better pitcher to go out and struggle," he said. "Sometimes, you just have to remember what it's all about. I knew I had the stuff to pitch in the big leagues.

"Obviously, there were one or two games where I was like, 'What's going on?'"

Pitching coach Dave Duncan insists that he was never thinking that.

"I was never concerned," Duncan said. "Physically, he was good. And his stuff was good."

Garcia said the loss of Adam Wainwright to injury early in spring training may have been a factor, because he thinks maybe he subconsciously began thinking he had to be the one to make up for Wainwright's loss.

All through spring, Duncan and manager Tony La Russa maintained that Garcia's struggles weren't a concern. In any case, the Cardinals knew that however he did, Garcia was going to be in the rotation, because with Wainwright out, their depth had already taken a hit.

"To me, it was never a huge alarm," Mozeliak insisted. "I always felt he was going to succeed."

Sure enough, he has, and so has Berkman.

Remember that next spring. I know I will.

Category: MLB
Posted on: July 29, 2010 5:06 pm
Edited on: July 30, 2010 1:47 pm

Astros talking about Berkman, too

Astros owner Drayton McLane was never willing to trade away stars and concede a season.

Now he may be willing to move two in two days.

After trading Roy Oswalt to the Phillies, the Astros have been talking to teams about first baseman Lance Berkman, CBSSports.com has learned. It's not clear yet which teams would be interested in Berkman, who is 34 years old, has complete no-trade protection, and is having a subpar season (.245, 13 home runs, 49 RBIs).

The Yankees, who have been looking for a hitter with Nick Johnson on the disabled list, could be one possibility.

Because of Berkman's contract, which pays him $14.5 million this year with a $2 million buyout of a 2011 option, it's almost certain that he would pass through waivers unclaimed and would thus be tradeable in August.
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