Lance Berkman announces he's retiring; is he a Hall of Famer?

By Mike Axisa | Baseball Writer

Lance Berkman is finally hanging up his clinets after years of knee problems.
Lance Berkman is finally hanging up his cleats after years of knee problems. (USATSI)

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After years of dealing with knee problems, Lance Berkman has decided to end his playing career according to Richard Justice of MLB.com. The 37-year-old was limited to only 105 games over the last two seasons because of injuries. He's had five surgeries and various other issues with his knees over the years.

"I'm excited about the next chapter in my life. I'm looking forward to spending more time with my family, and at some point, I'll definitely coach somewhere," said Berkman. "The emotions are overwhelming. I can't even begin to describe. It's one of those things you've thought about for so long, and then when it happens, it hits you harder than you ever imagined."

Although I don't think he'll ever get in, Berkman has a better Hall of Fame case than many people may realize. He retires as a .293/.406/.537 hitter in parts of 15 seasons, good for a 144 OPS+ that is on par with Hall of Famers like Hack Wilson (144 OPS+) and Harmon Killebrew (143 OPS+), as well as future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones (141 OPS+).

The one they affectionately call Fat Elvis is one of only 17 players in history with 350+ home runs, 400+ doubles and a .400+ on-base percentage. Seven of those 17 are in Cooperstown and at least three others (Albert Pujols, Jim Thome, Chipper) will be some day. Three others have Hall of Fame credentials but won't be getting in anytime soon due to the performance-enhancing drug stigma, fair or not (Barry Bonds, Jeff Bagwell, Manny Ramirez).

That was only a quick look, but ultimately I think Berkman's career falls short of being Hall of Fame caliber. He's more of a Hall of Very Good guy and there's nothing wrong with that. He retires as one of the best players in Astros history, a six-time All-Star and a one-time World Champion (2011 Cardinals). What a great hitter.

Fun Fact: Berkman is the only player to ever hit 40+ home runs in both an NCAA Division I season and an MLB season. He hit .431/.538/1.032 with 41 homers and 134 RBI (in 63 games!) as a junior at Rice in 1997, then swatted 42 and 45 homers for Houston in 2002 and 2006, respectively.

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