I was asked by the Lead Cardinals Reporter for Aerys Sports, Christine Coleman, if I would do a guest post today about how I felt about Lance Berkman returning to Houston with the St. Louis Cardinals. I jumped at the chance to talk about a favorite son. You can check out my thoughts in that post at Aaron Miles Fastball – In The Wrong Uniform, A Texas Boy Comes Home To Minute Maid Park.
I wrote all of that before I read the comments that Milo Hamilton made regarding Lance and his time so far in St. Louis. In case you’ve been under a rock or without power or on the space shuttle and didn’t get to hear or read what Milo said, here it is – Milo commented while on a radio show on how in shape Berkman got this yearÂ and how he hadn’t done the same his last few years in Houston, saying, “He got in excellent shape by hiring a trainer and if he’d done that the last couple of years he was here, he could have finished out a really fine career in Houston if he’d have given it that same dedication.Â I just want a simple answer, why did you not think it was necessary to get in shape for the Astros?” Milo went on to criticize Berkman’s leadership while in Houston as well, basically ripping on the 35 year old for being a poor role model for younger players, essentially teaching them that they could slack off.
Now, Milo’s been calling Astros games on air since 1986 and he knows a lot about the Astros and even more about baseball, and he’s entitled to his opinion, but I have to disagree a bit with him regarding the when, why and how on this. We aren’t in Lance Berkman’s head and we don’t know what made him suddenly take an interest in getting himself in better game shape. But you know how I am, so I’ll take a guess -
He’s 35 and that’s no spring chicken in baseball. Is it possible he started realizing that if he didn’t do something that he wouldn’t be playing much longer? Is it possible the constant knee problems his last two seasons in Houston affected his ability to get in the kind of shape he’s in today? I think it’s entirely possible that the trade to the Yankees followed by his release by them was a wake up call. He was suddenly aware of the possibility of the end of his career. I think given the opportunity, Berkman would have come home, but the Astros weren’t interested.
So, what do you do when your career is threatened? You put up or shut up. Berkman, it seems, has put up. So far in 19 games with the Cardinals he’s been amazing at the plate, hitting .377/.449/.725 and 6, yes six, home runs. It’s the Berkman of the old days. He was last week’s NL Player of the Week. So Milo, do you really think Berkman was holding out on this team or are you upset those stats aren’t helping Houston this year? I can’t read your mind so I won’t put words in your mouth, but do me a favor and grant Lance the same benefit of the doubt. I know you were as sad as I was to see him go because I know you’re a true fan of this team and its players. I think this is just about the fact that it hurts to see that man in another team’s uniform, but let’s welcome him home anyway.
Terri Schlather (AGirlintheSouth) is the Senior Houston Astros Reporter for Aerys Sports. You can read her Astros blog atÂ www.talesfromthejuicebox.com, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her on twitterÂ @agirlinthesouth.