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By Don White, June 16, 2011
Windermere, FL–There are times all baseball fans want to fire the general manager. My pet peeve in Yankee GM Brian Cashman is his judgment, his inability to see and execute contracts on the great ones without giving away the store as he did on CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett.
I am disappointed in Cashman’s handling of free agent Lance Berkman. He could have been playing for the Yankees today, along with his 17 home runs, had Cashman played it smarter. I won’t go any further than that because I’m not privy to all the inside conversation, but I do know it wasn’t about money. Berkman wants to quit MLB in two years and take a coaching job that may be opening up at one of the Texas universities near or in Austin.
Here’s a story about how well this college All-American player, named player of the year in 1996, in all of college baseball, has done in college and major league ball. He may not be fast-a-foot, not like current left fielder, Brett Gardner, but he would have definitely been an asset for the Yankees had they decided to keep him. Oh well, Berkman is JUST ONE MORE THAT GOT AWAY._______
William Lance Berkman is 35 and Brian Cashman’s biggest mistake of 2011. He could have
been in a Yankee uniform again, but Cashman didn’t like him. Maybe it was his weight, 220,
maybe his ability to hit clutch homers, maybe it was that he wasn’t as good a fielder as
current Yankee leftfielder Brett Gardner.
The St. Louis Cardinals weren’t as myopic as the Yankees. They could see in Berkman some
great potential. Heck, it didn’t take a genius to see this man could help the Yankees. In 2011
Berkman has 17 homeruns, four more than A-Rod, and is playing well in the field or occasional replacement at first base for the Cardinals. What’s not to like? If he had been able to stay with the Yankees he could have become regular DH. But providence wasn’t going to let that happen. We have two injured old players to do that–Derek Jeter when he’s well and now Jorge Posada, both of which are out of the prime of their playing lives. Neither of which should be playing for the Yankees if they expect to win more than a Wild Card chance to play off and get in the world series.
Berkman plays both first base and the outfield and weighs 220 pounds (100 kg),
running in a kind of bouncing way that other players and sometimes fans find comical. Berkman has spent various seasons of his career as a regular at all three outfield
positions. He has played with the Houston Astros
, New York Yankees
and St. Louis Cardinals
Texas in 1994.
1997 National College Player of the Year, playing for the legendary Wayne Graham
, as well as
named a first team All-America by Collegiate Baseball Magazine, Baseball America
Throughout college, he batted a collective .385 with 67 home runs and 272 RBI. His 41 home
runs in 1997 ranked third-most in NCAA history. That year he also made the all-time record
book in RBI (2nd-134), slugging percentage (6th-1.031) and total bases (4th-263) while
MINOR LEAGUE CAREER
After the Astros drafted Berkman, the team assigned him to play with their
games, he hit .293 with 12 HR and 35 RBI. In 1998
, his second minor league
season, he was promoted to Double-A Jackson. His potential was beginning
to show, as he hit .306 and clubbed 24 HR with 89 RBI over 122 games for
manager Jim Pankovitz. The Astros granted him a mid-season promotion to
1998 would prove to be his last full season in the minor leagues. In 1999
Berkman was midway through a great season in New Orleans when he
was called up to the parent club, the Houston Astros. Prior to the
promotion, he had been hitting .323 with 8 HR and 49 RBI through 64 games.
]MAJOR LEAGUE CAREER
Berkman with the Houston Astros.
Throughout his entire high school, college, and minor league career, Berkman played first base
get into the starting lineup. His first stint with the Astros
ended with 34 games played. He
was demoted during the offseason for seasoning.
The demotion proved brief, however; 31 games into the 2000
season, Houston again promoted
Berkman. Moving from left field to right field
, he hit .297, with 21 HR and 67 RBI. This firmly
established him in the Astros lineup, and he has been a starter ever since. In 2001
in 126 runs (7th in the league). He also scored 110 runs and hit 34 home runs, while his 55
doubles led the league. 2001 also marked his first All-Star appearance (he would repeat in
saw his batting average drop to .292, although he kept his OBP high at .405. His power
output increased also, resulting in 42 home runs. Berkman scored 106 runs and drove in 128,
good enough to lead the league. He made his second All-Star appearance and was third in the
NL in the Most Valuable Player voting.
, Berkman’s batting average dipped to .288, although his OBP was still high at
.412. He hit 25 home runs, and drove in 93 runs, scoring 110. In the field, he played every
game in left field
, moving to center field once.
In May 2003, Berkman astounded teammates
when he admitted he did not know what a fielder’s choice was.
, Berkman’s average increased to .316, and his OBP was .450, having walked 127
times. He hit 30 home runs, drove in 106, and scored 104 runs. He also hit 40 doubles
and appeared in 160 games, the most so far in his career for a single season. Berkman
made the All-Star team, his third All-Star appearance,
and was winner of the 2004
Berkman split 2004 between left and right field.
Berkman signed a six-year, $85 million deal in March 2005.
Berkman moved to first base
hit a grand slam
in the 8th inning. That brought the score to 6–5 in favor of the Braves, but the
game was tied in the next inning on a two-out solo home run by Brad Ausmus
. The teams then
history, with the Astros eventually winning the game (and the series) in the bottom of the 18th
inning on aChris Burke
home run. Burke had replaced Berkman as a pinch runner in the 10th.
four games, though Berkman compiled a .385 average with two doubles. His six RBIs during
that series were the most of any of the Astros’ hitters.
On Mother’s Day
, May 14, 2006, Berkman was one of more than 50 hitters who brandished
became only the second switch hitter
in Major League history to hit 40 or more homers
During the 2006 season
, Berkman hit 45 home runs and had 136 RBIs, breaking the Astros
single season record, which was set by Jeff Bagwell
in 1997 (135).
He also had a .315
batting average, an on-base percentage of .420, as well as a slugging percentage of .621.
also hit a career high 5 home runs from the right side of the plate.
He finished third in the MVP
Berkman started the 2007 season
in a bit of a slump,
batting .261, well below his career
average, but rebounded for a strong second half of the season. Berkman finished the 2007
season with a .278 batting average, 34 home runs and 102 RBIs, along with 7 stolen bases.
Berkman started the 2008 season
batting well above .385 through April, won the NL
went 29-32 (batted .906) with 6 home runs, including a McCovey Cove
At the All-Star break, he was in the NL’s top four in batting average, with 22 home runs,
and was on pace for 130+ RBIs. However, despite the rest of the team picking up steam
rebound second half, Berkman’s individual performance dipped significantly, and by season’s
end, he batted .312, with 29 home runs (7 of which were right-handed, setting a new career
high), and 106 RBI. Berkman was fifth in the voting for the 2008 NL MVP award, behind
New York Yankees
The Yankees announced on October 27 that the club has declined to exercise
their option for Berkman for 2011.
St. Louis Cardinals