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Lance Berkman retires because of knee, plans to coach

Lance BerkmanLance Berkman announced on Wednesday that he will retire because of his problematic knee rather than try to make it through another baseball season. He also says he plans to coach in the future.

Berkman shared word of his decision with MLB.com’s Richard Justice, telling him that it doesn’t make sense for him to continue playing given the physical condition of his knee. Berkman was limited to 73 games with the Texas Rangers last season because of his knee.

“It doesn’t make sense to play in the physical condition I’m in,” Berkman told MLB.com. “I’m not going to keep trying to run out there for the heck of it.”

Berkman told Justice he is looking forward to the next chapter of his career and that he plans to coach.

“I’m looking forward to spending more time with my family, and at some point, I’ll definitely coach somewhere,” Berkman told Justice.

Berkman, 37, was a six-time All-Star during his 15-season career. He led the league in doubles twice and RBIs once. He finished third in NL MVP voting twice and fifth twice. A versatile player who played first base and all three outfield positions, Berkman’s strength was his power and ability to get on base. His career batting average is .293, but his career on-base percentage is over .400 at .406. Berkman’s .9429 career OPS is 26th in history and higher than sluggers like Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun and Albert Belle.

Though Berkman’s OPS is one of the best in history, I feel like he falls just short of the Hall of Fame. He’s definitely a borderline candidate and guy I wouldn’t mind seeing in there, but I just feel like he was slightly below greatness. Maybe that’s because there wasn’t one singular stat or season that Berkman posted that stood out to me and says, “yeah, that guy was one of the greats,” (though his 2006 season was pretty awesome).

Lance Berkman: Wrigley Field is one of the worst places in baseball, I’d blow it up

Lance-Berkman-RangersWrigley Field may be one of the most historic ballparks in North America, but Texas Rangers designated hitter Lance Berkman hardly cares for the nostalgia. The Rangers are beginning a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday, and Berkman has made it clear that he is not looking forward to the visit.

“If they’re looking for a guy to push the button when they blow the place up, I’ll do it,” Berkman said, via Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Tell us how you really feel, Lance. Actually, he did. It’s not just Wrigley Field, which was built in 1914, that Berkman hates. He also talked about the weather in Chicago and the challenge it creates when trying to prepare for a ballgame.

“Chicago’s one of the worst places in baseball … really for anything,” he added.

On Sunday night, the Cubs announced that they have reached an agreement with the city of Chicago to put Wrigley Field through a $500 million renovation. Berkman was likely happy to hear that, but no renovation can fix the weather in Chicago. Berkman’s teammate Derek Lowe, who has also played at Fenway Park, said he understands why players dislike Wrigley Field but that he appreciates the history.

“Current players are really going to hate it,” Lowe said. “Everything is new and state-of-the-art today, and you have everything you could possibly need within walking distance of the clubhouse.

“But you don’t have to be a baseball historian to appreciate atmospheres. I’ve played at Fenway, Wrigley and the old Yankee Stadium. I always thought of those atmospheres as the best, and it didn’t disappoint.”

Berkman is not a current player, but he clearly despises the place. Rangers catcher Geovany Soto, who used to play in Chicago, said Wrigley Field is a “landmark” and that the tradition makes dealing with fewer amenities more worthwhile. Clearly there are players who appreciate the brick wall and the ivy, but it sounds like Berkman should get together with Luke Scott and have a conversation about it. Something tells me they would agree about playing at Wrigley.

Fist pound to Hardball Talk

Lance Berkman forgot to bring his glove to spring training

Lance Berkman gloveThe Texas Rangers signed Lance Berkman to a $10 million deal because of his offensive abilities. Berkman is expected to DH for the team, and if he plays any defense for them, it will just be a bonus.

Berkman is so focused on his designated hitter role that he didn’t even bother to bring a glove to spring training.

“For 12 years I never had to worry about it because the equipment guy in Houston just packed up my locker and it showed up in spring training,” Berkman said Friday, via FOXSports Southwest’s Anthony Andro. “I forget, this is an oversight on my part because I’m fairly new at this switching team’s thing, but I forgot to have them have a glove here. It wasn’t on purpose. I have plenty at the house.”

OK, so forgetting to bring a glove was just an oversight as Berkman said (did he not need a glove the last two years in St. Louis?). Still, we all know what he is there for.

Berkman only played 32 games last season because of a knee injury, but he posted a stellar .959 OPS in 145 games with the St. Louis Cardinals the year before. Though he’s 37, Berkman should be good for at least an .800 OPS this season, especially playing in Arlington and being surrounded in the lineup by other sluggers. The question is whether Berkman’s knee will allow him to be at full strength.

According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Berkman said Sunday he is 80 percent healthy. He has less than six weeks to get to 100 percent. I doubt he reaches the 550 plate appearances that would make his 2014 option vest at $13 million.

Lance Berkman believes David Freese could become a $200 million player

When you think about David Freese, you might think about a guy who put together arguably the most clutch World Series performance in history and led his team to a title. There is no questioning that Freese is a hero in St. Louis, but does the soon-to-be 29-year-old infielder have the tools needed to become one of the game’s best players? If you ask teammate Lance Berkman, it is a definite possibility.

According to MLB writer Anthony Castrovince, Berkman had this to say on Tuesday when asked about Freese: “If you’re looking for your next $200 million contract, he’s got a chance. He’s that kind of player.”

Freese still has a long way to go if he is hoping to earn that kind of money, but he could be poised for a breakout season in 2012. In only six games, Freese has already belted three home runs and driven in 10. Last season, he hit .297 with 10 homers and 55 RBI in 97 games for the Cardinals. Now that he is entering what are considered the prime years of a baseball player’s career and is going to be an everyday starter, Freese will have a chance to put up big numbers.

If Joey Votto and Prince Fielder have taught us anything over the past several months, it’s that $200 million contracts are becoming more and more attainable. Prior to his MVP season in 2010, many people had never even heard of Votto. If they still hadn’t heard of him before he signed a $225 million extension with the Reds last week, they have now. With a monster season in 2012, Freese could soon become a very rich man.

Photo credit: Pool Photo-US PRESSWIRE

Lance Berkman gives away Adam Wainwright’s truck as April Fool’s prank

April Fool’s day has officially come and gone, and as far as we know everyone survived without any serious lasting damage. Adam Wainwright just barely escaped the day with his own truck, however. After the second inning of the Cardinals spring training game against the Nationals, St. Louis’ public address announcer announced over the stadium speakers that a lucky fan had just won a 2009 Chevy Silverado. It just so happens that Wainwright also drives a 2009 Silverado, so you can see where this is heading.

The truck, which was driven by Lance Berkman, rolled out onto the field and the winning fan — David Freese’s cousin — ran onto the field with his son and joyfully hopped in the back. Berkman then drove away.

“Hilarious,” Wainwright said when he was finally sure it was just a joke. “Those are the kinds of things that keep baseball pretty fun — besides the fact that baseball is already pretty fun.”

Several teammates including Skip Schumaker helped Berkman execute the prank. Imagine how much funnier a prank like that would be on a day other than April Fool’s when your teammate doesn’t expect it.

H/T Hardball Talk
Photo credit: Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE

Lance Berkman Says His Gray Beard Makes Him De Facto Team Leader

Lance Berkman delivered a big hit for the Cardinals in Game 1 of the World Series. The right fielder doubled in two runs in the fourth, putting St. Louis up 2-0. They beat the Rangers 3-2.

After the game, the 35-year-old veteran was asked about his status as one of the team’s leaders. He gave a pretty humorous response.

“I think just because you see all this gray in my beard, that kind of makes you a de facto leader,” Berkman joked. “Whether you want to be or not, guys are going to kind of look to you because you’ve been around for a while. But I do enjoy the interaction with my teammates. I think that’s one thing that’s special to me about this particular team. It’s just a great group of guys.”

Berkman has enjoyed his finest season since 2008, though he didn’t have a major impact in the NLCS. Wednesday’s double was his first extra base hit since Game 4 of the NLDS. As long as he keeps hitting, and the Cardinals keep winning, I’m sure he’ll be happy to continue joking about his old age and gray beard. And if they continue to win, Berkman will hold bragging rights over C.J. Wilson.

Photo Credit: Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE

Lance Berkman and C.J. Wilson Traded Trash Talk Before Season, Now Meet in World Series

When players talk trash to one another we have a tendency to make a big deal out of it, then forget about it and move on. This all happens fairly quickly. Trash talk is only news when it’s news. Otherwise it becomes old, irrelevant information. However, the trash talk exchanged by C.J. Wilson and Lance Berkman seven months ago has never been more relevant.

This past offseason, Berkman contemplated retirement but decided he would return if he received an offer from a handful of teams. The two teams who showed the most interest in Berkman were the Rangers and Cardinals. As we know, St. Louis and Texas are set to face one another in the World Series. That makes Berkman and Wilson’s preseason smack talk that much more intriguing.

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