Lance Berkman: The Feel Good Story of the First Half

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New York isn’t for everyone. Lance Berkman can certainly attest to that. He was shipped off to the Bronx last season and began his tenure as a reserve player. This simply didn’t suit the man who had been the face of the Houston Astros since the the days of the killer bees in Texas. Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell had a long run of success at Minute Maid Park, but Bagwell shouldered the load upon their departure.

It is no surprise that a Saint Louis Cardinal arguably has the best offensive statistics in the National League at the break. Fans would have thought that the name associated with those numbers would be Matt Holliday or Albert Pujols though. The latter has returned from his broken wrist extremely quickly and has the faithful with high hopes for the post break portion of the schedule.

Tony LaRussa is the best in the game at making something out of nothing. He has the club in contention in the National League Central even though the Brewers are the favorite to finish the season on top. Berkman has kept the team’s head above water by hitting near .300 and playing in eighty-one games. His twenty-four home runs and sixty three runs batted in are statistics that one could expect from him a half dozen years ago. He has more walks than strikeouts. This demonstrates that he has a good eye at the plate and that pitchers are reluctant to give him something to hit.

The tell tale sign of his production is that his OPS is approaching a thousand. Any time that a slugger has an on base percentage over four hundred coupled with power, his name should be placed near the top of the list of MVP candidates. Jose Reyes and Matt Kemp are two others that have been impressive and are in the same discussion at this juncture.

Some may have thought that Berkman would still be a fish out of water in Missouri. He is from Waco and attended Rice University before being drafted in the first round by the Astros in 1997. He seemed to embrace the culture of the state with his pick-up driving ways. The sports fans in Saint Louis have welcomed him with open arms and his acquisition has given him a newfound energy.

Besides the return of Pujols, Cris Carpenter looks to be a major contributor in the second half. His dominance on the mound could be just the jolt that the club needs to compete with the Pirates, Brewers, and Reds.

Berkman has already surpassed his production of last season. He will not be rested back from the All Star break because he played in the game in Phoenix. The one hundred and fifteen degree heat is enough to zap the energy from anyone. The average fan doesn’t realize all of the accompanying events that surround the game. The public appearances and autograph signings can test anyone’s patience, let alone a reticent Texan. It is a welcome problem to have though.

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