Lance Berkman has not yet played a single game in a Cardinal uniform, but he’s already making his presence felt in St. Louis. Berkman, one of the team’s several free agent acquisitions this offseason, is holding nothing back in regards to his decision to sign a one year, $8 million contract with the Redbirds.
In case you haven’t already heard the story, here’s a quick rundown. Basically, as the 34-year-old Berkman contemplated retirement upon the conclusion of the 2010 season, he drew interest from both the Cardinals and Rangers. He said that he could have gotten the most money from the Rangers and that there are advantages to playing in Texas, but he obviously ended up in St. Louis. On a Houston radio show last Thursday, he essentially took a shot so to speak at the Rangers, claiming that without Cliff Lee (Now a member of the Phillies), Texas would be an “average” team this year.
More specifically, here’s some of what the Big Puma had to say.
I felt like if they didn’t re-sign Cliff Lee that they were going to be an average team and I feel that’s probably what’s going to end up happening. It’s all about your pitching. I feel like last year was one of those special years where you kind of catch lightning in a bottle and they got hot and they had some guys that I felt like were pitching better than their talent level and consequently they had a great year. “They were itching to spend some money. I probably could have gotten the best deal out of them, especially in light of what they gave Adrian Beltre, which I think is pretty much of a reach for him.
Well, tell us how you really feel Lance! See, when I told you that he wasn’t holding anything back, I wasn’t kidding. As you can imagine, Rangers pitcher CJ Wilson wasn’t exactly stoked to hear these comments. Look, I’m perfectly fine with his comments. Why? He very well could be right. The guy’s been around the game long enough to know what it takes to win in MLB. In fact, I share many of the same feelings with him. I don’t know about calling out a player’s contract, but I too see the Rangers having a tough time repeating last year’s campaign, especially with the improvements made by the Red Sox, Blue Jays, and White Sox.
Anyway, I think it’s more important to evaluate what exactly his comments mean for the Cardinals rather than to judge whether or not they are accurate. If there’s one thing that comes to mind when reading Berkman’s remarks, it is confidence. It wasn’t all that long ago that Lance was a enemy in St. Louis as a member of the division rival Astros, but things have certainly changed in a hurry. Even if by default, his carefully chosen words show that he is fully confident that the Cardinals will make some noise in 2011.
The way I see it, the fact that he said “It’s all about pitching” and proceeded to rip the Rangers staff is his way of dishing out a compliment to what he believes is a pitching staff that can get the job done in St. Louis. As the new man in town, what better way to build team chemistry than to give your pitchers a vote of confidence?
Let’s be honest. After losing the NL Central division title to a Cincinnati team that hadn’t won it since 1995, the Cards lost a little bit of their swagger. Everything was right there for the taking, but the team’s unexplainable collapse sucked all of the air out of its balloon. The entire city was down, and confidence was hard to come by.
Not anymore. Lance Berkman has brought a confident and winning attitude to this team. He figures to be a vital part of the Cards’ success this season, and since Tony La Russa is a quiet guy (Not exactly a master motivator), hopefully Berkman’s confidence will be contagious.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with confidence, but it can become an issue when it turns to cockiness, especially when it bites you in the ass. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.
With a National League that is shaping up to be as tough as ever, it’s going to take a confident mindset to survive. The road surely won’t be easy, but there’s no reason that the Cardinals can’t take back the division crown.
So, Lance Berkman, I give you props. Welcome to St. Louis!