When the Cardinals decided to take a one-year, eight million dollar gamble on Lance Berkman last December, there were mixed feelings in St. Louis about the acquisition. I myself had doubts that the aging veteran could actually stay healthy and restore his widely successful career. It’s safe to say that the Berkman pickup was entirely a high risk, high reward move on the part of John Mozeliak and the Cardinals. Needless to say, it was the high reward that prevailed. Maybe a change of scenery really does make all the difference.
Major League Baseball announced Thursday that Berkamn was the winner of the 2011 National League Comeback Player of the Year Award, receiving the honor along with Jacoby Ellsbury of the Boston Red Sox on the American League side.
The 35-year-old Berkman certainly exceeded all expectations set for him this season, hitting .301/.412/.547 with 31 home runs, 94 RBIs, and 90 runs scored. His 5.0 WAR was tied for 11th in the National League, just one point shy of Albert Pujols and tied with Matt Holliday. He filled a critical void in right field, playing in 145 games and hitting in the five-spot for most of the year.
The Big Puma is truly one of the top feel-good stories of the 2011 MLB season. Unless you have some burning hatred for mullets, it’s hard to root against this guy. His 2010 campaign was littered with career-lows due to nagging a nagging knee injury that required surgery prior to the start of that season. All signs were pointing down for Berkman, but it is impossible to measure just how valuable he has been to the Redbirds this season. The old man can still play the game, and the Cardinals recently rewarded the slugger with a one-year, $12 million contract extension through 2012.
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa was just so intricate in his description of what Berkman has meant to this team.
He’s just been a great player for our team.
Nothing but the highest praise from TLR.
Despite his unexpected success, don’t think Lance was out to prove his doubters wrong this season.
I wasn’t thinking that I had to come back and prove people wrong. That wasn’t my attitude at all. It doesn’t take long for people to move on to the next page, so to speak, in the game, and say, Well, he’s lost it, or you’re never heard from again. You see it happen all the time.
Congratulations Lance! Here’s to another outstanding season in 2012 (and of course continued success in the postseason).