With knee surgery this past season and getting hit in the same place after returning, Lance Berkman is looking at retiring from baseball when his contract with the St. Louis Cardinals is up at the end of the season.
Speaking to reporters while rehabbing with the Memphis Redbirds, the 36 year old sounds as if he has just about made up his mind on the matter.
“I don’t want to rule anything out. But if you asked me right now I’m leaning toward not playing next year,” Berkman said. “I don’t want to say for certain because I don’t want to do like Brett Favre and say, ‘I retired; I’m not retired; I’m retired; I’m not retired.’ I don’t want to make that call right now, but if you put a gun to my head and demand an answer today I would tell you I’m probably not going to play next year.”
We knew it was going to happen at somepoint. Let’s face it. The Big Puma is not getting any younger.
It’s likely that the month of September will be his last month playing professional baseball. Unless he changes his mind, it probably will be. It’s been a good career for Berkman and I hope he has it in him for another postseason run.
The 2011 season, Berkman’s first with the Cardinals, saw 31 home runs, 94 RBI and a .301 batting average. This was one season after being traded from the Houston Astros to the New York Yankees. The 2010 season was easily the worst of Berkman’s career. That said, there are two numbers that mean something for the veteran: 400 home runs and 2,000 career hits.
“I’m OK with one championship in my career,” said Berkman, also part of the Houston Astros’ 2005 NL championship. “Sure, another one definitely would be nice. But I think the career decision for me and my family is whether it’s worth going through another season or two just to reach those milestones.”
There was debate soon after the World Series as to whether or not a championship ring would be enough to see an induction into the Hall of Fame. Berkman’s career numbers in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and on-base plus slugging percentage place him in the top 40 all-time. The latter is 19th all time.
It appears that he feels comfortable with retirement after this season.
“I’m proud to have played my whole career supplement-free,” Berkman said. “I can honestly tell you every home run I’ve hit and every run I’ve driven in is all me. I don’t even take vitamins. I’m happy and proud of the way I’ve played over the course of my career. Right now I’ve got to get to the end of the season to see what opportunities may be available. And am I OK not getting to some of those statistical things? Right now I have a pretty good idea.”
In his career, he has been named to 6 All-Star games. Berkman has been a top ten MVP candidate in six different seasons.
No matter what Puma decides to do, Cardinal fans are grateful for his service to the Cardinals.