The rejuvination of Lance Berkman has been the feel good story of the season so far in 2011 for the Cardinals.
But some aren't too happy about it down Houston way.
Astros broadcaster Milo Hamilton said on his radio show, after watching the Sunday night ESPN broadcast of the Cardinals and Reds, that instead of patting Berkman on the back for getting in such good shape this season he should be held accountable for letting himself get out of shape the last few years when he was with the Astros. He added that he was irked by the fact that Berkman is being touted by St. Louis manager Tony La Russa as the veteran leader of the Cardinals while he shunned a leadership role in Houston.
Here's what Hamilton had to say:
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"I want to know, if a guy gave you $85 million, and that's what Drayton did in the last contract...and he said, 'This is your team,' and he said that...wasn't in his persona, to be a leader. Yet last night, Tony LaRussa - when asked about Berkman - 'He's now the leader on this team, he is the inspiration to the older players, he goes around an inspires the younger players," and he got in excellent shape by hiring a trainer. If he had done that the last couple of years that he was here, guys, he could have finished out a really fine career in Houston if he had given it that same dedication. I just want a simple answer - why did you think it wasn't necessary to get in shape your last couple of years as an Astro, but now for team you didn't even know, a manager you never played for, you felt it was your responsibility to get in great shape?
First, it's fair for Hamilton to question Berkman for his conditioning. But let's be honest for a minute and point out that Berkman isn't the first ballplayer in history to put on a few pounds as he reached his mid thirties. Being in shape to run around with the Astros wasn't in Berkman's job description since played first base there in recent years. And, as we know, Berkman had a knee issue last season that required surgery. If his knee was gradually getting worse over the last couple of seasons, I could see why he didn't exercise as much as he should have. Now that his knee has been fixed, he can run and jump and do all of those other things that helps one lose some of the poundage.
As far as the leadership part of the crticism goes... Berkman came up with the Astros and was a young player on a squad that had Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell firmly in place when he arrived. It's difficult to go from one of the boys to the leader under those circumstances. I think Berkman was more of a leader of that team later in his time there. But it's easier to go into a new clubhouse as a well established veteran and bring a fresh perspective to things. It's hard to boss around your pals for one thing -- and for another your message gets old when you beat the same drum year after year.
So, I'm not saying you're wrong, Milo Hamilton. I'm just saying that you're overblowing this for no good reason and it just sounds like maybe you're a little bit bitter.
It doesn't matter if Berkman worked out 20 hours a day 365 days a year, it wasn't going to put the Astros in 2010. And it wouldn't put them in the post season if he was there in 2011.
All the guy did for you was get named to the All-Star Game five times, hit .297 and average 33 homers and 110 RBIs a year. I guess that's not enough for some people.
Berkman didn't ask to be cast off to the Cardinals. He's been fairly open about the fact that he wanted to come back to Houston to finish his career. But the Astros said thanks, but no thanks. He could have retired on the money he's already made in baseball and called it a career. So I don't see what the point is in ripping a guy who successfully went all out to get back into shape to try to jump start his career.