I missed this from a few days back, but Brian McTaggart did an interview with Berkman on the upcoming season. Some highlights:
"I think we're going to be subtracting rather than adding this year from a payroll standpoint. If that's the case, it's going to be tough to add one of those [impact] guys. You never know. It's one of those situations where you don't ever count Drayton or Ed out. They may get something done."
This is the point where I would like to mention to Lance that, you're supposed to be the (insert expletive here) impact guy! God help me! You have Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence hitting behind you! (Another expletive, depending on your level of frustration)!!
Where can the Astros improve?
"It would be great if we could add another good, quality starting pitcher. That's the one thing that could help us more than anything else. I feel like we have a pretty good nucleus of guys from the everyday standpoint, but we definitely need some help on the staff. I don't think it's going to happen, but that's what I'd like to see."
Real optimistic, there. "Here's what we need. It won't happen, but whatever."
Oh, is Berkman worried about time running out on his career to win a ring?
"It would be concerning if I didn't have more than this year and maybe one more. If the club's not going to go in the right direction, I'm a free agent in two years and I have to look at it then. I can't image we couldn't be competitive, given the history and the fact that as long as Drayton's owned the team he's made it a point to contend. So I don't see us taking big steps backwards."
There's a mixed bag to get pissed off about here. He's looking at the past to prepare for the future, which I can appreciate. But what I do not appreciate is that, in the last three months, Berkman has publicly discussed retirement, and now his looking forward to free agency if the Astros don't contend in the next two years.
I think my problem with this is that Berkman is looking at how green the grass is when he needs to remember that he's the fertilizer (and I mean that in both ways it can be taken). Berkman is the face of the Astros, whether he likes it or not, and right now it seems to me that he doesn't like it. To me, it seems that there has been a void in leadership since Bagwell and Biggio retired, and when the clubhouse leader becomes Miguel Tejada instead of the longest-tenured Astro, that's a problem. Berkman is the home-grown, #3 hitter, All-Star, MVP-candidate, heir to Jeff Bagwell, and there's no accountability from him. The Astros need an impact guy? He's the impact guy. When the impact guy wants another impact guy, that's a bad sign.
I ran across this JJO blog post the other day, from December 2007, in which JJO rips his "leadership" for complaining that Chris Burke got traded for Jose Valverde:
Berkman's a great hitter, but he's no leader. He loves to share the truth as he sees it, but he'd be better off looking in the mirror.
If he spent some time polling his teammates, especially the stars, he'd find out that some of them think he whines too much and that more than a few think he's lazy. I won't out those teammates, but Berkman knows he can pick up the phone real quick and find out who feels this way.
Only Berkman would worry about the chemistry being shaken up on a team that lost 89 games. Astros fans pay good money to see a team win. If the team is losing, they couldn't care less if the team has good chemistry in the clubhouse with Chris Burke or Lance Berkman...
...If Berkman were more mature, he would have told Valverde how he felt before whining about it in public. If he were a team leader like Jeff Bagwell was, he would have handled the issue with dignity and class behind closed doors...
...Ed Wade, Tal Smith, Dave Gottfried and Ricky Bennett should take a bow for shaking this lousy team up. Sure, Berkman is upset. But Berkman must understand that some of the other high prized players, some of the true leaders on the club, appreciate the moves because they'd much rather win than hold hands with Chris Burke.
Only Berkman could possibly complain that a fourth-place team has been broken up.
This follow-up two days later has Berkman defending himself:
I had to point out what I thought of Berkman's comments and leadership abilities in my blog on Monday. With that said, Astros fans should be excited if Berkman is committed to being a team leader next year. In his defense, he pointed out that he has never had a chance to be the team leader, per se. Well, now is that time, as I told him.
I rip JJO a lot, but these two posts were the best he's ever written. Berkman wanted to be a better leader in 2008? Didn't happen. 2009? Nope. He whined and moaned and lolly-gagged to the point of getting called out by an unnamed club official, who said, "If he had been playing in any other city, you guys would have ripped his (behind)." I guess that media accountability ended in December 2007.
Berkman pointed out he has never had a chance to be the team leader. Well, now that Bagwell/Biggio/Tejada are gone, he has that chance. I don't care if he hits .270 again, I want to see some fire and leadership, instead of asking someone else to provide it. And if he doesn't? As Berkman said, he's a free agent in two years...