Last night, over a couple of adult beverages, a couple of friends of mine (one a Cardinals fan, the other a Yankees fan) talked about Lance Berkman - strangely enough we three represented the last - and only - three teams of Berkman's career.
I said that Berkman was going to have a great year, for three reasons:
1. He's healthy for the first time in a while.
2. He'll be playing on a team that will contend for the postseason.
3. He's going to want to stick it to the Astros.
And then Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch went and published this huge article on Berkman. And I think I'm right.
Anyhow, on the wooing of Lance Berkman:
La Russa lobbied the five-time All-Star at least twice over the phone while explaining a desire to return Berkman to the outfield. Berkman rejected the Cardinals' initial $4 million offer as the Oakland Athletics, Texas Rangers and Chicago Cubs circled. Berkman remained in touch with Adam Wainwright, whom he and Cara had befriended during a pair of faith-based retreats for athletes.
Shortly after Berkman told Wainwright of the Cubs' interest in him as Derrek Lee's successor at first base, Mozeliak called with an enhanced, $7.5 million offer. By that time Cubs general manager Jim Hendry was en route to Houston for dinner with Berkman. Sensing Hendry might be prepared to offer as much as $10 million, Berkman told the Cardinals he would commit for $8 million with no incentives attached. When Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. signed off on a second modified offer, the two-day negotiation was finalized.
Hendry still dined with Berkman but returned empty-handed to Chicago.
Berkman, who validates my Position #3:
"Circumstances had to be so bizarre for me to end up where I am: We had to be a bad team. I had to be doing really poorly, which forced them into not picking up my option. I had a really bad year with a relatively new GM who doesn't have attachment to the old guard. Once they cut me loose I think they washed their hands of it."
Berkman's wife, who validates Position #1 & #2:
"I hate that so much of people's opinion is based solely on last year. It was such a poor year starting off with surgery. That was the root of it. Then when you're on a team that's bad and you're expected to lift the team up … I just don't think it was a fair year."
Get ready, because I think Berkman is going to go off this year.