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14 April 2011

The Lance Berkman Fan Club

Lance Berkman's
2011 Topps Baseball Card
If you are one of the hundreds in Cardinal Nation following on twitter, you probably have run across mention of the Lance Berkman Fan Club (hashtag #LBFanClub).  It all began on April 4 of this year when some of the tweeps couldn't show love for the Big Puma because of the "Astros Ick" (wonderfully phrased by @annabell151).

The twitter crowd was split between those who are still under the influence of the heated rivalry last decade between Berkman's old team - the Houston Astros and our beloved Redbirds, and those who saw Berkman as a talented, classy player despite the damage he inflicted on the Cardinals.

I will state for the record that I am in the latter category, and I am proud to be a self-described charter member of the Lance Berkman Fan Club.  There is plenty of room on the bandwagon.  And we're going to need a big bandwagon now, after the awe-inspiring display of power LB just unleashed in the desert against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

April 11:  2-5  2R, 2HR, 3RBI, 8 Total Bases

Berkman started the series with three pathetic at bats against D'backs starter Barry Enright.  But against the Arizona bullpen, LB began to heat up.  In the 7th inning with St. Louis holding an increasingly tenuous 4-1 lead, Berkman took a Sam Demel pitch deep the other way for a solo shot.  Then in the ninth, Berkman did what he was brought in to do, scoring Albert Pujols (and himself, of course) with a two-run dinger, and blew the game open.  It was his first two home runs of the season.

April 12:  3-5 1R, 1HR, 2RBI, 6 Total Bases 

Though the Cardinals lost 13-8 in this slugfest, Berkman again shone at the plate.  In his first at bat  Berkman hit a solo home run again against Diamondback's starter Armando Galarraga, giving him homers in three straight at bats.  He added two other singles in the game, one in the sixth inning that drove in Ryan Theriot.

April 13:  1-3 2R, 1HR, 5RBI, 1 BB, 4 Total Bases

What could Lance do to finally endear himself to the entirety of Cardinal Nation?  How about delivering the ultimate in retribution to a pitcher that had just plunked a teammate?  In the top of the 2nd, struggling Arizona starter Ian Kennedy hit Matt Holliday in the wrist to load the bases.  Kennedy was getting beat up badly and the Cardinal dugout appeared to take the beaning as an insult - especially the pitching staff. Berkman answered the best way possible as he launched a 3-2 Kennedy pitch into the stands at Chase Field for a grand slam to the obvious delight of the pitchers who hooted and offered catcalls to the shell-shocked the D'backs righty.  The score was now 8-0, and the rout was on.

When Berkman was available in the off-season, the Cardinals jumped at the chance to grab the veteran switch-hitter - even upping the offer to  $8 Million for one year to keep the Cubs out of play for him.  It was not only his career offensive production that intrigued, but his easygoing personality and positive clubhouse presence.  The fruition of the former showed itself in the series in Arizona, and Bernie Miklasz gives us a glimpse of the latter here.

Berkman is coming off a lost 2010 season that saw him suffer a knee injury in spring training and then dealt at the trading deadline from Houston to the New York Yankees as the Astros finally committed to rebuilding their aging, disappointing roster.  Berkman had the worst season of his career in 2010, and many felt he had gone past his prime.

The decision to return Berkman's glove to the outfield was heavily debated.  So far, he has not been anything other than he was with the Astros - adequate for the job.  He is no ballerina on defense, but he is a professional veteran who knows the fundamentals.  He knows to keep balls in front of him from getting past him, and can reliably hit the cutoff man.  These are not things we have seen from other, younger, more lithe Cardinal outfielders thus far this season.

Once given the nickname Fat Elvis for his portly appearance, Berkman has noticeably lost weight.  The knee injury of 2010 seems to be behind him, as he is running the bases and in the outfield surprisingly well.  The elbow soreness that slowed him early in spring training this year appears to not to be a problem any longer.

Cardinal Nation is well acquainted with the destructive power of Berkman's bat from his time with Division rival Houston.  The reluctance to love a player that has done such damage to the hometown team is understandable.  But these past three games give testimony to why this fan is bullish on the Big Puma wearing the Birds on the Bat.

So does recent history leave a bad taste in your mouth, or are you a member of the Lance Berkman Fan Club?  Give us  your vote in the comments.


Anonymous said...

I was ecstatic when we picked up Berkman in the offseason. Nice to see everyone else starting to get in on it, too!

Michael Turner said...

Authors Note: Always good to hear from El Maquino! Let us all hope Big Puma is a machine in his own right. And for those who do not know,
is a great blog about the Cardinals.

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