You wouldn’t have thought so, with the hoopla around the Boston-Los Angeles blockbuster, but there were happenings aplenty in baseball over the past couple of days . . . including the possibility of retirement for one of the game’s most respected players.
The end may be near for Lance Berkman. The St. Louis first baseman has started a rehab assignment (knee) in Memphis, but he’s talking like a man who’s thinking seriously about calling it a career.
“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,” he tells the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Berkman also admitted retirement was a temptation when his knee gave out in May, but he hung in out of a sense of obligation to the Cardinals, for whom he came up big during their “mad dash” (the paper’s words) to the 2011 wild card, through the postseason, and then that extraterrestrial World Series triumph.
At this writing, Berkman is 37th on the all-time on-base percentage list at .409 and 34th on the all-time slugging percentage list at .545. He’s a six-time All Star with a .949 lifetime postseason OPS and a .954 lifetime regular season OPS, not to mention 48.9 wins above a replacement player. It’s actually all good enough to make him just short of an average Hall of Famer; the injuries probably ground him down before he could secure a once-and-for-all case.
For all his excellent career, Berkman’s absolute singular moment may have been Game Six of last year’s World Series—when the power hitter re-tied the game in the bottom of the tenth with anything but the long ball. Ducks on the pond, two out, and the Cardinals down to their final strike of the year for the second time on the night . . . and Berkman dumps a quail into short center to send home Jon Jay, set up Jake Westbrook’s scoreless top of the eleventh relief, and make possible the hanging first-pitch changeup David Freese would hit over the center field fence for the walkoff win in the bottom of the eleventh.
But if this is really going to be it for Berkman, it’ll be time to say a reluctant goodbye to one of the game’s classier acts.
MEANWHILE, BACK IN THE JUNGLE . . .
ROCKET FOOL, CONTINUED—Former major leaguer Doug Glanville, now an ESPN writer, thinks Roger Clemens is living in a bit of a dream world, if he thinks he has a major league comeback in him.
BOMBS AWAY!—While Chris Davis yanked three homers for Baltimore Friday night, Adrian Beltre—who hit three against the Orioles Wednesday night—hit for the cycle while teammate Matt Harrison took a no-hit bid to the seventh.
CRACK DOWN—Considering enough of the actual or alleged performance-enhancing substance talk hooks around Latino players, Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez (himself Cuban born) says stricter penalties plus an all-in educational program tailored toward the Latino players and their developers wouldn’t be a terrible idea.
CONEHEADS—Minnesota rookie Scott Diamond, who leads the Twins in ERA (3.04) this season, got a six-game suspension for throwing behind Josh Hamilton’s head Thursday night, in apparent retaliation for Roy Oswalt catching Joe Mauer in the back earlier, and apparently without a warning going out after the Mauer brush . . . Derek Jeter, meanwhile, took one upside the head from Cleveland’s Corey Kluber Friday night—though Jeter said he was angrier at the ball coming to his head (it hit the bill of his batting helmet) than at Kluber himself.