"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice
Tag: Lance Berkman

Here Today…

A few weeks ago Glenn Stout said that we won’t really feel Rivera’s absence for awhile. The void, that’s what will make it sting he said. And yesterday, as the game reached the seventh inning it hit me (again): Rivera is gone. Just when you get used to someone, poof. Maybe they are like Chipper Jones or Alex Rodriguez, a slow but sure decline, still playing but no longer great. Or like Mo, a quick injury and then…who knows?

Such was the case for our old pal Lance Berkman who sustained an ACL injury the other night. His career might be over.  I always enjoyed watching him play. He’s had a fine career.

Puma Strides

I watched some of the Orioles-Cardinals game last night and saw our old pal Lance Berkman hit two long home runs, one righty, the other lefty. Man, they were both crushed. Made him dream “What If?” for a second. I know there wasn’t a place for him in the Bronx, and he would have cost more than Nick Swisher, who is also younger, so I’m not saying they should have kept him. But I’ve always enjoyed watching “The Big Puma” and wished he could have stayed around longer.

Regardless–or irregardless, as they like to say in the Bronx– I’m happy to see him playing so well.

Better Make it a Whole Lotta Lumps

Here’s Jerry Crasnick on the hot-hitting former Yank, Lance Berkman:

Teammates, opponents, managers, fans, media members and scouts regard Berkman as an uncommonly nice person and the classic case of an athlete who has his act together. He’s quotable, approachable and brimming with perspective, and he’s that rare star player who’s able to dissect his game through a self-deprecating lens. But the game isn’t always fun when the bat and ball can feel like a ball and chain.

“Most of my career, I’ve almost had to let that cloud hang over me, because it’s part of what keeps you sharp mentally,” Berkman said by phone earlier this week. “I know the fickle nature of hitting. You can be as hot as a pistol one day, and the next thing you know you can’t figure out where to put your feet. It’s such a difficult thing to do, you’re always just trying to survive.

“I have a tendency to take things to extremes and take a doomsday approach when things aren’t going well. I’ll think, ‘This is not good,’ or, ‘The next slump is just around the corner.’ I’m always leery of hot streaks, because I know the game can turn on you in a heartbeat.”

Good dude, that Lance (even if his name is Lance). I’m glad he’s doing well.

Observations From Cooperstown: Big Puma, Grandy, and the Roster

The first five innings of Game One and the first three innings of Game Two provided too many flashbacks to the putrid way the Yankees played over the final two months of the season. They looked listless, uninterested, and generally helpless against the opponent’s starting pitcher. Thankfully, the Yankees made the most of the later innings in both games, giving us ten good frames that accounted for two wins in two nights at Target Field. With two memorable playoff games in the books, it’s time for some random postseason thoughts…

It took a little over two months, but Lance Berkman finally made a major impact as a Yankee. I was exceedingly impressed by his gargantuan home run in Game Two, which easily cascaded over the left-center field wall at cavernous Target Field. Frankly, I haven’t seen that kind of opposite field power from a left-handed Yankee batter since the halcyon days of Reggie Jackson in 1981. As if that left-field blast wasn’t sufficient, Berkman then burned Denard Span with a deep drive to center field, resulting in a run-scoring double that broke a 2-2 tie in the seventh inning. Berkman’s bat effectively carried the Yankee offense, which managed to score five runs against a hittable Carl Pavano and a parade of Twins relievers.

In some ways, Berkman is a lame duck DH for the Yankees. As a free agent, there is almost no chance that he will return to New York in 2011. The Yankees would like to make room for the younger and less expensive Jesus Montero, who can split DH and catching duties with Jorge Posada. Furthermore, ever since Berkman joined the Yankees, rumors have swirled that he would like to go back to the Astros. Houston’s impressive finish to the regular season has likely only reinforced Berkman’s thinking. If the Astros can find someone to take on Carlos Lee’s contract, they can create an opening at first base for Berkman to make his return.

Whether or not he is merely making a cameo in New York, I hope Berkman has a big postseason. If he helps the Yankees return to the World Series, the trade that sent Mark Melancon to Houston will be more than justified. Berkman has been a tremendously productive power hitter for most of his career, perhaps not a Hall of Famer but the kind of player who ranks only a rung below Cooperstown. He has slugged over .600 two times, drawn more than 100 walks three times, and driven in more than 120 runs four times. Yet, he hasn’t received full credit, mostly because he has been stuck on a number of also-ran Astros teams, with the exception of Houston’s 2002 and 2005 clubs. If it takes a little postseason glory with the Yankees for a standout hitter like “Big Puma” to receive his due, then so be it…

I’m just going to come out and say it: I love the way that Curtis Granderson plays! Even before his late-season tinkering sessions with Kevin Long, Granderson has always impressed me. He runs hard from the moment he hits the ball, a trait that helped him reach third base with that game-changing triple in Game One. He is a smart base runner, in an era when base running has become a lost art, even amongst star players. He also plays a fundamentally sound center field, whether it’s squaring up on catches so as to put himself into good throwing position, or showing a willingness and ability to hit the cutoff man.

Off the field, Granderson is one of the most thoughtful and well-spoken of all the Yankees. He is unfailingly polite, even when faced with difficult questions during his early season struggles. If there was one player on the Yankees who could serve as a model of proper behavior, Granderson might just be the best choice.


Love Me Tender

I still believe that Lance Berkman will have some big hits, and maybe even a home run, for the Yanks before the season is over. Yesterday, he failed in a big spot, but I like his candor after the game. According to Chad Jennings:

“I can always tip my hat to the pitcher if he makes a good pitch,” Lance Berkman said. “But that was a terrible pitch. That ball was hanging right in the middle of the plate. There’s no reason not to hit that ball hard, and I just didn’t do it.”

A Delicate Balance

Andy Pettitte is a big man with a huge ass and strong legs, but watching him pitch, the word that comes to mind is: touch. Petttitte was everything the Yankees could have expected today, allowing one run over six innings on 79 pitches and he was a pleasure to watch, adding, subtracting–pitching.

It was a sleepy afternoon at Camden Yards with the Yanks leading most of the way. But the O’s rallied late, scoring once in the eighth and again in the ninth to force extra innings–Mariano Rivera allowed just his second home run of the year, this one to Luke Scott. It was on the second pitch of the at-bat, a cutter that was low but right over the plate, and Scott popped it over the tall right field wall. And like that, a seemingly casual win turned into a ballgame.

In the 11th, Alex Rodriguez led off with a pinch-hit walk against the lefty Mike Gonzalez. Eduardo Nunez replaced Rodriguez as a pinch runner, Ramiro Pena squared to bunt and took a strike. Then Gonzalez threw the ball away trying to keep Nunez close at first,  a one-hoper into the stands. Joe Girardi replaced Pena with Marcus Thames who worked the count full and then waved over a slider for the first out.

Mark Teixeira pinch hit for Brett Gardner and was intentionally walked. Derek Jeter was next and he too was given a free pass, bringing up Fat Elvis, who has struggled as right-handed hitter. Berkman hit a high chopper to third base and as the Orioles started the 5-4-3 double play, it looked like even Fat Elvis would be able to leg it out. But he didn’t make it, out by a step. The play took forever to unfold and once Berkman was called out it was clear to this viewer that the Yanks were not going to win. Twelve runners left on base is too much.

At least it was swift. Scott led off with a bloop double then Ty Wigginton hit a rocket in the gap to end it. Final Score: O’s 4, Yanks 3.

Regrettable loss for the Yanks–aren’t they all regrettable, though?–as they blow a chance to gain another game on Tampa, who lost to the Angels.

Yanks, Rays, four games back home in the Bronx starting tomorrow. Then the Red Sox over the weekend.

Should be lively.

[Pictures by Bags]

Hope is the Thing Wearing Pinstripes (Just Win, Baby)

Fresh direct from the Lo-Hud Yankee oven, today’s line-up:

Brett Gardner LF
Derek Jeter SS
Mark Teixeira 1B
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher RF
Jorge Posada C
Curtis Granderson CF
Austin Kearns DH
Ramiro Pena 3B

Also, Lance Berkman has been placed on the DL. Drag. Eduardo Nunez was been called-up.

Meanwhile, tough day for Mr. Clemens.

[Picture by Bags]

Sunday Gravy

Josh Beckett and AJ Burnett were all set for a Sunday Night Red Ass Bake-Off but Burnett has “tightness in his back” and has been replaced by Dustin “FBI Agent Alonzo” Mosley. Burnett is now scheduled to pitch Tuesday; Phil Hughes will go tomorrow afternoon.

Meanwhile, Lance Berkman is handling the Bronx Cheer in stride. According to Chad Jennings:

“Trust me, I’m booing myself,” [Lance Berkman] said. “I have no credibility here… I didn’t come up here to catch a break. I came up here to play well and win.”

…“As long as it’s not my wife or kids, I’m fine with it,” he said. “This is a big boy’s game and place to play, and if you can’t handle that, go home.”

I think the Big Puma is going to bust-out shortly…

Alex Rodriguez is penciled into the line-up though that is subject to change.

Yanks going for their second-straight win:

Let’s Go Yan-kees.

[Photo Credit: Food Network]

State of Grace

Dig this short piece on the strange grace of players trading places by an Astros fan over at the most excellent blog, Pitchers and Poets:

Today, I’ve got my Berkman t-shirt on. It’s clean, and fits me well. And I look forward to see him wear Yankee pinstripes, odd as that may be to say. Great players should play on big stages, and though he’s past his greatest days, his swing is still pretty and he does well what the Yankees like in their players: getting on base and playing well calmly. Same, too, for Roy Oswalt, though he’ll be in the same league. He’ll show some new fans what he does well, and that’s something.

There is pleasure to be had in seeing something well-known and beloved in a different setting. You can’t stand still, after all. You’ve got to move forward.

[Photo Credit: Boston.com]

Why Is This Man Smiling?

Wouldn’t you be?

I think this says it all:

“I was thinking about that on the way over here — I’m coming to play for the New York Yankees against the Tampa Bay Rays, basically for first place in the division in August, or I’d be going up to play the Milwaukee Brewers, and there are like 10 people in the stands,” said Berkman, who will wear No. 17. He added, “When you’re a veteran — I’m 34, which isn’t necessarily ancient, but definitely getting toward more yesterdays than tomorrow in the game — you start to see the window for an opportunity to win and feel the rush of the playoffs close.”
(Ben Shpigel, N.Y. Times)

The heat broke in New York. Yesterday, it was sunny but clear. This morning, it’s overcast, no humidity, with a breeze. We could all use a break. ‘Nother win this afternoon sure would be nice too.

[Photo Credit: Mike Carlson/AP]

No, No: Like This

Been a couple of exciting, well-played games by the Yanks and Rays, huh? Phil Hughes made one mistake on Friday night and it cost the Yanks the game. They bounced back tonight, however, and served the Rays a dose of their own medicine. The Yanks rallied down 3-1, and 4-3. A trio of homers did it–a two run bomb by Mark Teixiera, solo shot by Nick Swisher and the game-winner, a long, soaring home run by Robinson Cano.

Final score: Yanks 5, Rays 4.

Javier Vazquez and Matt Garza both competed; neither was great. Matt Joyce hit another long home run, and duly admired the fruits of his labor. Carl Crawford collected the 400th stolen base of his career. But Boone Loogan and Dave Robertson were terrific in relief, and kept the game close for New York. And Mariano did like he do in the ninth after Cano’s homer gave the Yanks the lead in the bottom of the eighth.

Alex Rodriguez had a tough night, striking out, popping up, and laughed at himself when he spoke to reporters after the game.  He had some more pitches to drive, put some good swings on them, and had nothing to show for it.

Lance Berkman didn’t look relaxed either but then again, the Yanks only had six hits all night, three by Cano.

The Yanks lead in the AL stands at two. No matter what happens tomorrow, they’ll leave town in first.

[Photo Credit: Mike Carlson, AP,

Funny Name for a Man…Lance

I’ve never met a Lance that I’ve liked. Knew a kid when I was in fourth grade, lived up the block, Lance. He was a dick. Lance. Never followed one on TV or in sports that I liked, until Lance Berkman, that is. Because Lance Berkman has a good face–doughy and open. Looks like a second-rate opera singer with black eye-liner or a moldy Elvis impersonator. The point is, he’s fun. And according to Jeff Pearlman he’s authentic too, so I think he’ll do just fine in New York.

First Lance I ever cared to like and now will be more than heppy to root for. Here’s hoping there are no late snags on this one and Berkman in this year’s David Justice for Cash Money. I know he’s on the downside of his career, but in this line up he could wake up in a New York minute.

So, bring us some Lancelot P. Berkolllistock with a schmeer. Let’s tip the scales, shall we?

[Photo Credit: Bob Levey/Getty Images North America]

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver