Tonight the Astros will be celebrating the careers of Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt. The two Astros greats will step onto the field at Minute Maid Park one last time as they both formally retire from the game. In this post, I take a look back at the storied career of Lance Berkman.
The 1997 NCAA Player of the Year at Rice University, the Astros selected Berkman in the first round of that year’s draft. Lance spent a few seasons hitting everything that was thrown at him in the minors before getting the call to the show in July of 1999. The following season, he was in the big leagues to stay.
It didn’t take long for Berkman to become a contributing member of Houston’s “Killer B’s” led by veterans Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio. Lance belted a league best 55 doubles in 2001 while driving in 126 runs and posting a .331 batting average. With an OPS of 1.051, a 25-year old Berkman was already starting to upstage the two future Hall of Famers.
Berkman drove in 128 runs the following season and was arguably the team’s best player for the next several years. In 12 seasons with the Astros Lance hit 326 homeruns and accumulated 1090 RBIs. During that time “The Big Puma” posted an impressive .296/.410/.549 slash line.
But the Lance Berkman era in Houston came to an end in July of 2010. The then slumping switch-hitter volunteered to assist with the team’s rebuilding efforts by going on the trading block. The New York Yankees came calling and Berkman was sent to The Bronx for prospects Mark Melancon and Jimmy Paredes.
Berkman’s time in New York was short and he signed a Free Agent contract with the St. Louis Cardinals in December of 2010. That’s when everything fell into place for Lance. “Fat Elvis” earned Comeback Player of the Year honors in 2011 and won a World Series Championship with the Cardinals. Lance pounded out 11 hits and scored nine runs in a 7-game series win over the Texas Rangers, a team he had already accused of playing beyond their potential.
Unlike tonight’s other honoree, the soft-spoken Oswalt, Lance has never been short on words. His penchant for speaking his mind has always made him a favorite of fans and bloggers alike. After his decision to sign with the rival Texas Rangers for the 2013 season, we here at CTH have had some laughs at Lance’s expense — but always in good fun. It will be interesting to see what the next chapter in life brings for a truly great player and an even better person.
Godspeed, Lance. We wish you the best in your future journeys.