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Lance Berkman is retiring

Jan 29, 2014, 4:52 PM EDT

Lance Berkman AP

Lance Berkman was said to be leaning toward retirement all offseason and now Richard Justice of MLB.com reports that the 37-year-old switch-hitter has decided to call it a career after 15 seasons in the majors.

Berkman often gets lost in the shuffle when talking about the best hitters of this era, but he was a consistently excellent hitter for a dozen years and finished among the top five in MVP voting four times.

Berkman hit .293 with 366 homers in 1,879 games and also walked nearly as many times (1,201) as he struck (1,300), posting a .406 on-base percentage that ranks fifth among all active players. He made six All-Star teams and his .943 OPS is the second-highest in baseball history among switch-hitters, behind only Mickey Mantle (.977) and right in front of Chipper Jones (.930).

He seems unlikely to get a ton of Hall of Fame support from voters, but Berkman was a Hall of Fame-caliber player who combined big batting averages with huge on-base percentages and monster power. Helluva career. So long, Big Puma.

  1. Youknowimright - Jan 29, 2014 at 4:54 PM

    Lance Berkman has been retired for about three years now. The player is always the last to know.

    • fearlessleader - Jan 29, 2014 at 5:59 PM

      Maybe two, but definitely not three—the Cardinals wouldn’t have won a World Series without him in 2011. Berkman is a mensch and I wish him the very best.

      • gothapotamus90210 - Jan 29, 2014 at 8:39 PM

        At Game 1 of the 2011 NLDS, we (Phillies fans) peppered Lance with “Berk-man” chants from the LF stands. He was a good sport about it and put his glove to his ear. Seems like a stand up guy who could flat out hit. Godspeed, Lance.

      • stlouis1baseball - Jan 30, 2014 at 2:58 PM

        I don’t know if he belonged to mensa or not. But I know the dude could/can flat out hit.
        Equally impressive to me is his honest, straightforward answers. He calls it like he see’s it.
        I respect that.

    • jeffa43 - Jan 29, 2014 at 8:04 PM

      Its more like he tried to recover from a knee problem that would not go away…. He has no problem turning on 95, his skills are still there….

      So you blew your first and second thought.

      One of those “three retired years” he was the best hitter on a World Championship team… Oh, he also was the only hitter to hit over 400 in the Series…. not bad for a retired guy, huh?

      • stex52 - Jan 29, 2014 at 9:56 PM

        These guys didn’t see him in his prime, Jeff. Their loss.

      • chinahand11 - Jan 30, 2014 at 2:32 PM

        Even through his last few pain-filled seasons, pitchers were always, always, concerned when he came to the plate. That wasn’t Punch and Judy coming up there.

      • stlouis1baseball - Jan 30, 2014 at 3:03 PM

        Well stated Jeff. And to put it in perspective…I would have issues trying to turn on 75.
        The guy is a hitter. One of the best.

    • Youknowimright - Jan 29, 2014 at 8:24 PM

      I just want to apologize to lance’s cousins who I have offended deeply. It was more like two years. It was actually more like two and a half because that half season with the yanks was a disaster as well. Oh well take it easy lance.

    • mick2014 - Jan 30, 2014 at 12:12 AM

      Fat Elvis has left the building!!!!!

  2. cackalackyank - Jan 29, 2014 at 5:01 PM

    Don’t let the door hit ya Lance….

    • dirtyharry1971 - Jan 29, 2014 at 8:56 PM

      yea exactly, I won’t miss him

    • cackalackyank - Jan 30, 2014 at 9:40 AM

      Wow, I guess they are gonna have to start building statues of this bum.

      • realitypolice - Jan 30, 2014 at 12:51 PM

        A bum with a .409 on base percentage over a 15 year career. Tough crowd.

      • cackalackyank - Jan 30, 2014 at 1:10 PM

        He played like a complete bum while with the NYY, made Cano look like he was Charlie Hustle. All I need to know. A Mercenary.

      • realitypolice - Jan 30, 2014 at 1:18 PM

        I’m a Yankees fan, too. I just have a little more perspective than to judge a 15 year career on a half a season.

  3. b453841l - Jan 29, 2014 at 5:16 PM

    Fat Elvis has left the building.

  4. musketmaniac - Jan 29, 2014 at 5:47 PM

    no more fried peanut butter and banana sandwich`s

  5. nsstlfan - Jan 29, 2014 at 5:57 PM

    Youknowimright… How about his comeback year with the Cardinals? Yeah he was Really retired that year. Without him I don’t think the Cardinals make the World Series

  6. xjokerz - Jan 29, 2014 at 6:01 PM

    long overdue.

    • stex52 - Jan 29, 2014 at 9:55 PM

      Overdue. But not long overdue. About a year is all.

  7. ancientcougar - Jan 29, 2014 at 6:25 PM

    Somebody wanted to keep paying him to play?

  8. Darkoestrada - Jan 29, 2014 at 6:31 PM

    So he should have retired the year after he was a legitimate MVP candidate and led the cardinals to a World Series? Come on now. He obviously should have come back for 2012. He didn’t know ahead of time his year would be ruined by injury. Then he made the perfectly reasonable decision to play in 2013 in a full time dh role still being only 1 year removed from a great season. It made plenty of sense at the time. Maybe it looks like he held on too long in hindsight but decisions aren’t made with the benefit of being able to see the future.

  9. dcfan4life - Jan 29, 2014 at 6:34 PM

    Mediocre defense, overshadowed by the other 2 Bs in Houston. No chance hes voted into the Hall.

  10. genericcommenter - Jan 29, 2014 at 6:34 PM

    .943 is behind .930?

    • genericcommenter - Jan 29, 2014 at 6:35 PM

      well, F me, reading comprehension. Sorry. Think I’m too used to reading the guys at pro Basketball talk :)

  11. jwbiii - Jan 29, 2014 at 6:44 PM

    The last of the Killer Bees. Farewell and good luck, sir!

  12. pisano - Jan 29, 2014 at 7:49 PM

    Smart move, it’s been over for Lance for a while.

  13. misterschmo - Jan 29, 2014 at 7:56 PM

    I enjoyed watching Lance in AA, and he had a damn good MLB career.

  14. peymax1693 - Jan 29, 2014 at 8:34 PM

    What’s with all the hate for Berkman? He had a great career and by all accounts he was a great teammate.

    Plus, he had one of the funniest bloopers I ever saw. It was while he was playing left field at Rice. He dug a ball out of the corner, turned to throw it back to the infield and . . . managed to throw it right into a plastic bag that was floating around in the outfield.

    • forsch31 - Jan 29, 2014 at 11:56 PM

      Most of it seems to be from Yankee fans. Berkman’s short tenure as a Yankee wasn’t very good, which led the team to decline to pick up Lance’s option year, and Berkman was open about how he didn’t like to DH. Some simply never forgive (just ask Cardinals fans about Tito Martinez).

      • dcarroll73 - Jan 30, 2014 at 12:55 AM

        Let me rebalance that a little – I’m one Yankee fan who likes this guy. He seemed to be battling injury issues, and he was up-front about having problems DHing (I would expect that it takes a special mindset to stay focused as a DH which is why I don’t understand the lack of appreciation for the best ones in that role.) I always thought Lance was a really good guy who just didn’t work out so well for the Yanks. Absolutely no hard feelings and thanks for the pleasure of watching a great career.

  15. mtr75 - Jan 29, 2014 at 9:15 PM

    Of course he’s unlikely to garner a lot of HOF support. He wasn’t a Hall of Fame player. If there’s a Hall of Good Players from the Steroid Era, he deserves strong HOGPFTSE consideration.

  16. stex52 - Jan 29, 2014 at 9:53 PM

    A good player, a decent man, and one of the friendliest players in the game. If you got to first base against the Astros, you were going to engage in a conversation. And for those of you that care, he spoke out against steroid use.

    For ten years, he was one of the best pure hitters I ever saw. He likely falls short of the hall because of the knee injury that ended his productive years a little too soon.

    But damn! He was something to watch at the plate in his prime.

  17. oldschoolnflman - Jan 29, 2014 at 10:14 PM

    Berkman made a huge mistake by not just playing second base
    According to the HBT crowd Craig biggio’s 15 home run 60 RBI seasons are deserving of the hall, while guys like Jack Morris and lance Berkman had at least a couple of elite seasons get no consideration. O well.

    • stex52 - Jan 29, 2014 at 10:26 PM

      Pretty easy explanation. Berkman did not have nearly the defensive skills to play second base. That is why second baseman are not expected to be power hitters. Defensive skills and speed are what are important there. If he also happens to hit very well, that is an extra dividend.

      But anyone who knows much about baseball knows that.

    • dan1111 - Jan 30, 2014 at 4:04 AM

      Jack Morris had zero elite seasons. In no single season was he better than the fifth best pitcher in the league, either by ERA or wins above replacement. He also won zero Cy Young awards.

      On the other hand, Craig Biggio’s 1997 is the single best season by a second baseman since 1980, and he had several other seasons that are among the best put up by second basemen during his career. Biggio won five silver slugger awards and four gold gloves and appeared in the all star game more times than Morris.

      This is possibly the worst argument you could come up with, because Jack Morris truly was what you imagine Biggio to be: a good but not great player who compiled a long career.

      • TBaySlim - Jan 30, 2014 at 9:32 AM

        im going to have to refute the Craig Biggo 1997 season as the best since 1980
        with about 5 mins of research i found:

        Carlos Baerga 1992: 205 hits, 20 hr, 105 rbi .312 aver
        1993:200 hits, 21 hrs 114rbi .321 aver.

        Chuck Knoblauch 1996: 197 hits, 13hr, 72 rbi .341 aver 45sb

        Ryne Sandberg 1989: 176 hits, 30 hrs, 76 rbi, .290 aver
        1990, 188 hits, 40 hrs, 100 rbi .306 aver
        1991, 170 hits, 26 hrs, 100 rbi, .291 aver
        1992, 186 hits, 26 hrs, 87 rbi, .304 aver

        roberto Alomar 1993 192 hits, 17 hrs, 93 rbi, .326 aver 55sb
        1996 193 hits, 22 hrs, 94 rbi, .328 aver

        Jeff kent 1997 145 hits 29 hrs, 121 rbi .250 aver

        All of these years would have a strong arguement to be equal if not better then biggo’s 1997 season

      • dan1111 - Jan 30, 2014 at 10:08 AM

        @TBay, Biggio’s 1997 is the highest WAR by a 2B since 1980. In other words, a stat that makes a serious attempt to calculate the overall value of a player has Biggio coming out on top.

        Of course there is plenty of room for debate about how to measure value, but none of those seasons look obviously better than Biggio’s. In 1997 Biggio got on base more times and scored more runs than anyone else in the league, hit for a lot of power, played excellent defense, and even stole a lot of bases.

      • TBaySlim - Jan 30, 2014 at 1:14 PM

        if your relying on WAR, thats great an all, it certainly wouldnt be the “reason” he had the best season since 1980…i mean he had like 10,000 ab that year, ok so more like 750 sum, most the years i listed the players did equal stats if not better in less ab’s which is not always shown in war.

  18. 461deep - Jan 29, 2014 at 10:27 PM

    Somewhat similar to Mattingly to a lessor degree in that injuries took their toll early. Wonderful hitter up through 2012. He did get out of shape for a couple years which one can hit him on. Bad legs, monster ball park and drinking against Mantle but still the best switch hitter.

    • stex52 - Jan 29, 2014 at 10:50 PM

      He hurt the knee playing flag football, of all things. I think that cost him an eventual shot at the HOF because he needed more time at the top. Mantle was a better all-around player, no doubt, but Berkman was about there with him on the hitting.

      • stex52 - Jan 29, 2014 at 11:12 PM

        For the primes of their careers, that is.

      • dan1111 - Jan 30, 2014 at 2:32 AM

        Mantle had a career OPS+ of 172, while Berkman never even had one season that good. Over Mantle’s peak, he put up much better numbers while playing in a lower run scoring era.

        I agree that Berkman may have been a lower-tier Hall of Famer with a few more good seasons. But there is no comparison with Mantle, who was one of the top 10-12 hitters ever (while also playing a premium defensive position).

  19. sfm073 - Jan 30, 2014 at 2:24 AM

    Some people are so pathetic. Why does matter to you that he didn’t retire on top? These players have been the absolute best their entire lives and sometimes it’s hard to let that go. So while you were at home talking on the internet about baseball, you and other fans were paying him millions of dollars to play baseball.

    • dan1111 - Jan 30, 2014 at 2:34 AM

      Also, it’s hard to predict when you are going to become injured or ineffective.

  20. foreverchipper10 - Jan 30, 2014 at 9:34 AM

    One of my all-time favorites. Hate to see him go. Good luck Puma. I’m sure there is a coaching job available for you at Rice any time you want one.

  21. ochospantalones - Jan 30, 2014 at 10:27 AM

    I’m not sure why so many people seem to hate Lance Berkman. Seemed like a good guy. He was a very good player for a long time.

    As far as the Hall of Fame goes, he did have Hall of Fame rates as an offensive player. His per game offensive production is actually just a shade below Jeff Bagwell’s. But Berkman was also a poor fielding first baseman and corner outfielder who didn’t add any value on the bases. And his counting stats aren’t great (366 home runs for a slugger) because he ended up with a relatively low total of plate appearances.

    So much respect to the guy, but not quite a Hall of Famer.

  22. Eternal Optimist - Jan 30, 2014 at 12:16 PM

    Never been a fan of any of the teams that Lance played for, yet I really enjoyed watching him bat.

  23. bradmoss1 - Jan 30, 2014 at 1:20 PM

    At Game 1 of the 2011 NLDS, we (Phillies fans) peppered Lance with “Berk-man” chants from the LF stands. He was a good sport about it and put his glove to his ear. Seems like a stand up guy who could flat out hit. Godspeed, Lance.

    ———————————————————————————————————————————————

    One of my favorite stories was from when he was definitely living up to his “Fat Elvis” moniker (I think he’d been injured and wasn’t in prime playing shape).

    He’s was playing outfield for the ‘stros and at Wrigley he was being taunted by fans waving Twinkies at him between innings.

    He motioned for one guy to throw them to him and after he did, he picked up the package, opened it and ate them.

    It’s one of the rare times Cub fans laughed with, cheered and applauded an opposing player.

  24. pandaaa69 - Jan 30, 2014 at 1:58 PM

    From a cardinal fan, Thank You

  25. jimboslice1 - Jan 30, 2014 at 5:32 PM

    Decent hitter, huge racist.

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