Here’s a thought.
If Lance Berkman did not have even one more plate appearance for the remainder of the 2011 season, would he still win the National League Comeback Player of the Year Award?
I think he easily could in what has to be one of the most remarkable returns to form of any player in recent memory.
Though the Cardinals lost again to Arizona Friday night, Berkman did his best, launching his league-leading 24th home run of the season. From a single-season perspective, the switch-hitter is among the hottest-home run hitting players in team history.
Most home runs through first 90 team games of the season, St. Louis Cardinals
(Table provided by researcher Tom Orf.)
From a career view, Berkman’s 351st long ball puts him 81st on the all-time home run list and third among all switch hitters in MLB history. His Tuesday home run was measured at 452 feet, the longest at Busch Stadium III since its 2006 opening.
Obviously, Berkman has been very good for a long time, but many suspected the 35-year-old was washed up after a terrible 2010 season that saw him traded away from his only home as a professional, Houston. He did even poorer with the New York Yankees, who did not want him back for 2011. Neither did the Astros.
With 24 home runs and 63 RBI in his 80 games played, Berkman has already surpassed his entire 2010 totals of 14 and 58, respectively. He will also soon lap his 2009 full-season Houston totals of 25 and 80.
With St. Louis, Berkman has not only been recognized locally, but nationally as well. Fans voted him into a starting berth in this coming Tuesday’s All-Star Game, his sixth appearance and third career start.
The honor is not a legacy nod to a fading hero; it is most deserving.
In addition to having the most home runs in the National League, Berkman ranks among the league leaders in RBI (63-fourth), walks (51-third), slugging (.608-first) and on-base percentage (.402-fourth).
It is an overused phrase in sports, but is so appropriate in this case, I will use it anyway.
Where would the 2011 Cardinals be without Berkman?