Talk to just about anyone who follows baseball with a level head and they’ll tell how unlikely it is that 35-year-old Lance Berkman is going to be able to maintain good health all season while playing regularly in right field for the Cardinals.
He hasn’t made starts in the outfield on a daily basis since 2004 and he’s undergone surgery on both of his knees since the winter of 2006.
But Berkman doesn’t care about the doubters. And neither do the Cardinals, who signed the veteran to a one-year, $8 million contract this winter with full knowledge that they will have nowhere to hide him should his knees, shoulders or elbows begin acting up. First base, after all, is occupied.
Berkman played right field in Thursday’s Grapefruit League game against the Marlins for the first time in a couple of weeks and told B.J. Rains of FOX Sports Midwest that he felt “great” physically:
“I’ve got no problems,” said Berkman. “My arm feels great. I’ve got no problems playing the outfield. It’s not like the thing is just going to blow up. It was a little bit sore but there’s nothing wrong with it. It was a pretty basic day really.”
The proud Waco, Texas native also had a message for those who have questioned his abilities:
“I’ve got almost 1,000 games in the outfield, so I can play the outfield,” Berkman continued. “You all can write this: I am an outfielder. I came up as an outfielder. I’ve played a full year of center field in the big leagues. I can play the outfield. I can catch the ball. I can throw it. It’s funny to me but I guess I can understand why people were questioning, or wanted to see me catch a ball or hit a cutoff. It’s basic stuff.”
Berkman still has a great bat and elite plate discipline, but luck will have to be on his side this year for everything to go as smoothly as he wants. He has already battled minor elbow and knee injuries this spring.
If you throw the word “luck” into a sports conversation you’re gonna anger some people because people don’t like to ever chalk up their own success or their team’s success to anything apart from their own skill, worthiness and merit. What we usually refer to as “luck,” however, is not meant to detract from one’s merit. It’s more about outcomes that were not necessarily predictable or expected given all of the known variables.
Thing is, we really don’t have a concise and compact word that captures the notion of “unreasonably underperforming or unreasonably outperforming one’s statistical expectations,” so the word “luck” is about as good as we can do. Sorry if that offends, but focus more on what we’re getting at when we talk about sports luck and less about how you feel about the concept of luck in general, OK?
With that in mind, know that, according to Rob Arthur of FiveThirtyEight, the Cubs have been the unluckiest franchise in baseball history in terms of turning success into championships. Given how much they’ve won over the years, they should have had six or seven championships and not the two they have (with none for 108 years, of course).
The luckiest? The Yankees. While they have obviously been immensely talented throughout their history, the numbers suggest that they should “only” have 19 or 20 World Series titles. They have 27. They’d still have the most if everyone performed at their level of statistical expectations, but their 16-title lead over the next most successful World Series team — the Cardinals — should not be as great as it is.
Kyle Schwarber made a quicker-than-expected recovery from ACL surgery and then, after an Arizona Fall League rehab assignment, was shuttled up to Cleveland for the World Series. But that’s not all he has done.
Schwarber is now the latest ever Best Shape of His Life All-Star. Or so says Kris Bryant, talking to Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com:
“We’ve seen first-hand the work that he’s putting in and how hard he’s been going . . . Honestly, I saw him out — maybe a couple weeks after his surgery — and he’s moving around, walking. And I’m like: ‘Dang, this guy’s not human. How? I saw your leg bend in half, and you’re walking around. This is unbelievable . . .(It’s) watching him dripping with sweat every single day. Every single day, this guy is drenched. I feel like he’s in the best shape of his life (now). There was no doubt in my mind that he could do it. It was just a matter of if they let him.”
May as well just forfeit now, Indians. No way you can deal with an October BSOHL guy.