Lance Berkman pinch-hits, non-committal on retirement talk

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Thought to be done for the year, Lance Berkman made an appearance as a pinch-hitter in Wednesday’s Cardinals finale and grounded out to end the seventh inning.

Berkman got a big ovation from the St. Louis crowd prior to the at-bat, which was his first since Sept. 7. He won’t be included on the Cardinals’ postseason roster because of his knee problems.

Interviewed after the game, Berkman wouldn’t say which way he was leaning as far as coming back for another year. The free-agent-to-be said early last month that he was considering retiring and going back to Rice University to finish his degree.

Berkman, one of the NL’s best hitters last year, appeared in just 31 games this season because of his bad knee. If tonight’s at-bat was his last, he’ll finish his career with a .296/.409/.544 line, 360 homers and 1,200 RBI.

A-Rod to join ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball booth

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Alex Rodriguez’s post-retirement renaissance continues apace. After starring as a studio host for Fox’s playoff coverage over the past couple of years, A-Rod is about to be named to, arguably, televised baseball’s top job: color commentary in ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball booth.

Michael McCarthy of The Sporting News is hearing that ESPN is going to give the gig, vacated by Aaron Boone by virtue of his hiring by the Yankees, to Rodriguez. There he’ll join Jessica Mendoza and whoever they get to replace play-by-play man Dan Shulman, who chose to step back from the Sunday night job following last season. This, by the way, marks the second time A-Rod has taken over Aaron Boone’s job given that he replaced Boone at third base for the Yankees in 2004.

The twist: A-Rod is likely to keep his Fox postseason job too. While some broadcasters work for multiple networks, it’s pretty rare for Fox to allow its talents to work for competitors like that. Apparently they believe keeping A-Rod — who five years ago was one of the most despised figures in baseball — is worth it. What a difference a few years makes.

In other news, Alex Rodriguez is likely to be shunned mightily by the current crop of BBWAA voters when he hits the Hall of Fame ballot in a couple of years. At the rate he’s going, though, their successors will put him in Cooperstown via the Ford Frick Award sometime in the 2040s.