Lance Berkman is retiring

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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.

Tom Ricketts says the Cubs don’t have any more money

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Cubs owner Tom Ricketts met the media in Mesa, Arizona today and said a couple of things that were fun.

First, he addressed the controversy that arose earlier this month when emails of his father’s — family patriarch Joe Ricketts — were leaked, showing him forwarding and approvingly commenting on racist jokes. Ricketts apologized for those serving as a “distraction” for the Cubs which, OK. He also said “Those aren’t the values our family was raised with… I never heard my father say anything remotely racist.” If you choose to believe that a 77-year-old conservative guy who loves racist emails — who once spearheaded an anti-Obama ad campaign that required a “literate African-American” as its spokesman — hasn’t said racist stuff a-plenty, that’s between you and your credulity.

More relevant to the 2019 Cubs is this:

The Cubs aren’t in the same position as some other contenders in that (a) they don’t have a cheap payroll; and (b) are not obvious candidates for the big free agents like Harper or Machado, but I still find that comment pretty rich for an owner of one of baseball’s marquee franchises in a non-salary cap league. If nothing else, it’s an admission by Ricketts that he, like the other owners, consider the Luxury Tax to be a defacto salary cap.