Lance Berkman is a kind of outspoken dude. A straight shooter, a Texas charmer, he calls ’em like he sees ’em. This is a wonderful thing. More baseball players should be encouraged to chime in on the Hall of Fame process, front office decisions, fellow players, the mysteries of the universe and the like. There are only two possible outcomes when this happens, and both of them are beneficial to the considered fan. One, what the baseball player says could turn out to be truthful, interesting, and illuminating—in which case, great, we can all have a new favorite player to add to Google Alerts and Twitters or whatever. Two, the athlete could end up just spitting out a bunch of inane drivel nonsense, and we can all laugh with one another as we point out the flaws in his reasoning and inelegance of his delivery. Turns out Lance Berkman belongs to the former category. When he talks about baseball, he offers a dose of nuanced thought and reasoned opinion that is typically lacking in the modern player. He’s not afraid to point out the flaws of the Hall of Fame’s morality clause and the silly ways people interpret it, he’ll proffer that a Texas Rangers team without Cliff Lee is most likely a less talented one—things like that.
Not surprisingly, being a man of strong opinions and even stronger conviction, Berkman has been mistaken a time or two in his day, and is also skilled in the arena of contrition. After some of his pre-season comments regarding the Texas Rangers were proven to be something resembling incorrect, Berkman was the first admit his fault, leaving a note of apology in C.J. Wilson’s locker. According to Wilson, the note read, “Hey, congratulations on your guys’ success. I guess I was wrong. Not the first time.” As concise as it is profound.
And now, one the eve of the third game of the World Series, I regret to report that it’s again time for Berkman to pay the proverbial piper. Speaking of Allan Craig earlier in the post-season, Lance was quoted as saying, “He would be hitting fourth in about three-quarters of the lineups in the Major Leagues.” A heartwarming show of support for a fellow teammate? Yes. Even remotely accurate? No.
As to the “three-quarters” portion of the quote, we can pretty quickly reduce that to a still-generous “one-half,” once we consider that Craig, according to professional snarky prospect guy Keith Law, is a lacking defender without a true position. He’s played a bit of second base and outfield for the Cardinals this season, but the Cardinals are of course a National League baseball team with Ryan Theriot, Nick Punto, and Skip Shumaker on their roster. We can reasonably assume that in order to get regular playing time, Craig would have to become a full-time DH for an AL team. Obviously, it only takes one renegade manager to stick the guy in left field and render this point moot (or to bat him fourth, for that matter—wait, why am I writing this?), but if Tony La Russa, in all his wisdom, could only manage 219 PA’s for Craig over the bulk of the season (he was injured a bit too), it doesn’t feel too unreasonable to conclude that Craig is a hitter only.
Now that we’ve banished Craig to DH duties in the superior league, what kind of hitter is he, really? He’s kind of a weird one, to be honest. He’s showed the ability to hit for power throughout his minor league career, continuing into AAA ball for his age 24-26 seasons, but all those ding-dongers come with a kind of glaring asterisk, as the grand majority of them were hit in the PCL, a notorious haven for hitting. He’s had success this season at the major-league level as well, posting a pretty impressive .399 wOBA in limited time, unfortunately, another caveat needs to be included once we consider his inflated .344 BABIP. For Berkman to be correct here, a (probably AL) team would have to trick themselves into believing a 27 year old no-glove semi-power threat coming off a lucky half-season was capable of anchoring a Major League batting lineup. The smart money is on Berkman being wrong. It seems like the Universe sure likes to fuck with Allan Craig—it keeps granting him all this success in baseball, boosting him up just enough to be a part-time MLB player, teasing him with performances that will eventually loose steam and disappoint whoever finally believes in him enough to give him regular playing time. Damn the fates! This really shouldn’t be a knock on Craig—being demoted from hypothetical-clean-up-hitter to Big-League-kind-of-regular is nothing to be ashamed about. This post started with the intention of just making fun of Berkman’s meaningless throwaway statement, and somehow turned into an Allan Craig hatchet job. I’d feel bad if I wasn’t in such a hurry to end it.