The St. Louis Cardinals put Lance Berkman on the 15-day disabled list Friday. This is the St. Louis infielder's second trip to the DL in 2012. He injured his right knee in May and the knee apparently is not back to full strength.
Because of Berkman's age (36) and the fact that he is playing on a one-year contract, it's natural to wonder if this injury could mean the end of Berkman's career. Berkman began the season as the Cardinals starting first baseman and was hitting .333 when he was hurt in May. But in the fifteen games he has played since returning from his knee surgery, Berkman has struggled, hitting just .182 in 33 at-bats.
Should this be the end of Berkman's career, he has already cemented a special place in Cardinals history. He was a mainstay on the team that won the World Series in 2011. Berkman batted .301 and slugged 31 home runs while knocking in 94 runs last year. Though David Freese rightfully got much of the credit during last season's postseason, Cardinals fans remember it was Berkman's two-out single that again tied Game 6 of the World Series in the 10th inning, allowing Freese to win it with his famous homer an inning later.
Beyond his on-field contributions, Berkman gets universal acclaim for his friendly, humorous nature and his strong leadership in the Cardinals clubhouse. Last month Berkman acknowledged he might not be a regular starter for the remainder of the 2012 season and seemed at peace with that possibility. With the great production the team is getting from Allen Craig, Berkman said he didn't want to hinder Craig's development as a player.
With many athletes fans might wonder if a player of Berkman's accomplishments was being truthful when making those statements, but I get the sense that Berkman is being honest. I admire his genuine team-first approach, unfortunately all too rare a commodity these days. Berkman comes off as being content with his career, and if it might be coming to a close, he will always have his 2011 World Series champion ring to ease the sting.
A native of St. Louis, Brad Boeker has rooted for the Cardinals for over 40 years.