St. Louis Cardinals slugger Lance Berkman is scheduled to have another surgery on his right knee, and it might lead him to retire. It's the second surgery on his ailing knee since May and the third of his career. At age 36, this could be it for him as a player. Reporter Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes that Berkman has been talking about life beyond baseball in recent weeks:
Berkman has little remaining cartilage in the right knee. He also has experienced discomfort in the left knee as he has compensated for the right's instability.
"Given my history, everybody involved including the Cardinal organization thought this was the best thing to do," said Berkman, who has investigated a possible return to Rice University to complete his degree.
There are a few factors in play here:
• Berkman's tolerance of pain as a player and the quality of his life after his career ends.
• His interests beyond baseball, what he would do with his life post-career.
• Being content with what he's accomplished on the field vs. hanging around in order to compile Hall of Fame numbers or to win another World Series.
Selfishly, I'd like to see Berkman keep playing. Not just for the numbers, though 400 home runs and 2,000 hits are within sight, and Cooperstown appears unlikely unless he keeps going for a bit. He's also a link to the old-time Astros, the under-appreciated "Killer B's" of Berkman, Biggio and Bagwell. Fun ballclubs from another era.
Not to mention the whole "Fat Elvis" (or, as Berkman prefers, "Big Puma") thing. Berkman has an everyman quality that mostly has to do with being pudgy and his personality.
Maybe it's a poetic coincidence that Berkman's career doesn't last to see the Astros move to the American League in 2013, when he might be able to extend his career and help his old team, incidentally, as a DH/celebrity greeter at Minute Maid Park. Of course, being a DH might be be distasteful to Berkman, who fancies himself a traditionalist who doesn't cotton to the liberal ways of the AL.
That's the other thing about Berkman I'll miss: He's a principled, funny, dude. And thoughtful. He'll do the right thing. Which probably means he'll try to save his knees from more stress, so he'll be able to walk when he's 65. So this probably means his career is over. Dang it.