Though it can never be proven, I suspect the absence of Lance Berkman may have been the single biggest blow absorbed by the 2012 St. Louis Cardinals – even greater than the comparable loss of Chris Carpenter. Berkman missing all but 32 games caused an impact on the payroll, the results on the field and in the clubhouse.
In September 2011, when the Cardinals re-signed Berkman to his second consecutive one-year contract, my first reaction was that the move was a hedge against the offense that could be lost by the then-potential departure of free agent-to-be Albert Pujols.
My next thought was that the organization may have been rewarding Berkman for a tremendous 2011 that would culminate in he and his teammates winning the World Series. Berkman was a National League all-star, and following the season, he was deservedly named NL Comeback Player of the Year.
Only later when manager Tony La Russa and Pujols joined the ranks of ex-Cardinals did I fully consider the depth of a potential ...