Originally written on Cardinals Diaspora  |  Last updated 11/15/14

If Lance Berkman’s 2011 was a career zenith, (great numbers, clutch post-season, World Series win, defying everyone who thought he was done and the Cardinals 1y for 8M contract was stupid, etc al) then 2012 might just be his nadir. 

Berkman decided early in the off-season that he wanted to re-run it for 2012. And the Cardinals rewarded him with 12M to do so. Many in Cardinal Nation wondered if this was the right move.

After all, the previous 2 seasons with the Astros and Yankees, Berkman averaged .250 with a paltry 48 RBIs and 14 HRs. His career OBP was off 40 points. Candidly, there were times watching the Yankees where I was like “whoa, forgot they had Berkman!” 

2 out of the past 3 years had been pretty bogus. Just so happened 2011 was a dream.

To fans, rewarding past performance is easy. To teams, it’s the riskiest business.

You have to calculate your risks versus future rewards. No doubt Berkman had earned a raise. He was a value at 8M and if he replicated 2011, he’d be a value at 12M. But was this an aberration? A last huzzah for a guy you could make a Hall of Fame case for?

Unfortunately, at this point… yes, 2011 was anomalous. 

64 at bats, with most of July in the books. 18 hits. 3 errors as a shaky first baseman. Obviously an extended stay on the DL after a knee operation and a frustrating start to his re-boot after the All-Star game have not helped anything.

Earlier in the week, Berkman indicated that he “didn’t want to retard the progress of Allen Craig”. Last night he was hit with a pitch in his still healing knee and left the game. Nothing is going Mr. Berkman’s way. Everything that went well in 2011 has soured in 2012. And at a certain point, sadly, it might be time to wonder if it will get better? Or is this train off the tracks for good?

Depends.

If the Cardinals make the post-season in 2012 and Berkman is healthy and coming through with some signature moments, then he’s worth it. His time off just provided some more time for the Allen Craig’s and Matt Carpenter’s of the world to develop. But if the Cards are watching the Reds and Pirates in the playoffs because they invested 10% of their payroll in a guy that couldn’t contribute anything meaningful?

Well that’s a lose/lose situation. 

Let’s hope Lance’s knee is good. Let’s hope he gets 2011 back on track. He’s a charismatic player- the type of guy that you’d want to hang with. Hell, the kind of guy you want to root for. 

Time, though? It’s becoming a scarce commodity.

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