Perhaps one of the greatest players to ever don an Astros uniform, Lance Berkman was one of the best switch hitters in the game of baseball. Berkman isn’t eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame until 2029, after receiving just 1.2% of the votes in 2019. So while we wait, here’s a look back on the Big Puma’s career, and why he should be a member of the Hall of Fame class of 2029.
The Big Puma
Lance Berkman was drafted by the Houston Astros during the first round (16th overall) of the 1997 MLB draft. Much like other first-round picks in different sports, Berkman had lots of high expectations as he burst onto the scene in 1999.
Lance Berkman received a call-up to the major leagues just over two years after his draft date. Berkman slashed .305/.420/.549 during his minor league days and would make his major league debut on July 16th, 1999 in a game against the Detroit Tigers as a pinch hitter, to which he grounded into a double play.
Berkman wasn’t great in his inaugural season, being sent back down to the minors for the month of April back in 2000. He would return to the big stage and immediately started to make an impact. Lance would play for the Astros for 12 of his 15 years in the MLB and slashed .300/.413/.559 from 2000-2009.
The Big Puma averaged 31 home runs and 103 runs batted in during his tenure with the Astros, making the All-Star team five times and finished top five in National League MVP voting four times.
Lance Berkman would later waive his no-trade clause in 2010 as he was traded to the New York Yankees in exchange for Mark Melancon and Jimmy Paredes. Berkman played out the remainder of the 2010 season in the Bronx, hitting one home run with nine RBIs and a batting average of .255.
During the offseason preceding the 2011 campaign, Lance Berkman inked a one-year, eight million dollar deal with an Astro rival, the St. Louis Cardinals. Berkman would eventually play two seasons with the Cardinals, hitting 33 home runs with 101 RBIs with a .295 batting average. Perhaps the biggest highlight of the Big Puma’s career came with the Cardinals as he had one of the most clutch hits in baseball history. During Game Six of the 2011 World Series, he drove in the game-tying run that would allow the Cardinals to later take the lead and force a Game Seven and defeated the Texas Rangers.
Lance Berkman would close out his career on a one-year deal with the Texas Rangers in which he hit six home runs, hit 34 RBIs, and had a .242 batting average.
Berkman’s Hall of Fame case
While one can’t deny that Berkman put up great numbers, he ranks second in number of plate appearances for a switch-hitting batter behind only Mickey Mantle. Berkman was a great player indeed, his career stats are as follows:
1905 hits, 366 home runs, 1234 RBIs, .293 batting average, and an on-base percentage of .406.
I believe when 2029 rolls around and Berkman once again becomes eligible for the Hall of Fame, he should get in. Lance was one of the greatest switch-hitters in all of baseball. Many switch hitters have more “pop” from one side of the plate than the other, but the Big Puma didn’t, Berkman raked from both sides of the plate.
However, if the Hall of Fame voters in 2029 are anything like the voters now who didn’t allow legendary players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens in, (granted they were on steroids) there’s no telling what chances Berkman has.
What do you think? Should Lance Berkman get into the Hall of Fame? Let me know in the comments below!
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