Lance Berkman was an essential part last year in helping the Cardinals win their 11th World Series title. His key, game-tying single in the bottom of the 10th inning against the Texas Rangers in Game 6 of the World Series was only a small part of the success that Berkman had during the 2011 season.
Berkman also had an outstanding regular season in 2011 as well. After hitting .301, launching 31 home runs and driving in 94 RBI, Berkman was named the National League Comeback Player of the Year. Without Berkman, it is safe to say that St. Louis would still have only 10 World Championships.
On the field, 2012 has been great for Berkman. Unfortunately, though, due to injuries, playing time has been scarce for him. A few weeks into the season, Berkman suffered a calf injury that put him on the 15-day disabled list. Berkman came back from that injury on May 13 against Atlanta, but one week later, it appears Berkman is done for the year, and maybe even for his career.
Saturday night against the Dodgers, Berkman suffered a knee injury while trying to make a play at first base. At first, it seemed that it would be just a sprain, and he would miss a few more weeks on the disabled list, but an MRI today revealed that Berkman has a torn ACL. While generally not a career-ending injury, given Berkman's age, we may never see him on the field again.
While it is sad to see such a great player go down with such a devastating injury, the Cardinals will have to move on and hope they can replace their first baseman.
The question that fans would like the answer to now, though, is: Can the Cardinals still repeat as champions without Lance Berkman?
One of the biggest reasons St. Louis did not feel that Albert Pujols was a necessity this year was because of Berkman. The organization felt like Berkman could provide great offense and solid defense to replace Pujols at first base for at least one season. With his injury this weekend, though, all of that hope is gone.
So what should the Cardinals do to replace Berkman?
Is there another player that they need to acquire at first base, or can they fix the problem from within the organization?
Fortunately for the Cardinals, first base is one of their deepest positions. Power hitters Matt Carpenter and Allen Craig should be able to do a great job taking over for Berkman at first, but since Craig is also on the disabled list right now, the Cardinals could have some major problems.
Luckily, they have Matt Adams to help out.
Many people expected Adams to become a full-time guy for St. Louis next season, but with the recent splurge of injuries, Adams' time in St. Louis is upon us. With him comes an ability to get on base, drive in runs and hit for power. Basically, he provides the Cardinals with much of what Berkman provided.
The addition of Adams to the club means that there is no need for panic in St. Louis. The knee injury and apparent end of Lance Berkman's baseball career is quite sad, but do not expect the Cardinals to miss a beat. This team is just too deep and too talented still.
Although Berkman was an essential part of the Cardinals last season, St. Louis has done fine without him in the lineup to begin the 2012 season. Matt Carpenter and Allen Craig have done a great job filling in at first base for Berkman, and newly-called up first baseman Matt Adams should do a fine job as well.
St. Louis still has just a good a chance as anybody to raise a World Series trophy in 2012. And maybe Berkman can add another ring to his collection before he calls it a career.
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