The Cardinals Welcome Former Astro Lance Berkman

Teammates and the press call him “Big Puma”, “Fat Elvis” or maybe just Lance, but now he’s also called a Cardinal after Lance Berkman signed a one year, $8 Million dollar deal.

[Berkman] The 34-year-old first baseman-outfielder is a five-time NL All-Star with the Astros and last year batted .248 with Houston and the New York Yankees, finishing with 14 homers and 58 RBIs. Berkman was traded to the Yankees on July 31 and helped them win the wild card.

“I think he had greater opportunities out there financially,” St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak said. “This was just a place he wanted to play.” (via ESPN)

Word is that, if the season started today, Berkman would be the starting left-fielder, with Matt Holliday moving to right-field. (A little scary since Berkman hasn’t played the outfield regularly since 2007.) Berkman is also projected at either #2 or #5 in the order with Colby Rasmus slotting where Berkman isn’t.

Who is Lance Berkman?

A frequent Busch Stadium visitor over his years with Houston, Berkman should be pretty familiar with all of you, but here are a few more details:

Berkman is viewed as a very good clubhouse guy. Funny, makes friends, and great with the press…all things this Cardinal team apparently lacked last season.

Berkman is very religious apparently according to an older Houston Chronicle piece:

Lance Berkman doesn’t drink or swear, drives a Ford F-150, and has a wardrobe that’s mostly jeans and boots.

His idea of a perfect day is to spend a morning doing chores on his Brenham ranch and an afternoon watching college football.

He’s a devout Christian and a political conservative. Don’t get him started on them dad-gum liberals.

Sounds like he’ll fit in just fine with the standard Cardinal fan.

As we mentioned before, Lance has a few nicknames: “Fat Elvis” and “Big Puma”. The former is pretty well explained by looking at Berkman (though he has lost 13 pounds this offseason). The later is best explained by Wikipedia:

He is most popularly known as “The Big Puma”. Before the 2006 season started, in an interview with a local Houston sports radio station, Lance joked “I’m more like a puma so I’m not sure why people call me Fat Elvis.” The show’s hosts, John Granato and Lance Zierlein, ran with the moniker and Houston fans and media latched onto “The Big Puma.” When questioned further, Berkman explained the nickname is simply logical. “Agile, athletic, sleek … all the things that describe my game,” he said, somewhat tongue-in-cheek.

Berkman, a five time All-Star, is also currently 12th among active players in batting average (.303), 5th in on-base percentage (.416), 12th in slugging (.561) and 7th in OPS (.983). Also worth mentioning is that the Cardinals managed to acquire one of their worst foes. Berkman leads all active players with 39 home runs and 118 RBIs against the Cardinals.

So what do we think about all of this? Well people that don’t cuss or drink are boring, but on the field, this could prove to be an interesting get for a team that is clearly going for it all while they have Pujols signed to a reasonable dollar amount. If he works out in the outfield (he’s, at best, a question mark defensively), then this could prove to be a huge move. More likely is that he will be a bat that starts out in left, moving to the bench late in games after helping in creating a lead and being the primary backup to Pujols at 1st base as well as the #1 bat of the bench.