While the St. Louis Cardinals look like a good bet to wrap up a post-season berth in short order, first baseman Lance Berkman, who has missed most of the 2012 season due to recurring knee troubles, says it’s a “longshot” he would play in October.
“The reality is I’ve basically missed the entire season,” he said. “Even if I were to get back out there physically, you still have the issue of not being game-ready. I don’t think it would be fair to the team to be added to the playoff roster and take somebody’s spot that could actually help us win.”
The Cardinals have dealt with an array of injuries this season, but have held things together enough to be the front-runner for thr final post-season berth. Berkman, who has discussed the possibility of retiring at the end of the year, was one of the main cogs in the lineup that won the 2011 World Series, but has been limited to only 31 games this year.
It’s easy to say St. Louis is a better team when Berkman is healthy, but it doesn’t look like that will be the case until next season.
Kozma Solidifies Shortstop
It wasn’t long ago that I openly wondered in the injury to shortstop Rafael Furcal would be the one St. Louis just couldn’t overcome. While Furcal was having a down season, the veteran provided tremendous defense and speed and had a flair for the dramatic. Additionally, Furcal’s injury took place just weeks after the Cards traded away backup shortstop Tyler Greene to Houston, so their organizational depth was to be tested heavily.
So what happened?
Pete Kozma, a former first–round pick of the Cardinals who had never posted an OPS above .702 in the minor leagues, has taken this opportunity and run with it. In 23 games, Kozma has a .338/.375/.600 line and 10 of his 22 hits have gone for extra bases (five doubles, three triples, and two home runs).
Kozma’s month in the big leagues haas been undeniably hot, but there is little reason for anyone to think it’s something he can maintain. Simply put, nothing in his track record suggests he’s anything but a mediocre minor league hitter. The Cardinals are right to ride the hot streak, but fans that think he’s something more will be in for an unpleasant surprise.
The Cardinals always seem to find these kind of players, however, that help lead them deeper into the playoffs than the team has any reasonable expectation of going. As Jacob Meyer of I70baseball notes, Kozma could be the 2012 version of Ronnie Belliard, who was unspectacular in his career until coming to St. Louis mid-season in 2006.
Belliard hit just .237 for the Cardinals during the 2006 regular season, but he came up with key hits and was a large factor in the team’s postseason success. He hit .462 in the Division Series against the San Diego Padres and made several wonderful plays at second base to save runs.
It’s unlikely that Kozma’s hot streak can last forever, but he doesn’t have to carry an .800 OPS to surpass the production Furcal had given the Cardinals this year. If he can creep back toward normal rather than plummeting, the Cards should be fine at shortstop the rest of the way.