Wearing pinstripes as a hired bat wasn't necessarily attractive to the native Texan who was drafted by the Astros in 1997 and followed in the footsteps of Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell as adored Houston fixtures. But as the Astros' 2010 season fell apart early and Berkman struggled, he became more accepting of being dealt, especially to the Yankees, where he wouldn't knock off Mark Teixeira from first base, but he would join friend Andy Pettitte for a potential second run together to the World Series.
"I could have [voided the trade]. For where I was in Houston at that time, even mentally, I felt like it was an opportunity that I didn’t feel like I could pass up," Berkman said. "At the time, I had never not played every day and I didn’t realize how much I appreciate being out there and playing defense. That’s one of the byproducts of this trade is it’s made me realize I love to play defense and play it every day."
Berkman, whose Astros were swept in the 2005 World Series, gives the Yankees an intriguing option at DH. As a switch-hitter who is more productive from the left side and DH's against righties -- Marcus Thames plays against lefties -- Berkman is expected to be in New York's Game 2 lineup against the Texas Rangers' Colby Lewis.
He was slow to produce after the July 31 trade, but in the Yankees' ALDS sweep, Berkman, a career .303 hitter against righties, played in Game 1 and did serious damage with a double and home run.
This will probably be Berkman's one ride in the American League. He becomes a free agent at the end of the season and he said he would love to return to the Astros and play first base every day. He said he's not interested in full-time DH work, even it meant prolonging a career that, especially in recent seasons, has had its fits with injuries.
"The only time I get to play here is via the DH and I think the DH is a terrible idea. I think it’s horrible for baseball," Berkman said. "If you can’t play the field then you can’t play. I really believe that. The game in the National League, there are so many more little nuances. What happens if [the starting pitcher's up to bat and he's] got a shutout, it’s the sixth inning, the bases loaded, he’s got 80 pitches, do you pull him? You’ve got to make that decision. I love that."
As for this season, his 12th in the big leagues, Berkman would love another shot at that World Series ring -- even if it comes as a short-term rental.