Friday, January 28, 2011
Lance Berkman bashes Rangers
By Richard Durrett
Lance Berkman criticized the Texas Rangers on a Houston radio station Thursday as he discussed why he opted to sign with the St. Louis Cardinals this offseason.
Berkman, who turns 35 just before spring training begins, said on the John & Lance show on 1560 AM in Houston that he felt the Rangers would have "an average team" in 2011 and had some pitchers that "pitched better than their talent level" in 2010. He also questioned the contract the club gave free agent third baseman Adrian Beltre.
"I felt like if they didn't re-sign Cliff Lee that they were going to be an average team and I feel that's probably what's going to end up happening," Berkman said Thursday. "It's all about your pitching. I feel like last year was one of those special years where you kind of catch lightning in a bottle and they got hot and they had some guys that I felt like were pitching better than their talent level and consequently they had a great year."
Rangers president Nolan Ryan has said that he thinks the team is better than last year and predicted 90-95 wins next season.
"We have more experience and a better overall club with the additions we've made this offseason and the young pitchers we have coming back," he told ESPNDallas.com last week.
Berkman contemplated retirement this offseason before telling his agent that he'd play for one of five teams: Houston, Atlanta, Colorado, St. Louis or Texas.
He said he got the most interest from the Rangers and Cardinals and ended up signing a one-year deal worth $8 million to be in the St. Louis outfield. Berkman said the Rangers were interested in him because they wanted someone with more versatility in the designated hitter role and didn't think Vladimir Guerrero could handle playing the field.
"They were itching to spend some money," Berkman said. "I probably could have gotten the best deal out of them, especially in light of what they gave Adrian Beltre, which I think is pretty much of a reach for him."
Berkman did say there were positives to playing in Texas, which is why they were on his short list this offseason. He included staying in the state, playing in "an unbelievable hitter's ballpark" and having familiarity with club president Nolan Ryan and bench coach Jackie Moore.
Rangers pitcher C.J. Wilson responded to Berkman's comments on The Ben & Skin Show on ESPN 103.3 FM in Dallas on Friday.
"I think it's funny," said Wilson, who converted from reliever to starter last season and won 15 games. "He was contemplating retirement, so I'm not going to take anything too seriously. I'm not going to get offended by anything he says. If that's a representative idea of what people around the league think, that's better for us because they're going to do the same thing and they're going to not take us seriously. If we end up stomping through the playoffs again, everyone will be like, 'Wow, what a bummer.' "
Wilson defended Beltre, who will be playing behind him at third base in 2011.
"I think things really worked out well for us," Wilson said. "Adrian Beltre is the best defensive third baseman in baseball, and he's a pretty good hitter as well. I don't know if anyone knows he hit .340 last year, which is definitely better than .220. I'm pretty stoked about having him on my team."
For the record, Beltre hit .321 with 28 homers and 102 RBIs for the Red Sox in 2010, his best statistical year since 2004. Berkman batted .248 for the Yankees and Astros, hitting 14 homers and driving in 58 runs.
Wilson wants Rangers fans to send Berkman a message if the club faces him in Arlington. The Cardinals and Rangers don't play in the regular season in 2011.
"We have a lot of pride on our team," Wilson said. "We're very proud of what we've turned our team into. It's about the players and what we've done on the field. We've gotten better. Now the organization is somewhere and we have direction.
"If someone is going to slam us, that's going to be something. ... You hold little grudges like that. I hope the fans understand and when Lance comes to play at some point in Texas, I hope our fans boo."
Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com.