Berkman ponders homerless drought
Wednesday marked the two-month mark of the last time Lance Berkman hit a home run. The homerless drought was at 31 games entering Wednesday, the second-longest such streak of Berkman’s career. His career-long drought is 33 games, set last year.
Berkman, who did spent nearly three weeks on the disabled list, hasn’t homered since July 9 against the Washington Nationals, a span of 105 at-bats through Tuesday.
“I really don’t consider myself a home run hitter,” Berkman said. “I never have, even though I’ve had some seasons when I hit a bunch of home runs. I think that I’ve been susceptible to homerless droughts.
“If you look back at my career, I had a pretty good one in ’03 and a pretty good one in ’05 and I last year I had pretty good homerless drought. In ’04 I had a real long homerless drought I broke at Shea Stadium. You remember things like that, and it’s not all that out of the ordinary. You wish it wouldn’t happen, but all I can do is go out there and hit the ball hard.”
Berkman hit .271 with 18 homers and 55 RBIs in a first half that was very un-Berkman like. He entered Wednesday hitting .258 with no homers and 11 RBIs in 93 at-bats. He missed 18 games in late July and early August with a strained left calf.
“It’s been difficult,” he said. “It’s hard to figure. I wish that weren’t the case. One of the best things I’ve ever hard an athlete say is when [Dallas Cowboys quarterback] Tony Romo said if the worst thing that happens to me in my life is sports-related, I’ll consider myself blessed.
“This is not the season I would like to have or am accustomed to having personally for the team. Everybody faces challenges in one form or another, and that’s the way I look at it. I’ll try to do the best I can the rest of the year and come back next year.”
Berkman admitted a lot of what he’s going through is mental.
“Clearly, you’re the same guy that’s had other seasons a lot better than this one, and I don’t think I’m old enough yet to get a law of diminishing returns from your age. That might start in the three or four years. It’s hard to figure from a physical standpoint.
“There is a mental component to it. You lose confidence and you try to do too much or you press a little bit, and those are things I’ve always had to deal with my whole career and sometimes I’ve been able to handle them better than others.”
Astros manager Cecil Cooper said Jeff Keppinger was available to pinch-hit Wednesday. He hadn’t played since straining his back Friday. Keppinger took ground balls at third base prior to batting practice Wednesday.
“He looked like he might be ready to get back out there,” Cooper said. “I would still be careful with him, probably just pinch-hitting and things like that. He looked OK. It still bothers him when runs a little bit.”
When asked how he planned to work third baseman Chris Johnson and shortstop Tommy Manzella into the mix, Cooper said: “I might try to plan ahead a little bit and give a guy three or four days heads up that he’s starting. We’re trying to win as many games as possible. I still have a lot of veterans who deserve to play. I will definitely plan ahead on Chris and Tommy and make sure they know they’ll be starting in three or four days [in advance]. They will know, but you won’t [reporters].”
The topic of Prince Fielder‘s over-the-top home run celebration came up in the dugout Wednesday, and not surprisingly the Astros didn’t like it. In case you missed it, Fielder hit a walk-off homer against San Francisco on Sunday and pretended to bowl over all his teammates when he arrived at home plate.
“I was always taught that when you hit a home run, you act like you’ve hit one before, like it’s not that big of a deal,” Lance Berkman said. “In 10 years in the big leagues, I’ve never taken a curtain call or anything like that [in the regular season].
“This is a different era, and a lot of things are accepted now that didn’t used to be. The way I’ve always played my career, if you hit a home run you should act like you’ve done it before. But if I happen to a home run in the next couple of games, you might see me celebrate.”
That was Berkman taking a shot at his homerless drought.
Astros manager Cecil Cooper, who is about to see Fielder break his Milwaukee single-season RBI record, wouldn’t want any of his players doing that.
“If was against my team I’d be a little upset, but it wasn’t against me so I have no problem with it,” Cooper said. “I didn’t see Ryan Howard do anything, and he hit his 440 [feet against the Astros]. That’s what you should be doing, acting as if you’re going to hit a few more.”