For some time now, Lance Berkman has been in the category of athletes who genuinely believe they were as good as one of their more buzzed-about teammates. This fraternity of chip-on-shoulder athletes include:
- Ron Harper, about Michael Jordan (false)
- Morris Peterson, about LeBron James (delusional)
- Terrell Owens, about Jerry Rice (not at anything)
- Tom Brady, about Drew Bledsoe (absolutely)
- Paul Kariya, about Teemu Selanne (DEBATABLE)
Lance is a two-time member of this club, first as an Astro with Jeff Bagwell and currently as a Cardinal with Albert Pujols. Comparing Bagwell and Pujols' numbers with Berkman, it seems insane for him to think he's as good, if not better. What's interesting, though, is that guys in this fraternity don't care about stats and accolades. They just know, deep down inside, they are better than anyone else in their respective sport, and there's nothing you can say to them to convince them feel otherwise. It may sound crazy, but it's also a fantastic way to approach your craft.
On Thursday night, Lance finally got the chance to show the world what he's known all along: Lance Berkman is the greatest baseball player of all time.
To a player with such a large amount of confidence in his game, there has to be nothing more insulting than the opposing team pitching around someone else to get to you. Even though Berkman knew Texas manager Ron Washington was probably like, "Oh yeah, pitch around Albert ASAP, let’s pitch to grandpa, win this World Series, and go POP. SOME. BOTTLES," it could not have sat well with him. Not one bit. I mean, let's not forget, we're talking about Lance Berkman here.
So, with the World Series on the line in 10th inning — 2 outs, 2 men on, a 2-2 count and down a run — the guy that the Rangers were aiming to pitch to hits a single to center field, tying the game that David Freese ends up winning in the 11th for the Cardinals.
Lance Berkman did that, because in Lance Berkman's mind, Lance Berkman can do anything Lance Berkman sets his mind to.
The most impressive part of his clutch performance last night was his behavior, post-hit. Once he got to first base, he didn't jump up and down and celebrate. He got to first and firmly shook first base coach Dave McKay's hand. That's how you act when you expect to succeed. And succeed in Game 6, did he ever:
Those are insane numbers, fitting for a player who knows he was always capable of putting up insane numbers.
Last night, once dejected Ron-Ron went back to the Rangers team hotel and fell asleep, likely bouncing from one nightmare to the next, I would bet that he was being haunted not by the svelte Pujols, but by the scruffy Berkman.
I really hope Game 7 goes in the favor of St. Louis. The combination of a happy Berkman and a love for angry Nolan Ryan face has me on the St. Louis bandwagon. And Rangers, in case you didn't know, you're running out of people to pitch around. In Game 7, you might have to actually face Pujols, unless you want to feel the wrath of the Le Puma Grande one last time. Trust me, you don't.
Read more of The Triangle, Grantland's sports blog.
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