Milo Hamilton and the War on Lance Berkman
So it appears that in the time between being traded to the New York Yankees and signing with the St. Louis Cardinals, Lance Berkman has gone from being one of the good guys to Public Enemy Number One. At least if you can give credence to anything that Milo Hamilton says. And that's a very big if.
He's a Cardinal now, get used to it.
For those who missed it, Milo went on the radio with 790s Matt Jackson and Adam Wexler on Monday morning and trashed Lance Berkman. Milo questioned Berkman's dedication, basically accused him of not giving a damn his last several years in Houston, and essentially called him a clubhouse cancer that the older players wouldn't miss who was setting a bad example for the younger players. You can listen here, and Brian McTaggart included most of the quotes in his story here.
Here's the thing. I questioned Berkman's attitude at times over his last several seasons. I didn't think he was dogging it, but I just didn't think he had that dedication that Jeff Bagwell had. That said, Milo's comments appear to come partly from Tony La Russa talking about Berkman having assumed a supposed leadership role with the Cardinals after not wanting that role in Houston -- now that could be just La Russa talking as nobody really knows what role Berkman has in the Cards clubhouse -- and partly from Berkman having hired a personal trainer in the off-season and slimming down and getting into great shape.
MLB.com's Alyson Footer had a good defense of Berkman yesterday, primarily mentioning Berkman's knee injuries, about how it sometimes takes a season like Berkman had last year for a guy to change his focus, and she noted that the primary reason for the personal trainer was Berkman's move back to the outfield.
But here's my big problem with what happened on Monday. As I said, I questioned Berkman's commitment a lot over the past couple of seasons. But the team, as a whole, has no room to criticize Berkman, and Milo Hamilton, specifically, has no room to question this.
Ever since Drayton McLane took over the Astros, the team has gone along with Craig Biggio firing and hiring managers and dictating lineups. The team has gone along with Roger Clemens setting his own schedule and deciding not only when and where he would pitch, but what days he would actually be with the team. Drayton sacrificed the good of the team so that Biggio could focus on getting his 3,000th hit. And as long as Carlos Lee is on this team, no one, absolutely NO ONE, associated with the Astros should ever be publicly questioning the commitment of a current or former player unless they first question the commitment of Carlos Lee.
Hey Milo, how about discussing the actual game some time?
And for criticism to come from Milo Hamilton has to be the biggest joke of the whole entire thing. Milo's game prep appears to be jotting down where he had lunch so he can talk about that during the entire game. He never knows what's going on during a game, and during Alan Ashby's tenure as color commentator, it was well known that Ashby was cluing Milo in to what was happening on the field.
Before Milo criticizes Berkman's commitment to the game while with the Astros, perhaps someone should question Milo's commitment to the game. It's impossible to listen to the Astros on the radio because Milo makes it virtually impossible to know what's going on during a game. Batter, pitcher, inning, score, ball/strike count, number of outs? None of that matters to Milo. Not as much as his lunch at [INSERT SPONSOR NAME HERE]. Not as much as that group visiting from [INSERT SPONSOR NAME HERE]. And despite his age and failing eyesight, he's got no problems with reading out the sponsor names on the MMP walls or with sexually harassing some young female guest in the booth.
But as to what's happening in the game, well, he doesn't really appear to give a damn, though it is funny to hear Milo giving credit to fake groups and people like Vincent Chase and Associates or the Ari Gold Group or somebody from Seinfeld.
Milo's always been bad about this part of being a play-by-play guy. He was awful when the team hired him in 1984. He's awful now. But what's worse is that he's become a poor imitation of Harry Caray. In his final years, Caray could barely pronounce the names of players and, despite being the play-by-play guy, rarely discussed the actual ball game, leaving it to color analyst Steve Stone to do the heavy lifting. But at least the Cubs put Caray on the television broadcast, so that one would have the visuals as a guide to what was happening during the game, but Milo insists on the radio, so anybody stuck with listening to the game on the radio is completely out of luck if they actually want to follow the Astros.
At least Harry had Steve Stone to help him out.
There was some truth to what was said about Lance Berkman on Monday. But no one associated with the Astros is in a position to be offering up that criticism, especially Milo Hamilton. As for Berkman, fans should be wishing him the best of luck with the Cardinals, where batting in a lineup with the likes of Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday has to be a huge improvement over batting in a lineup with Carlos Lee and Pedro Feliz like he was stuck with last season. And who knows, maybe in a century or two the Astros will once again be a nationally relevant team.