The defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals haven’t missed a beat despite losing the best player in the game and their future Hall of Fame manager in the offseason. They’re tied with the Dodgers atop the National League, two full games ahead of their pace from. Lance Berkman joined Doug and Wolf on KTAR in Phoenix to discuss how the Cardinals have kept cruising without Albert Pujols. He also gave a profound answer in regard to why fans often treat players so poorly.
On the way fans treat players in light of Joakim Noah being cheered after an injury and Jayson Werth being taunted after breaking his wrist (both incidents took place in Philadelphia):
“I think there’s a tendency that when people come to the game they lose that human element. They view us more as almost like a zoo animal than they do another human being. And I think that, a lot of places, when you lose that sensitivity or you lose that sense that, ‘Hey, that’s another person, not just an object,’ you can get into some things like that. And obviously if the two people that you mentioned were to have a one-on-one encounter with those particular fans it would be a totally different thing.
And trust me, there’s fans that are of that ilk in every ballpark and every stadium across the country. There are some places, though, that there tends to be more of those kind of fans than there are in other places, and the shame is that it gives a bad name to the fans that are really there just to appreciate the game for entertainment purposes. Those kinds of things, when you’re cheering another player getting injured, kinda takes it a step beyond what most people would consider acceptable.”
On how the Cardinals are playing so well despite losing Albert Pujols:
“Well, I think you have to look at who we brought in to replace Albert, and that’s Carlos Beltran. Obviously Albert is widely considered — and justly so — the best hitter in the game. But if you look at Carlos Beltran when he’s healthy and when he’s playing up to his abilities, the difference between what Carlos provides you offensively and what Albert can provide is not great. It might be five or six home runs, it might be 10 or 15 RBI over the course of the season, and so you’re really — with the addition of Carlos and the fact that he’s healthy and with the way that he’s been playing, we haven’t lost anything. I think certainly that, like you said, you don’t get better when you lose the best hitter of a generation and he goes to another team, but the team is about more than one person, it’s 25 guys.
And if you look at our roster, we have a solid roster. I would say that we have the best offense in the National League and I’m not even sure there’s a close second. And I think our pitching staff is really good and it got better when we got Adam Wainwright back from his Tommy John surgery. And so those factors combined — I said in spring training, ‘Hey, I know we’ve lost some guys, particularly Albert and Tony (La Russa), talking about two Hall of Famers, but look at who we have left, look at who is still on this roster.’ Eighteen of the 25 guys that won the World Series last year with the addition of Carlos Beltran and Adam Wainwright back from arm surgery — it adds up to a great team and I think we’ve proved that when we’re playing up to our capabilities we’re gonna be tough to beat.”