I can't say this was expected, but it sure feels like a typically sad Astros-related item.
The Astros didn't get much in return when they traded Lance Berkman last year. The thought at the time was Berkman was over the hill, lost as a hitter, not in the best of shape, and that Houston should have pulled the trigger on trading him earlier when he had more value (depending on how much further back we are talking about).
Berkman was sent to the Yankees on July 31, 2010 for infield prospect Jimmy Paredes, and relief pitcher Mark Melancon. Paredes is in Corpus Christi with the Astros' AA club, and Melancon is of course on the current big-league roster, having pitched 7.2 innings in eight games for the Astros in 2011, with a 0.00 ERA.
I'm not the type to say the Astros made a huge mistake by trading Berkman. He in fact was not in the best of shape, as stated before. There was some stagnation there, even though he's one of the most popular and beloved Astros in club history. Berkman got himself into shape, and I guess the change of scenery has done him well. He of course has moved on from the Yankees now, and is with Houston rival St. Louis. 2011 is going very well for him so far.
Berkman is second in MLB in home runs with six. He's in the top five in slugging, and he's batting .327.
So did the Astros royally screw up when they traded him away? Of course not. This is not the Lance Berkman that was traded to New York. He's revitalized, and has rediscovered his passion for the game. These are things that I can say with 99% certainty that happened for Berkman as a result of leaving Houston.
Fans have every right to be bitter about Berkman's sudden re-dedication to the game, but honestly I can't blame the guy. The Astros are mired in a culture of losing right now, and Berkman knew this team had no future and bad front office leadership. It's like a bad marriage that ends with a nod and a hug rather than, say, a golf club smash to the face and a bitter divorce.
As a fan of Berkman's I fall somewhere in the middle. I must admit to being a little bitter that he couldn't get himself to care toward the end in Houston as he seems to care now. I mean, he's down at least 15 pounds. That doesn't happen by accident. That said, Berkman loved to project his personal beliefs on anyone who would listen, and that always rubbed me the wrong way. I prefer to remember Lance as the guy who would eat a Twinkie if you threw one at him from the stands... and a guy that could absolutely MASH regardless of the game situation.
The Astros host the Cardinals for a three-game series beginning on Tuesday, April 26. It's going to be strange and sad to see him come to Houston as a visitor.