Why Can't Carlos Lee and Lance Berkman Get to Work on Time?

Despite what you might think, the race for the worst record in the National League Central is not yet over. The Astros won two of three against the Pittsburgh Pirates this weekend, moving within one game of the Pirates. And after yesterday’s 15-3 thumping, it’s looking like Pittsburgh really doesn’t want to cede last place to the Astros.

What’s really amazing to me is, that with only two weeks left in season, manager Cecil Cooper has finally decided to crack down on players arriving late to the ballpark. It would be one thing if this were a recent thing, but according to Richard Justice, this is something that has been going on most of the season. And Cooper talks tough, but until Carlos Lee and Lance Berkman start seeing some bench time – according to Justice they are the chief violators – then I really don’t think things are going to change much.

(This leads back to one of my chief complaints about the Chron and its sports writers: Why in the hell am I just learning about this? It’s evident from reading Justice that this is something he’s known about all season, so why didn’t he report it earlier? That’s what he’s supposed to be doing, right? Well, actually, Justice is just a columnist. He’s supposed to opine on the fact that Lee and Berkman feel that they don’t have to hustle. It’s the job of the beat writer to report that there are problems in the clubhouse because Lee and Berkman don’t want to play by the same rules as the others. But Chron beat write Jesus Ortiz would rather write glowingly about Lee missing time in Spring Training to go to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, or praising Berkman for using the time he should be using to get in shape going around calling non-Christians evil.)

And I know that I’ve gotten on Carlos Lee’s lack of hustle in the past, but it appears that management has been bitching about this all season. And it appears that Lee has been ignoring management all season. It’s written that Craig Biggio has jumped on Hunter Pence when Pence has failed to hustle – something that hasn’t happened often – but it seems that Mr. Team Leader has failed to talk to Lee or Berkman – another guy the team feels hasn’t been hustling.

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But, you’re saying, Lee hits homers. So what? Have you people really watched him in the outfield? Every couple of weeks or so he actually runs for a ball in the outfield, otherwise, if it’s not hit to him, don’t expect him to chase after it. And there’s a reason that Lance Berkman is sometimes called Fat Elvis. It’s because he’s out of shape. Maybe there wouldn’t be such a concern about wear-and-tear on his knees if he weighed a few pounds less and were in better shape. But Lee’s got that whole rancher/cowboy thing going on, and Drayton loves that. And Lance has that whole religion thing going on, and Drayton loves that, so I’m not really expecting any type of punishment to come down from on top.

I think that this is a further indictment of Craig Biggio’s so-called leadership abilities. Biggio might speak the good cliché, but does anyone really doubt that the guy who kept things in order in the clubhouse was Jeff Bagwell? I just can’t think that Bagwell would’ve allowed a team to play as sloppily as this team does – in the field and on the bases. I really want to know why Drayton hasn’t had as many days celebrating Bagwell as he’s had for Biggio. And I can’t help but wonder how many ways Drayton’s going to find to celebrate Biggio next season.

But what do I care, the season’s almost over. There are 13 games left in this nightmare. The Astros get another chance to play a part in the pennant race, as they begin the first of a three game series with the second place Milwaukee Brewers.

For anyone who cares, the Astros record has dropped to 65-84. The team’s 4-10 for the month. And Jesus Ortiz should be fired just for thinking this team was capable of 93 wins and the World Series. -- John Royal

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