Commentary

Boos, not hits, keep comin' for Berkman

Struggling newcomer finally makes good contact -- and nails A-Rod in batting practice

Updated: August 7, 2010, 11:56 PM ET
By Ian Begley | Special to ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- Here is Lance Berkman's Saturday in a nutshell: a walk, a strikeout, two groundouts and a batting-practice knockout.

Berkman's tough day at the office started well before the first pitch. During batting practice, he drilled a line drive to third base that hit Alex Rodriguez in the left shin and knocked him out of the lineup. Berkman apologized to Rodriguez as he walked off the field and was equally contrite when discussing the incident in the clubhouse before the game.

"You don't want to hit anybody. But you certainly don't want to hit your four-hole hitter," Berkman said. "I was like, 'Berkman's contributions to the Yankees so far have not been the greatest.' Obviously, I didn't mean to do it."

[+] EnlargeLance Berkman
Mike Stobe/Getty ImagesLance Berkman says that if he doesn't show improvement, he'll "take a good, hard look at where I'm at physically. I'm not getting any younger."

But that was just the beginning of an unpleasant afternoon for Berkman.

The Yankees' designated hitter finished 0-for-3 and was booed by the 49,716 on hand in the Bronx each time he made an out in the New York Yankees' 5-2 win over the Boston Red Sox. Berkman has just two singles in 22 at-bats since coming over to the Yankees in a July 31 trade.

"I have no credibility here," Berkman said. "I've done nothing. You have to earn the respect of the fans and you're not going to do it by not hitting. The only thing you're going to have to earn is their ire."

Berkman, a career .296 hitter, is stuck in a season-long funk. He's hitting .234 in 90 games. He's also taking potential at-bats at designated hitter away from Jorge Posada, who is catching only three times a week. Berkman said after the game that his struggles since coming over to the Yankees "may be a little magnified" because he's playing in the Bronx.

"There's some places where people ... might want to see things happen quicker than others, where you might catch a little bit more of a break," Berkman said. "But I didn't come up here to catch a break. I came up here to win."

Berkman is just the latest target of ire for the what-have-you-done-for-me-last-inning crowd at Yankee Stadium.

Jason Giambi was booed in his first weeks in pinstripes. So was Tino Martinez. More recently, Javy Vazquez drew the fans' ire when he was awful in the first five weeks of the seasons. And once they start, they don't stop until you start producing.

It's almost like a right of passage at 161st and River Avenue.

"This is a big boy's game and place to play, and if you can't handle a little bit of that then just go home and hang it up," Berkman said.

Berkman, 34, suggested after the game that he would consider retiring if he doesn't start producing over the final 53 games of the season.

"That's one of the reasons I wanted to come over here," he said. "If I stink for two months that's definitely going to make me take a good, hard look at where I'm at physically. I'm not getting any younger."

And if doesn't start hitting, the boos in the Bronx will just get louder.

Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.

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