Either, or: Choosing a path for the Astros and Lance Berkman

A lot of the decisions we make in life occur when we encounter a fork in the road. These are the crucial moments where one choice can lead you towards happiness, while another can cause frustration or even worse. We must weigh our options and make whatever decision we feel is best based on the information on hand. Sometimes it works out, other times...not so much.

Baseball teams have to make decisions as well, but the difference is that their decisions are less "real life" altering and are focused on winning games rather than being happy. Even a team that isn't expected to compete like our Astros have many decisions to make on a day to day, game to game basis. Drayton McLane, Ed Wade, Tal Smith and Bobby Heck have the responsibility of improving a franchise that has seen better days in recent seasons. I think we can all say that the team is better off in 2010 than we were in 2007 when Wade was first hired as GM. However, his time around the Astros face a decision involving a cornerstone of the franchise. I'm talking about the future of Lance Berkman as a Houston Astro.

In a way, I hate to even bring this up. For one, Lance still has just made his 2010 debut and his play this season will go a long way in determining whether he returns in 2011. Outside of that, it's so early in the season that talking about 2011 seems almost pointless. Berkman's presence on this team and in the lineup on a day in day out basis is as important as anything I can think of that the team will encounter in a few month's time so I think we can get away with discussing it in earnest before April is even over.

As Lance continues to recover from his knee surgery, his future with the club is up in the air. The Astros have a club option that they can exercise in 2011 which would pay Berkman $15 million. It would be tough to part ways with him at this point, given his history with the club and the fact that he's been incredibly valuable over the course of his career. I don't think the Astros would make this decision from this standpoint, but Puma has justified his current contract and then some. What's more, Drayton McLane is the sentimental type, and his attachment to players like Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Berkman and Roy Oswalt is well known.

This all hinges on Lance's successful recover from surgery and his ability to play with the arthritis in his knee. Will Carroll, to name one person, is not all that optimistic about Lance's future it would appear:

It's possible they can manage it well enough that he doesn't miss a game the rest of the year, but that's far from likely.

Obviously we have only seen Lance take a few swings in the majors this year, and how he plays through the pain will be a huge factor in the front office's decision heading into the 2011 offseason. If he can remain on the field and frankly if he exhibits the desire to continue to play with the nagging knee injury, the Astros will have a decision to make. If you had the ear of the powers that be, what would your advice be?

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