ST. LOUIS -- Labeling the Rangers "an average team" before the start of the regular season wasn't the greatest moment of his career, Cardinals right fielder Lance Berkman admitted on Tuesday, especially now that his team is about to open the World Series against said Rangers club. "Certainly that was the wrong opinion," Berkman said on Tuesday at Busch Stadium. "But it became a bigger story than I ever intended it to be. I certainly didn't intend any ill-will toward the Rangers' organization, and on top of that, I wasn't right. So what else can I say?" To digress: Berkman was a free agent this past winter, with his top choices being either the Cardinals or the Rangers, who had just lost to the Giants in the World Series. Asked to handicap those candidates at the time, Berkman told a Houston radio station:
"I felt like if they didn't re-sign Cliff Lee that they were going to be an average team and I feel that's probably what's going to end up happening," he said. "It's all about your pitching. I feel like last year was one of those special years where you kind of catch lightning in a bottle, and they got hot and they had some guys that I felt like were pitching better than their talent level and consequently they had a great year." Berkman had a subpar 2010 season, ending his 12-plus years with the Astros when he was traded to the Yankees. The Rangers didn't re-sign Lee, but they added third baseman Adrian Beltre through free agency and catcher Mike Napoli via trade. In the end, they didn't come close to signing Berkman, who was scooped up by the Cardinals before the Rangers even made an offer. "We talked about him, but the Cardinals did a good job moving so quickly," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said on Tuesday. "We hadn't sorted through everything and hadn't even made a proposal [to Berkman]. We just had some conversations." The Rangers certainly didn't wind up having "an average team" and Berkman didn't have an average season. He rekindled his career with a .301 batting average, 31 homers and 94 RBIs as the Cardinals came from 10 1/2 games back to take the National League's Wild Card berth on the final day of the regular season. And here are the Cardinals and Rangers meeting for the first time in the World Series. "Everyone's entitled to their opinion," Daniels said. "I give him credit for having a big year and getting his team here, and he's retracted the comments. So no harm no foul." C.J. Wilson, Texas' Game 1 starter against Cardinals right-hander Chris Carpenter, was the first to respond to Berkman's comments back in January, defending his team on a Dallas radio station. "We have a lot of pride on our team," Wilson said this past winter. "We're very proud of what we've turned our team into. It's about the players and what we've done on the field. We've gotten better. Now the organization is somewhere and we have direction. "If someone is going to slam us, that's going to be something. ... You hold little grudges like that. I hope the fans understand, and when Lance comes to play at some point in Texas, I hope our fans boo." But if the fans boo on Saturday when the series shifts to Arlington for Game 3, it will be on their own accord. Wilson said that when the two played against each other in the All-Star Game this past July in Phoenix, he found a note from Berkman in his locker saying, "Hey, congratulations on [the Rangers'] success. I guess I was wrong. Not the first time." A few days later, they met at breakfast and continued to hash out the entire matter. "He was really awesome, so I have no issues with him," Wilson said on Tuesday. "Much like myself, he's going to say what's on his mind. If I say something and it turns out to be wrong, I have to wear it. They're in the World Series and we're in the World Series. I'm happy for him. He played great. He played a lot better than he did last year. In that regard, he stepped up to his end of the bargain and we stepped up to our end of the bargain, and here we are."
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.