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Saturday, December 20, 2008

An Era In Phillies Baseball Over: Pat The Bat

OK, so this took a little while for me to finish...sorry. I have been pretty...well relatively...well actually extremely busy of late. Anyway, here is the Pat Burrell post I promised shortly after the Phils signed Raul Ibanez:

I remember when he got called up to the "Bigs." The Phils were in the lean years and we all wanted to see this guy named Pat Burrell, a No. 1 overall pick that we drafted. 

At first, we could not figure out how to say his name. Is it Burl or is it Burr-ell? But after a little bit, we realized what it really was–"Pat The Bat." 

At first, he lived up to everything we hoped. Here was a guy who smacked the ball out of the park and played hard everyday. 
According to baseball-reference.com, in 111 games in 2000, Burrell's first year in the show, he hit .260 with 18 homers and 79 RBIs. His on-base percentage was .359.

I do not know how many people remember this, but Burrell actually played more games at first base his rookie year than he did left field. The Phils were not sure when he was coming up from the minors whether he would be a first baseman or a left fielder. Obviously, they figured that out fast enough.

I am not sure if this is another thing people do not remember, but I believe just in his rookie year, he wore the number 33...haha.
As Burrell's early years transpired, his stats got increasingly better and in 2002, he posted the best statistical year of his career. Sporting a .282 average (the highest it ever got), he smacked 37 out of the park, along with driving in 116. His slugging percentage was. 544. Pat the Bat should have been an All-Star that year.
At this point, without question, Burrell was the face of the franchise.

But somewhere along these lines he got a lucrative long-term contract and former Phillies hitting coach Greg Gross decided to screw around with his swing and mechanics. Why? I don't know. But in 2003, he had his worst season ever. I honestly do not feel it was because of the contract. People think he was a contract year player. I honestly feel Gross screwed his stuff up.
Burrell hit only .209 in 2003 with 21 homers and just 64 RBIs. 
This is when the boo birds started to flock Burrell. Left field became a house of "Burrell You're A Bum!" Was this also the year that Burrell started to act like he was playing in Miami again? Notice the really blonde hair?

Regardless of his hair color, Burrell was still getting booed for most of the early years of CBP. People wanted him out. People wanted him traded. People did not like the fact he was making a whole crap load of mullah. 

Still, Pat wanted to stay here. Burrell wanted to be in Philadelphia wearing red pin stripes. He did not want to leave the city. Why with all of the abuse? I don't know. But I sure do have a lot of respect for him for doing so.

The booing of Burrell lasted through 2006 and the beginning of 2007. All people were remembering him by was his inappropriate yet awesomely great gesture towards the Red Sox clubhouse.
But then, all of a sudden and out of no where, Burrell started to pick it up halfway through that magical 2007 season. Without him, the Phillies would not have been able to win the division that year. He was a spark plug that contributed to their success. Forget the numbers. They were not glaring. But, he still hit balls out of the park. He still played through the abuse and criticism. In the end, he helped the Phils go the playoffs for the first time in 14 years. Oh yeah...and he was the first guy to run out to Brett Myers and start the celebration.
And then came 2008...ahh...2008. While it was not his best statistical year, it was definitely his most memorable in Philadelphia. Yeah...obviously we all know why. But, put that aside for a second. Remember the homer he had against the Giants?
Remember all of the outfield assists he had? 

Remember all of the errors he DID NOT have because he knew his limits and never did anything that would allow extra bases. He was not the greatest fielder. Actually, he was not a good fielder. But, he was a smart fielder.

Remember the All-Star voting campaign that he got snubbed in?
Remember all of the "Man or Machine" t-shirts worn by fans?
Remember all of the curtain calls?
Remember the great game he had in Milwaukee to shut the door on the Brewers?
Remember Game 1 of the NLCS when he sent the go ahead run over the left field fence?
Remember the 400 foot double that eventually lead to the go ahead run to win the World Series?
It was his last at bat as a Phillie. I always wonder what it would have been like if that would have cleared the fences. I just wonder...it would have been legendary. Not that it already is not....but can you imagine? Fathers would have the chance to tell their kids before they went to bed about how Pat Burrell's homer gave the Phillies the lead that eventually won them the World Series.

But instead, they can say how Pat Burrell's 400 foot double was the eventual go ahead run to bring home the title. 

And then, like I said...this happened...
And look at Burrell. The first person he hugged was the guy who came in the game to run for him...Eric Bruntlett. Burrell had a feeling that hit might have been the last time he was in a game wearing a Phillies uniform and while he would have liked to stay in the game, it was always "team first" for number 5. 
Lastly, remember that parade down Broad Street? Remember he led it? The most tenured member of the 2008 World Championship Philadelphia Phillies...Pat Burrell.
(That is me with the red Phils cap on)
Now, I am not saying that Burrell was the greatest Phillie of all time. He probably does not even make a Top 25 list. He was not the best hitter. He was not the best fielder. He for sure was not the best runner.
But, Burrell is the man none the less. He is one of the four guys on the 2008 team who we could call a superstar. 

He helped this team end its long and suffering pain. He helped this city end its long and suffering pain that nagged and nagged and nagged for 25 tumultuous years. 
This guy is a hero. This guy is a legend. This guy is, even though he will be wearing a different uniform next year, is a Phillie for life. It was never about the money to him and that is what makes him "Pat the Bat."
Thank You Pat!

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