Who remembers the Red Sox 2004 World Series team? Everyone does, of course. Remember the shortstop? No, it wasn’t Nomah Garciaparra the hook nosed, media bashing, OCD at the plate next coming of Ted Williams. It was Orlando Cabrera, a player who has since moved teams twice and is about to sign with a third. I remember me and my dad arguing for the next year and a half why on earth they would remove the infield captain to the team that brought Bean town its first World Series title in 84 years. “Idiots,” we proclaimed. “They just didn’t know what they had.” Well, five years later and I take that back. Back-to-back titles don’t happen all that often folks. There hasn’t been one since the Yankees won four out of five at the turn of the millennium (yes won, not bought. This was back when the Yankees developed from within the organization). There have been 8 World Series Trophies handed out since then, and 7 of them have gone to different teams. The one team who got seconds of the ice cream sunday with champion-chips on top? The Red Sox. They evaluated their talent and built a team that would be able to compete in the next few years. And their second World Series trophy in four years was due thanks in large part to an overhaul in the roster. A new closer, four out of five new starting pitchers, a nice Jewish first baseman with a bushy goatee, a part Indian centerfielder gone to the Yankees where he has not lived up to his mammoth contract and in replace another part Indian centerfielder who might steal the most bases ever in a Boston Red Sox uniform.
Speaking of the Red Sox, the one part of the team that needs replacement is the catcher. People are saying to give Tek the credit and respect that he deserves. But batting 220 is not reason enough to keep him and a certain bloated salary around for the foreseeable future when the Sox have such a great farm system and can seemingly trade for an established big league catcher or trade for a prospect. Jason Varitek deserves all the respect in the baseball world. He and Jeter are the only official team captains and Varitek has done enough to warrant a lifetime membership to Fenway and a free beer to any Boston bar he shmoozes at. Varitek will have his respect when he comes back to Fenway in a few years with 4o more pounds packed on, hosting pre and post game shows for all of Boston to enjoy. Think of a Greg Luzinski or Mitch Williams who actually accomplished something.
Why am I talking about the Red Sox and their championships and rosters? It’s more than yesterday’s news, its years old news. The 2008 World Series Champion Philadelphia Phillies (ahhh it never gets old seeing that in print) let go their longest tenure player. Number one pick of the Major League Baseball 1998 Amateur draft, Patrick Brian Burrell the Third. Replacing number five in left field is an older, yet more consistent lefty – Raul Ibanez. Was this the right move? Only time will tell, but to follow the Championship format, it is the acceptable move.
Now let us get one thing straight – I love Pat Burrell. Just like the rest of Philadelphia, I have given him a hard time, but continue to cheer when he stepped up to the plate for his next at bat. I’ve always said that it’s a draw between who has the prettiest swing in the game – Pat Burrell or Manny Ramirez.
Burrell did what he came to do unlike many others. He ended the drought and brought happiness to people who thought they might never live to see the day. He and his wife along with dog Elvis lead the champs down Broad Street in a day that no one will ever forget. Burrell had the double off of the center field wall that lead to the winning run of the World Series. It’s hard to top that. What a tremendous way to go out.
On the other hand, it was Pat the Bat’s first hit of the entire World Series. If there is a definition of a hot-and-cold player, look no further than Pat. When he’s on, he will either mash a homerun, hit the longest double off the wall you have ever seen, or work the pitcher until he does his awkward jog to first base, where he usually gets replaced by a pinch runner. But when he’s cold…oh he’s cold. He doesn’t have much of a penchant for swinging the bat unless he puts the ball in play and watching called strike out after called strike out sure gets tiresome.
Burrell hit just over 250 and popped over 30 home runs and drove in close to 100 runs over the past few years. Ibanez has done basically the same power numbers and has batted just below 300, in one of the ultimate pitcher’s parks. Put him in the bandbox that is Citizens Bank Park and it should be an RBI cuddlefest for all Phillies fans to enjoy.
It's time to move on my friends. Pat Burrell will always hold a special place in our heart, and hopefully so will Raul Ibanez. Embrace Ibanez and don't give him the hard time that we have so often welcomed our newcomers with. Make him feel like he is at home as he stands on the worn out patch of grass in left field. Ibanez may be an old head, but let's not forget where he played ten out of his thirteen professional years - Seattle, the same team which Pat Gillick general managed for four years and led to back to back ALCS appearances. Gillick just led the Phils' to a World Series victory after only three years with the team. And remember, he is staying on as a consultant. Think signing a player from his old stomping grounds has anything to do with Gillick's involvement in the Phils?
And anyone who knows the politician of the Phillies, Greg Dobbs, has seen that he fully endorses the signing. He affirms that Ibanez will bring leadership and hungriness to a team that is already out to prove itself to be the first back-to-back champions since the Yankees. Using his graduate college professor vocabulary, his endorsement should bring joy to Philadelphia's ears.
So fare thee well Pat Burrell. You did what you came to do, what athletes of 25 years before you failed to do. You brought us a Championship.
*Oh and 23 days until pitchers and catchers report to spring training
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