Power-hitting free agent leftfielder Pat Burrell, a fixture in the Phillies lineup for 9 seasons appears headed for different surroundings following the signing on Saturday of lefthanded hitting leftfielder Raul Ibanez.
Burrell, who clubbed 251 homers in his 9 season career, all with the Phillies, was also a prolific strikeout victim going down on strikes 1,273 times in that span. His greatest seasons were in 2002, when he hit 37 homers, drove in 116 run, hit .282 but struck out 153 times, and 2005 when he hit 32 homers, drove in 117 runs and hit .281 but struck out 160 times batting 5th behind 1st baseman Ryan Howard in Howard’s rookie season.
Philadelphia Daily News writer Paul Hagen wrote a great piece on Burrell’s years with the Phils which I am excerpting here;
”I kind of had a feeling there was a strong possibility, you know, that I wasn’t in the cards,” Burrell said during a lengthy phone conversation over the weekend. “At the same time, I hadn’t heard anything from the team.
“I’m disappointed. I can’t lie about that. But I can’t say I’m upset about it, either, because when I think about my time there I have nothing but good things to say. The city, the fans, have been behind me from the very beginning. That’s the hard part, especially with respect to what happened last year, with us winning the whole thing. It was very meaningful to me to be a part of something like that. But you have to move on.
“You know, there’s a business [aspect] to this sport. And as a player you’d better learn to accept that or else it’s going to be pretty frustrating for you. I was aware that, most likely, the team was going to go the other way. At the same time, I thought there was a chance I might be back.”
He’s still just 32 years old. He hit 33 home runs last season. Only three righthanded hitters in the National League (Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun and St. Louis’ Ryan Ludwick and Albert Pujols) had more. While he rarely shared himself with the media, he was immensely popular with his teammates, who respected his toughness and work ethic. And he was consistent in talking about how much he enjoyed playing in Philadelphia and that he would love to return.
On the other hand, he recognized that he was making $14 million and doesn’t run as well as he used to and routinely came out of games for a defensive replacement or a pinch-runner in the late innings.
So after he doubled against the wall to lead off the bottom of the seventh against Tampa Bay in Game 5 of the World Series - the score was tied, 3-3, at the time - the realization of what it all might mean started to hit him when Eric Bruntlett trotted onto the field to run for him.
“I was coming off the field and I started looking around and thinking, ‘This might be it.’ At the same time, here we were possibly about to win the World Series,” he said. “On a personal level, I remember hitting the ball and thinking it was way over the fence. Then getting a chance to be on second with nobody out and [Shane] Victorino up, I thought we were going to get [Bruntlett] over and we were going to get him in. That’s kind of where I was at.”
That’s exactly what happened. Bruntlett went to third when Victorino grounded out to second and scored what proved to the winning run when Pedro Feliz singled.
During the chaos in the celebration that followed the second world championship in franchise history, Burrell remembered club president Dave Montgomery seeking him out.
He embraced the city in a way few professional athletes have. And the city, in return, returned the emotion. Sure, there were boos when he fell into a prolonged slump. Overall, though, the fans were often more supportive than might have been expected.
After the 2006 season when Burrell slumped to a .258 BA while still belting 24 HRs and driving 95 runs batting behind Howard in his [Howard’s] 58 homer, 149 RBI season, there was much trade discussion and about finding a more capable #5 hit to protect the big first baseman. But various different variations of the stats showed that Burrell performed more than capably as protection for Howard.
In 2007, Burrell followed with the same type of season (30 HRs, 97 RBIs, 120 strikeouts, but 114 walks and a .256 BA) as 2006, although he caught fire in the 2nd half as one of the leaders as the Phillies charged from 6 games back to overtake the Mets for the 2007 NL East title.
In 2008, Pat ‘the Bat’ roared out of the box and amassed 24 HRs by the end of July while batting between ,275 and .280 throughout before going into a deep slump in August in September only hitting 7 more homers and seeing his average slump from .271 at July 29 to .250 at the end of the regular season. He had a fine Division and NLC series going 9 for 30 with 3 homers, including 2 homers, 4 RBIs in the 6-2 division series winner over the Brewers. Burrell went cold in the World Series going 1 for 14, but his hit was a big one, the leadoff double in bottom of the seventh which resulted in pinch-runner Bruntlett scoring from second on Pedro Feliz’s single as the Phils won the rain-pro-longed 5th and decisive game of the series.
As Bob Hope would affectionately sing; “Thanks for the memories…” Despite Raul Ibanez’s seeming more consistent bat, Pat ‘the Bat’ Burrell will be missed.