Monday, December 15, 2008

Burrell Out, Park In

We all know the Pat Burrell story—the ups, the downs, the cheers, the boos. It was a rocky relationship with Pat, one that was always intriguing to me.

When Burrell was going good, he looked like one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball. When he was going bad, he looked like he couldn't make contact off a tee. But one thing was consistent with Pat Burrell, his refusal to make excuses. Not once did Burrell lambaste the fans for getting on him. Not once did he blame his struggles on injury. Not once did he try to downplay his slumps. Pat Burrell always took responsibility for his play—good or bad.

And Pat always discussed his desire to play in Philadelphia, how much he appreciated the fans, loved the city, loved the organization. Now his time is up. Through it all, I have bashed Pat Burrell, cheered Pat Burrell, wished he would go away and pleaded for him to come back. Now, that's all in the past. Pat Burrell will be moving on to play somewhere else, and it will look odd. Like seeing Allen Iverson in a Denver or Detroit jersey or seeing Eric Lindros wear a Rangers sweater or Donovan McNabb wearing a Vik… or will it be a Bea… err, wait, that hasn't happened yet.

Anyway, Paul Hagen wrote about his lengthy conversation with Burrell about the end of his time as a Phillie. Here are some quotes from the Bat:

"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."

"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."

"I could be wrong about this, but we won Game 5 and I think at some point during the celebration [Montgomery] asked me if I wanted to bring [his wife] Michelle and [his dog] Elvis and go on with the Clydesdales. At that point, I was in a dream," he said.

"They called the next day and confirmed it. But even at that point we didn't know where it fit in the whole scheme of things. There were so many people and it seemed like such mass confusion to start this thing off. Then we found out that we were actually in front of all the flatbed trucks with the players, then I really knew it was something pretty special."

"The only way I can explain it is that if you're always on top of the world, if you're always at the top of your game and feeling great, it's hard to understand why other players who are struggling are having a good time. You understand what I'm saying?" he said.

"I've certainly been through some periods where I haven't played very well and struggled and went through all these things. And to be able to get out of that and to get back to where I am now and have the fans' support that whole time, it's a special feeling.

"These fans, I don't think they get the credit they deserve for being as passionate about the game and the players as they are. They only want one thing, and that's to win. As a player, that should be the only thing that matters, too. They came every night, and that's all you can ask. If you don't think the fans were important in us winning that World Series, you must have been watching on TV. Because every one of us on our team knew we had the [homefield] advantage. And I think their team did, too."

"I was at Triple A [Scranton/Wilkes-Barre] and we were in the playoffs against Charlotte. I got to first base, I was having a good series, and [Hollins] was playing first. I remember him saying, 'They're going to love you up there. Just keep playing hard.' For some reason, after all these years, that sticks in my head more than anything.

"Because when you're going through these times and the fans are watching you go through it and you're struggling, as long as you're giving it everything you've got, they appreciate it. Especially for me.

"Living downtown with Michelle and having the dog, walking to the park every day, the support was incredible coming down the stretch. I can't tell you how many people came up to me and said stuff like, 'We love having you here, we hope you stay. You went through such bad times and you made it out. You came back and became a great player.' Stuff like that is important, for me anyway, to know that, hey, they're behind you and they care about you and they're pulling for you to get back on track."

"If you had told me last spring training that this was going to be my last year and how did I want to go out, there would be no better way to go out," he said. "But having gone through everything . . . Like Cole Hamels said, 'I can't wait to do this again.' So there's a touch of that, too."

You and your maddeningly inconsistent play will be missed, Pat. Best of luck wherever you land.

Oh, and the Phillies signed Chan Ho Park and (GASP!) he may start. Please don't do this to us. Put him in the pen where he was all sorts of good for LA last year.

Update: Moyer is set to return to the fold as well, according to The700Level.

Hopefully this puts to rest any possibility of Park as a starter, but maybe not. Potential rotation: Hamels, Myers, Moyer, Blanton, Happ/Kendrick/Park/ … Carrasco?

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