The second Eric Hinske swung through Brad Lidge’s devastating slider marked the end of one of the longest tenured Philadelphia athletes in recent history, Pat Burrell.
New General Manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. had played second-fiddle to Ed Wade for eight years, and for the past three seasons to future hall-of-famer, Pat Gillick. The world champions had 10 arbitration-eligible players heading into the off-season, but only two key free-agents. Left-hander Scott Eyre, who was resigned to a two-year deal, and Burrell.
Amaro did not sit idly by for the better part of a decade waiting his opportunity only to bring back the same exact roster his predecessors spent the last several years putting together.
Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Bret Myers, and Cole Hamels all were drafted under Wade’s watch. The trades for Lidge and Joe Blanton and the signings of Jayson Werth and Shane Victorino were the work of Gillick.
The new G.M. did not serve as the bat boy for the 1980 World Champions, study his way to a degree from Stanford, and claw through an eight-year Major League career as a 25th man on a roster to stand pat. As with any player or former player, agent, or top level executive, Amaro has an ego. An ego large enough for him to refuse to begin his tenure with the same 25 guys his former boss led to a World Championship. Even if the roster was the best in the National League.
The only major change which could be made to this already solid roster was in left. Burrell was Amaro’s only scapegoat. A Phillie since he was taken first overall out of the University of Miami, the much-maligned left fielder had a very productive nine seasons in Philadelphia, average nearly 28 homers and 92 RBI per year, which included a disastrous '03 campaign in which he hit just .209 with 64 RBI.
Burrell was handed the honor of leading the caravan down Broad Street for the championship celebration, a bone that did little to make up for what was to follow. Amaro officially took the job, but Burrell’s phone didn’t ring. The Phils inked their free-agent reliever Eyre, who played a key role down the stretch after being acquired from the Cubs in August.
The lone remaining free-agent never heard from the only team he has ever known.
On December 16, 2008, the Phillies announced the signing of Raul Ibanez to a three-year, $31.5 million deal to replace Burrell as the left fielder. A solid hitter, the 36-year old Ibanez brings his potent left-handed bat to a lineup that already leaned heavily in that direction.
Although solid numbers, Ibanez has had 30 homers only once and brings an additional four years in age over the man he’s replacing.
This signing was not for the betterment of the Philadelphia Phillies, this was a signing for a man with a massive ego who wanted to show his fellow general managers he meant business. He wasn’t Gillick’s boy.
A good soldier and a solid ballplayer laid in waiting until recently when Burrell signed a two-year, $16 million deal with Tampa Bay. Less years and less money for a younger player who wanted nothing more than to make another run at a championship in Philadelphia.
The Philly fans are chastised for running their players out of town, well this one wasn’t our fault. This move made sense in only the mind of our new general manager.