Should Pat Burrell Return to the Philadelphia Phillies in 2011?

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Should Pat Burrell Return to the Philadelphia Phillies in 2011?
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“Now batting for the Phillies, leftfielder Pat Burrell!”

Longtime Phillies public address announcer Dan Baker called Pat the Bat’s name into the microphone nearly 2,700 times from 2000 through 2008. And, actually, it might not be such a bad thing if Baker had a few more chances to announce it in 2011.  

In 2008, Burrell’s arrival to home plate at Citizens Bank Park was accompanied each time by the sound of Don Henley’s ‘80s classic "Dirty Laundry."

I make my living off the evening news, just give me something, something I can use...

Could Burrell be introduced by the same soundtrack next year in Philly? Could Raul Ibanez move to right field so Pat could return to left?

Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

All we know for sure right now is that the Phillies must have a right-handed outfield bat in the middle of their lineup in 2011. They must. We also know that current Phils right fielder Jayson Werth may not be a Philly next season.

Could Burrell, the 33-year-old former No. 1-overall draft pick in 1998, come back?

He could. And he should if Werth doesn’t stick around.

Pat signed a two-year, $16 million contract with the Rays after 2008. Just think of how cheaply the Phillies will be able to get him when his 2010 contract expires. We know Burrell will play for a bargain-basement price in 2011, and if he's signed by the Phillies this would give the team financial freedom to address their pitching concerns.

Pat has a proven track record. He ranks third on the Phillies' all-time home run list and seventh in total RBI. But to be blunt, Burrell’s been a total disaster down in Tampa the past two years.

Ironically, it’s safe to say Pat’s finest moment since signing with the Rays in January 2009 came on a glorious spring day in which he was a few hundred miles removed from his Rays teammates.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009: Burrell returned to Philadelphia to collect his 2008 World Series ring, and also received a tearful embrace from former Phils GM Pat Gillick and a roaring ovation from the 45,000 Citizens Bank Park fans drowning in ecstasy all around him (not to be taken literally).

But 2009 was by far Burrell’s worst season since 2003. Pat had just 14 HR, 64 RBI, and a .221 average in 122 games as a Ray.

He hasn’t exactly begun 2010 too well. Burrell is currently hitting .229 with two HR and 13 RBI.

In the AL, Burrell has exclusively been used as a DH, sharing time with Tampa’s Willy Aybar. Right now, Burrell’s a complete afterthought in one of baseball’s most dynamic lineups.

And of course, he wouldn’t be expected to put up huge numbers if he were to return to Philly. He would merely exist to break up the lineup’s string of lefties, thus hitting in the lucrative spot between Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez.

One small plus is that Pat’s career average against lefties is a respectable .266. His career average against righties is just .250.

Say what you want about Burrell, but, like most Phillies on the current squad, he always makes opposing pitchers work. He is selective at the dish, and for years he helped the Phillies quickly elevate the opposing starter’s pitch count on a nightly basis. It’s worth mentioning because it’s pretty much his only similarity to Jayson Werth.

Actually, Pat was sometimes patient to a fault. His plate discipline could easily be interpreted as a relative lack of aggression. In 2005, Burrell finished second in the NL with 117 RBI despite leading the majors in being called out on strikes.

In ’05, a whopping 68 of Burrell’s 160 strikeouts came while window shopping at a called third. Honestly, there were times when it seemed he’d be trying to coax a walk with the game on the line instead of trying to deliver a clutch base hit.

Of course, Burrell also ranks second on the Phillies' all-time list in strikeouts and fifth all-time in walks.

But still, bringing Burrell back is safe from a public relations standpoint.

Sure, Burrell got booed when things got tough here. But the Philly fans never spontaneously combusted on him the way they did on his two former teammates, the “so so” third baseman from Veterans Stadium and the right fielder who was allegedly afraid of the Citizens Bank Park out-of-town scoreboard.

Pat, if brought back, would be accepted by the fans. No question.

Rest assured, if Werth doesn’t return for 2011, the Phillies will have lots of potential replacement options. So why shouldn’t Pat Burrell be one of them?

He wouldn’t put up all-star numbers, but he wouldn’t need to in this lineup. He’d just be a respectable, disciplined, right-handed bat who would come at an absolute Dollar Tree price (by MLB standards).

If Werth walks, bringing Pat the Bat back in 2011 wouldn’t be a half-bad move.

People love it when you lose, they love dirty laundry...

Slowly fade down music, fade up mic. Take it away, Dan...

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