Giants Should Give Burrell a Shot -- Look at How Zito bounced back
The pointless moaning about whether or not general manager Brian Sabean can build a winner in San Francisco has grown tiresome. There has also been whining about whether club ownership is willing to pay for the type of club that can actually succeed.
There's no reason to rehash every personnel transaction under Sabean's reign. The 2010 Giants, clearly, could use a power hitter—ideally one who can play the outfield.
The organization has absolutely nothing to lose by signing former Philadelphia Phillies star Pat Burrell to a minor league contract, especially if Burrell agrees to a two-week out clause. This clause would allow the Giants to place him on the big league roster or release him after 14 days in the minor leagues.
This isn't the time to squawk about how 32-year-old slugger Adam Dunn is the guy the Giants really should've signed when he was a free agent in the winter of 2008. Dunn didn't want to play in San Francisco's AT&T Park.
Vladimir Guerrero didn't want to play for Felipe Alou, so he took a pass on signing with the Giants years ago. Matt Holliday didn't want to play in San Francisco either, so he signed a rich contract to play in a cozy ball park for the St. Louis Cardinals.
It's history now. Looking back and whining is nothing but boring.
It's time just to admit that the Giants have nothing to lose by signing Burrell to a low-cost, make-good deal.
Impossible for Burrell to resurrect his career? Highly-paid free agents who switch leagues and absolutely flounder never bounce back? Everyday says Burrell's finished and that makes it so?
Well, try to remember what Giants fans thought about Barry Zito, his contract and the state of his career in 2008. Burrell is to well-paid free agent power hitters what Zito was to well-paid free agent starting pitchers. Burrell's actually performed more poorly than Zito -- he was released.
How's the Zito thing working out? Is he bouncing back to the point where he's helping the Giants now? Even after the same folks who mock the idea of Burrell helping the Giants called for Zito to repay his salary and retire -- the left-hander has turned things around.
Burrell gets two weeks to see if, at age 33, he can do more to provide runs than the combination of John Bowker, Eugenio Velez, Nate Schierholtz, and Travis Ishikawa have in 2010. Burrell can play a little first base, so Ishikawa's inexplicable spot on the big league roster must be taken into account when considering Burrell.
Burrell hit the skids when he signed with the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League. There are fans just aching to recite chapter and verse that will prove he's absolutely finished as a big league hitter.
They are, largely, the same people who have spent the first couple months of the season dissecting the performances of Velez, Bowker, Schierholtz and Ishikawa as though they were studying Ruth, Mays, Aaron, and Ted Williams to determine who is the most productive outfielder of all-time.
Burrell strikes out a lot. A lot, a lot! (No! Please! God...don't start harping about situational hitting and "small ball," OK?) The history of the Major Leagues is filled with guys who hit well in one league and struggled in the other, like Matt Holliday. He blew chunks with the A's and returned to previous glory upon arriving in St. Louis last summer.
Burrell hit 92 home runs and drove in 314 runs in his final three seasons in the National League. Yes, he has whiffed in 23.8 percent of his plate appearances.
Bowker's struck out 22.3 percent of his plate appearances. (No, now's not the time to drag out metrics or even do the math on Ishikawa's whiff-ability.)
Recently, Burrell has hit home runs and driven in runs at a prodigious pace—33 homers, 86 RBIs in 2008. Those would be mind-boggling, monster stats for a guy in a San Francisco Giants uniform, right?
Heck, say he's lost something and only hits 22 homers and drives in 72 runs. That seem worth giving him a minor league contract?
It would be wonderful to have two weeks where we accept the big league club for what it is and for where it is in the playoff race.
And, it would be really old-school, baseball-card-collecting type fun just to keep track of Burrell's performance in Fresno. It's tiresome to find glee only in checking on prospects who are months or years away.
Even if Burrell fails miserably, fans could choose to enjoy a two-week respite from the angst-filled cycle of complaints and finger-pointing.
It's asking a lot of Giants fans to expect them to admit a Burrell deal can't hurt anything and then to sit back and see what happens.
After all, Giants fans are are worried about Tim Lincecum's focus and mechanics because he's had three bad starts on the heel of back-to-back Cy Young Award seasons. Like a kid his age could win two Cy Youngs and then develop an irreparable flaw in his delivery or just lose the ability to focus?
The Giants have nothing to lose by signing Burrell. Whether fans can acknowledge as much remains to be seen.
Ted Sillanpaa is a Northern California sports writer and columnist. Reach Ted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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