On Friday, the Phillies closed the book on Pat Burrell by signing free agent left fielder Raul Ibanez.
The Pat Burrell era is officially over in Philadelphia. Like reflecting on a lost relative or paramour, it is easy to look back on Pat and his mighty swat with fondness. Maybe that is what happens after a world championship and a parade down Broad Street. Or maybe because it is the holidays and the second mug of egg nog makes everything go down a bit easier.
The last time we saw Pat the Bat, he was ushering the Phillies' parade through Center City Philadelphia after their winning their first World Series in 28 years. Forgotten are all the times we saw Pat lunging at sliders low and away or trudging through the Citizens Bank Park outfield as if he was wearing concrete spikes. Forgotten is his maddening inconsistency at the plate, going from white hot to north pole cold almost overnight.
What the Phillies lose is a legitimate power threat from the right side of the plate. They lose a 30-homer plus five-hole hitter with the eye and temperament of a leadoff hitter. They lose their longest tenured player, the first one to the clubhouse each day, a tireless student. In many ways, he typified the organization and its growth over the last decade.
Turn the page, a new chapter for the organization is being written. Burrell wasn't going to get the guaranteed years or the money he was looking for. Ruben Amaro, Jr., the newly minted general manager, went after the best player available for the job.
In Ibanez the Phillies will get the former Mariner who had .293-23-110 number last year in a pitcher's ballpark. With his signing, they now have three of the top 20 run producers over the last five years in Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.
Ibanez is an upgrade in the field and, unlike Burrell, will play all nine innings as he doesn't harm the club with his defense nor does he need to be pinch run for in close games.
He is considered a late bloomer and should work in well with the current team chemistry. He is a guy that Phillies' adviser and former general manager Pat Gillick is well familiar from his time in Seattle.
The one fly in the ointment with this deal is that the new lineup is severely slanted to the left side of the plate. Manager Charlie Manuel has been open about his fondness for a balanced lineup, especially having right-handed protection behind Ryan Howard. There will be more Lefty references next year than if it was Steve Carlton Night.
What remains to be seen for the 2009 Phillies is how this signing changes the rest of their personnel decisions. With an outfield of Ibanez, Shane Victorino, and Jayson Werth, it will be compelling to see whether Amaro, Jr. packages Geoff Jenkins or Matt Stairs in a deal (can Adam Eaton please go too?) with another club. Both will be in the last year of their contract and, Jenkins especially, may not resign to being a pinch-hitter.
The Phillies are still looking for pitching and are close to resigning Jamie Moyer. What they do need is an upgrade of a right-handed bat off the bench. Eric Bruntlett and Chris Coste (or next year's backup catcher) are the only options and can be handled.
Pat, we bid you adieu, and thank you for the memories. No longer the Mayor of Center City Night Life, your return in a different uniform will remind us of how the club reached its ultimate during your time. And if you're booed at the Bank, it is just a show of our love for you.
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