Hooray for the Rays…We got Pat the Bat !!
The last time Tampa Bay Rays fans saw Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Pat Burrell was right after his double off J P Howell to put himself in scoring position to score the Phillie’s winning run in Game 5.5 of the 2008 World Series. But Burrell did not get to have that honor as Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel sent out pinch runner Eric Bruntlett, who slide into home after a few spotty hits to produce the winning run, and the World Series title for the Phillie’s. This plays upon a well known fact that Burrell loves the pressure of a situation, and is usually the first person to act upon it for the betterment of the team.
So you can imagine the turn of events that have brought this consistent and powerful bat to the lineup for the Rays. Burrell was thinking that the Phillies might offer him arbitration in 2009, or at least make an attempt to try and sign him to a small deal. He had played his entire career in the Phillies system and was loved and adored by many of the Philly faithful. But in his spot in the lineup pretty much helping protect Ryan Howard the last few seasons, he has seen his number pretty much decrease, but not below acceptable levels.
Now, with a new ring on his finger, and a future bright in the Florida sunshine, Burrell is happy to be a Ray. Considering he still owns a home in Clearwater was not a factor in the negotiations, but it did not hurt matters at all. Speculation has been brewing for months that he was the target out of the corner of the Rays managements’ eye. Because remember, he was also the guy in the 2008 World Series who was fighting a monster slump, and like Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena, came alive in that last contest. He has earned the reputation in Philly as a guy who can get you that timely hit or run to set you up to win a game all by himself.
Burrell was a combined 0-13 before hitting that monster off the wall in center field to set himself up at second base. I can guess without a doubt that he wanted to pull a ” Roger Dorn” and refuse to come off the base because of the significance of that hit. Burrell had to know that the next run would win it for the Phillies, and he wanted to be the guy to cross that plate. But instead, he got the front float for the World Series parade. So there he was perched on the Budweiser/ Clydesdale wagon with his dog, Elvis waving to the millions of adoring fans…………for the last time.
Now this signing by the Rays pushed the estimated payroll for 2009 to about $ 60 million dollars. This is the highest payroll of the Rays in their short existence, but will it be enough to get them back to the playoffs and beyond in 2009. Considering Statistic guru Bill James had predicted that the 3-pronged attack combination of Longoria, Pena and himself is projected to hit a staggering 100 homers between them in 2009. And also considering that James also has put current New York Yankee Mark Teixeira’s home run total at 36 for the season, Burrell’s 2009 numbers of 32 home runs look like a huge investment in power for the Rays.
Considering that Teixeira’s 180 million dollar contract comes out to about $ 22.5 million per season, the 2 years at $ 16 million dollars that Burrell signed for look like a major bargain for the Rays. Tex’s will have to make those 4 additional homers in 2009 a spectacular event to even equal Burrells possible damage in the Rays lineup. This signing also effectively gives the Rays a huge right-handed bat that actually hits lefties well. But considering that Burrell has been called slow and prone to slumps during the season, is this a wise move for the Rays?
Burrell was once pictured in a poster by the Phillies players with the caption, ” Man or Machine”. That brings to mind the physical presence and powerful ability of Burrell to work to extremes to perfect his craft. With the Rays, Burrell will not have to have his glove handy to go out and play right field for the Rays, except maybe in the Inter league games in a National League park. But the one trademark of Burrell during his entire Phillie’s career has been consistency.
The guy is pretty predictable at the plate, with a few surprises, but mostly you can pencil him in for a .250 average for the year with about 100 RBI’s. With that, you can also estimate about 31 homers and a huge bunch of strikeouts. The Rays might be putting Burrell in the number 5 slot right behind Pena, who is also prone to the strikeout during the past few seasons. But on the plus side, Burrell has been up in the top of the pile in walks the past few seasons in the National League. In 2008, he was 3rd in the NL with 102 walks.
But another plus for Burrell, which has become a staple of the Rays type of players is his involvement in the community. Burrell will again be one of the Rays players’ who will be giving to the Rays Foundation with a slice of his contract, but that is a minor set back to him. He is a well recognized team chef in the Phillies clubhouse and has been known to volunteer his efforts to charity to cook or even entertain at cooking events while in Philly. This will be very useful as the Rays faithful are just beginning to truly understand the art of baseball tailgating. Hey Rays Foundation, maybe a Pat Burrell cookout after a Spring Training game might be a great Fan Fest auction item………just trying to help here.
Most people view this signing as a guy who fell into the Rays hands via their first and second most desired selections coming off the board with other teams. I actually had him up in the top 2 for the Rays to even consider for 2009. I had Jason Giambi at the top slot, while Burrell was slotted number 2 based on his consistent number’s. Either player would be a huge plus for the ever evolving Rays franchise. But Burrell is a guy you can pencil in every night knowing that he will bring his “A” game every night.
The Phillie’s fan will get their first look at Burrell in the Rays jersey during their Spring Training game at Brighthouse Networks Field in Clearwater on March 12. It is also a “Thristy Thursday” game and will have an extra factor of being one of only 3 games played by the Rays in Pinellas county before the season begins in April. The other two will be played against the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin on March 1st and 10th. And with the Rays not retaining Rocco Baldelli, the number 5 jersey is currently available for Burrell if he wants to keep the same uniform number he has had for years with the Phillies.
But do not fret Phillies fans if you can not make the afternoon game on March 12th, because you can again cheer or jeer at Burrell in your home ballpark in Philly as the Rays usher in the last two Spring Training games up in Philadelphia on April 1 and 2 in Citizen’s Bank Ballpark. So, the signing of Pat Burrell will be felt in the Rays clubhouse for the next two seasons. This is a great signing of a guy who can bring some consistent hitting to the Designated Hitter spot in the Rays’ lineup. But, best of all, we got a guy who has shown he already has the Rays mentality of getting hits and runs when the team needs them in a game…….and you can not put a price on that kind of consistent action.