Some stereotypes die harder than others. Just ask Pat Burrell.
In this morning’s Inquirer Pat repeats for the umpteenth time local sports stereotype numero uno, Philadelphia fans are insufferable and unforgiving. Nothing pleases them. It’s a very tired story by this point especially coming from Burrell on the eve of a new season.
Pat had a terrific season in 2005, tying for second in the NL for rbi’s. Apparently, that achievement was insufficiently acknowledged from his perspective, lost, he admits, in the accomplishments of teammates Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Bobby Abreu.
Speaking to the Inquirer’s Jim Salisbury Burrell said, "’I'm never going to be good enough here. It doesn't bother me. That's just the way it is. It's the nature of the city. They obviously want the best out of everybody.’"
It’s the “nature of the city”? Is there a problem with wanting the best? Would a couple of consecutive seasons of productivity do the trick?
After his breakout year in 2002 during which he hit .282 with 116 rbi’s and 37 home runs, Burrell signed a six-year $50 million contract with the Phils. The next two years saw his overall output plunge as he hit .209 and .257. From that perspective, last year was the first time in three seasons he produced numbers equal to those of his best season.
In the end, however, this isn’t really a story about numbers. Burrell has kept the fans and the media at arm’s length almost from the beginning. His relationship with both could only be described as prickly. At least once or twice a season Burrell can be counted on to take his shots at one or both constituencies. Compare his attitude to that of Utley or Howard, both of whom have been embraced by the fans. Better yet, compare Burrell’s standoffishness to Rollins, who has been maddeningly inconsistent at times and the brunt of much fan frustration. In the end, Rollins signed a new long-term contract and the fans embraced him. He is a fan favorite.
Philadelphia is used to moody, emotionally distant sports figures, but these have consistently produced. More to the point, they have acknowledged the fans. Burrell could take a few notes. It’s a two-way street, Pat.