Monday, December 15, 2008

Farewell, Pat

Don't blame Pat Burrell's departure on the baseball gods. Fate had nothing to do with his departure so hold those supplications and libations, please. The longest-serving Phillie no longer fits the team's plans. The only remaining question is whether or not he fits anyone else's!

Unlike many veterans who simply fade away, Burrell went out on top. His key hits in the playoffs and World Series will long be remembered by fans of this era, especially if the Phils take another 28 years to return to the top. His place of honor at the head of the parade down Broad Street, a reward and send-off, will also remain vivid to those fans and Burrell himself.

His was an odd tenure in Philadelphia, in large measure because the fans never really knew him. He kept his own counsel, at least where public utterances were concerned. The image that will endure is of Burrell taking a called third strike, staring blankly straight across the plate, gripping the end of his bat tightly and walking grim-faced back to the dugout without so much as a glance back at the umpire let alone a few chosen words. Another snapshot in this modest album shows Burrell with his arms extended, right knee dropping nearly to the ground as he lets loose that slight uppercut swing in lining a key home run to left field. A final sequence, one we got to see rather more often in what he, too, probably knew was his last season with this group of guys was of Burrell, arms and elbows hanging over the dugout railing, reacting to a key hit, stepping back, clapping his hands, grinning widely and moving down the rail to greet his triumphant teammate.

In those final months it appeared Burrell was content. The years of ups and downs and, of course, the boos and cheers, had surely taken some toll on him but if they did it was hard to tell. Throughout it all, he remained a guarded, private man. On those few occasions when he spoke to the media he seemed earger to end the conversation quickly. To his credit, he didn't complain and he certainly didn't air his grievances, if any, in public. When Charlie would remove him late in the game for defensive purposes, he stayed at the dugout railing, cheering on his teammates. He didn't like to come out of the games, and he disliked his occasional forced days off even more.

He was subject to awful slumps that lasted weeks if not months. He would begin the season on a torrid pace only to cool off as the temperatures climbed. Somehow he'd find his stroke, if only for a few key games, as the season would wind down.

In the end, he said he wanted to stay here but understood that probably would not happen. In all likelihood, he will land a job somewhere else and, should he come back to Philadelphia and hang over the railing in the visitor's dugout, it will take some getting used to him in some other uniform. But he made a lasting impression in this town and whatever else one might say, that takes some doing.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Apparently The Yankees Don't Feel The Pinch But They Sure Know How to Put On The Bite

Last year Alex Rodriguez signed a ten-year $275 million contract with the New York Yankees.

Earlier this week, CC Sebathia signed a seven year $161 million contract with the Yanks.

This afternoon, the Yankees reportedly reached a preliminary agreement with A.J. Burnett calling for a five year $82.5 million contract.

So, tell me again, why do the Yankees need over $200 million in public money to build their new $1.3 billion stadium?

Raul Ibanez, Come On Down

Those who were wondering whether or not new GM Ruben Amaro is his own man are going to have to wait a little longer. Regrettably, his first major move didn't surprise anyone, bearing all the earmarks of his mentor and senior adviser, former GM Pat Gillick. The Phillies announced they have come to terms with free agent outfielder Raul Ibanez on a three-year $30 million contract pending the usual physical. Maybe the Phillies medical staff can find a hangnail.

Ibanez previously plied his trade for the Seattle Mariners making him another in a long line of refugees from the Pacific Northwest who made their way to the Delaware Valley during Gillick's tenure. And make no mistake about it, that connection played a big part in the decision to offer Ibanez a three year deal. Ibanez will take Pat Burrell's place in left field and, presumably, behind Ryan Howard in the batting order. That he will be 37-years old in June and bats left-handed were apparently not obstacles in the minds of the Phillies new brain trust. If he played for the Mariners he must be good.

There is no truth to the rumor that the signing prompted the Mets, Braves and Marlins to scrap any plans they might have had and go with all-lefty bullpens next season. That's fifty-four divisional games where a right-handed reliever would be completely unnecessary. There might be some truth to the rumor (which I am starting here) that Jayson Werth, the only right-handed power in the entire lineup, is going to up his arbitration demands given the extra load the Ibanez signing just placed on him. "Heck, if I have to be myself AND Pat Burrell, I want more money," Werth should say.

Look for Ibanez to start being replaced in late innings some time in June of 2009 with the frequency of his shortened appearances probably increasing in the second and third years of his contract.

Most reports describe Ibanez as a clutch hitter. As for his defense, word is he is a good clutch hitter. Cole Hamels and Brett Myers are already working on their head-shaking moves for any plays Ibanez botches in the field. Jamie Moyer, should he re-sign with the Phils, is working on his windsprints to back up home plate.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Proof Is In The Trophy

The temperature has risen dramatically in the Hot Stove League with the rumors that CC Sebathia is about to sign the richest free agent contract ever awarded a pitcher. The reported figure the Yankees have put on the table is $160 million.

Elsewhere, several teams are rumored to be preparing $100 plus million offers to Mark Teixeira, the premier free agent position player is this year's pool.

The Phillies were never suitors for either player's services. All of this hullabaloo must sometimes make us Phillies' fans feel a bit like our collective noses are pressed to the glass on the outside looking in. Not since they signed Jim Thome have the Phils made a big splash in the free agent market.

Not to worry. Free agent signings rarely seem to work out. Or think of it this way: who won the World Series last Fall?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Moving On

If it wasn't clear before it is now: Jamie Moyer is no sentimentalist and neither is Ruben Amaro. When the season ended most observers assumed Moyer would re-sign with the Phils and negotiating the details would be relatively easy. Not so. Apparently Moyer wants a guaranteed two-year deal at $10 million per and the Phils are only willing to commit to one year with an option for a second.

Count me among the non-sentimentalists. I referred to Moyer throughout the championship season as "Jamie Moyer, aka 46 year old Jamie Moyer" in part in tribute to his amazing endurance. And for most of the season he was remarkable, coming up big start after start, leading the team in wins and playing a huge role in advising the youngsters on the staff.

He faltered a little in the final stretch but he found that fountain of youth again in the post-season. Nevertheless, Moyer's magic carpet will begin to fray and unravel in increasing degrees over the next year and a team already stretched by the arbitration eligibility of so many key players can ill afford to commit another year and $10 million to him.

Moyer doesn't owe the Phils any sort of "home town discount" and the Phils in turn don't owe him an extra year. Both sides benefited enormously from his tenure here and besides, when Moyer dug up the pitching rubber at the conclusion of the Series and walked off the field clutching it he already staked his claim to a real piece of this town.

Jamie Moyer will move on. We wish him well.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Do The Right Thing

Major League Baseball announced yesterday that a winning share from the 2008 World Series was worth $351,504. The Phillies awarded 45 full shares, 7.039 partial shares and 15 cash awards.

Here's what they should have done: awarded full shares to all the city pools and recreation centers Mayor Nutter announced will close due to the current financial crisis. There is still time to do the right thing.