Reality Check: Pat “The Faucet” Burrell
Ben Margot/ AP
I think it is time people. I am in a mood of discontentment and astonishment into the further downward spiral that has taken over the hitting of Pat “the Faucet” Burrell. You have gone from a slugger who was celebrating with a World Championship, to a guy struggling to hit above the .250 mark this season. It is time for an Intervention. It is time for the stark truth with nothing held back and the hopes that the reality of the situations basic shock and awe turn him towards a state of offensive recovery.
You are currently pulling this team down with him now, and that is something I will not have happen without recourse. I will not let a sinking ship devour this team and take them from playoff consideration. This is a pefect spot for the notion of “put up or shut up” right now. It is the time of the season when good teams churn out wins, and the bad teams just try and play the ‘spoiler” role. Pat, the Rays played that “spoiler” role for 10 seasons, and we did not like it then, and we hate it even more now that we have tasted the fruits of success.
Do we really need to show you that tough love concept to get you to buckle down in this offense. Do I have to go all “Philly” on you and boo and jeer to get you so frustrated you want to succeed again. The hard-nosed, hard shell Philly faithful were not always your fans in the past. You had a chance to gain a new set of admirers here in Tampa Bay, but that might be wasted by a sub-par batting average. Maybe it is time to put out the stone cold demeanor and stark reality your signing might have been mistake. Come on Pat, prove me wrong, I dare ya!.
Have you considered this Mr Burrell, that before your Busch Gardens inspired corkscrew up and down hitting streak that you have not performed even to within a 10th of your contract price. There are guying hitting in the minor leagues for under $ 65,000 a year that would run circles around you right now, and would kill to be in your shoes.
We had a guy here once named Vinny Castilla. Ask him how it felt to have a losing team’s crowd boo him on the field at the beginning of a game. Ask them how he seemed to give up before the first pitch because of the vocal barrage that hit him at third base in the top of the first inning. You are so lucky to not have to go out in the field and get met with a blanket of boos and jeers before you step to the plate the first time in the game. You have had the Rays dugout as your personal cocoon to keep you from the boo-birds who can not stand to see another DH candidate hit under .250 for the season. You just have to pop up four or five times a game from that warm environment……..must be nice.
And we are all over this urban legend that the switch from the National League to the American League is such a drain on your swing and batting persona. Get over it Pat, because we are totally over it. We gave you until the All Star break as a courtesy, now it is time to shine. We got your fellow Rays teammate Gabe Gross last April 24th in a trade with the Brewers, a NL team and he did okay for his first season.
He made up for his lack of bat power with contact hitting and spectacular plays in right field. Oh, and he only hit .209 in the NL before coming over and hitting .239 in the American League. What Gross did that you seem to be missing is put his head down and concentrate on his hitting, and some memorable shots began to happen for him. And his season seemed to blossom in August, which is just one day away right now.
What great Rays feats have you done besides your game-winning HR on July 7th against Toronto for your first walk-off hit as a Ray. How can that even compare with the year Gross in 2008. Well, coming into August, Gabe had hit only .215 for the season before he went on a bit of a roll and rocked to a .293 average just in August 2008. That also began a time where he showcased a few special Gross inspired moments with the Rays. Yes, it was only August 6th when he hit that 437-foot 2-run homer that started the Rays rally against Cleveland.
Or maybe it was the fact that 14 of his 38 RBI last season either tied or helped the Rays take the lead. Or if you really want me to add insult to injury, maybe it was the fact that Gross hit 4 HR and 11 RBI in that month to help propel the Rays towards their first playoff run. That is almost as many as you have so far in 2009, and he did it in one month. See Pat, you only have to look down the bench for a guy who was in the same spot as you in 2008. But Gross put in his licks at the plate, and the ball began to fall for him. Baseball is a simple game. You hit the ball, you catch the ball, you throw the ball. Everything else is just repetition.
Now this is not to mean you are a quitter or even remotely considering mailing in the rest of the season. But the reality is that both you and Carlos Pena right now are pulling this offense towards a bad spiral in the abyss. The hole that you both are presenting in the 5 & 6 spot in the line-up are beginning to wear this club down to the bone. The guys above you and below you have done their jobs, and some of them are having banner seasons. But the middle of the batting order is a dead zone. Oh, do not think I am not angry right now Pat, but I am trying to kill you with kindness in hopes it snaps you into the right frame of mind.
Remember that Castilla dude I mentioned before, well he also tried to mail in the season and the Rays cut him like a cancer out of their team. And that was when we were a losing team. Why should we allow some one who can not even hit his weight to still take up valuable at bats when you have a hitter like Willy Aybar sitting next to you chomping at the bit for a chance to play. Last season Aybar took full advantage of his spot roles and became a instant success in the Rays system. Do you think he is not wondering why he is not getting some of your at bats? I know I wonder that at times.
You really need to go down there and shake Rays Manager Joe Maddon’s hand. Because I know if this was still a ‘Lou Pinella” based ship, you would be below deck scrubbing the pewter instead of holding a 34 inch bat in your hands. Do I really have to tell all these people and the baseball world why I have renamed you “The Faucet”. I was hoping you might get going and I would not have to vocally throw it out there time and time again why you deserve a new nickname. Oh, I am saving “The Bat” for when it is right, but right now, the other one is so perfect for you. Just think of me as your friendly Roto-Rooter man.
“The Faucet” is because you can go very Hot and ex
tremely Cold at any moment during a game or series this season, but you never remain warm for too long. I guess the word “streaky” fits you like a glove right now. And I will be the first to pull back your old nickname if you can just put the bat to the ball to manufacture some offense. Last time I thought you were hot you embarrassed me when I put it into a blog you were “heating up.” You went on a tear of 6 strikeouts in the next two games and slumped further into the abyss.
You started out the season on such a high note hitting your first Rays HR against the New York Yankees in the home opener. There was excitement in the air from the banners going up into the rafters and the anticipation of the new season. All was good in Burrell-land. But then the stark reality hit and you did not get your second Rays homer until your old team came here during the Inter League schedule. Your old team mate Joe Blanton served you up a mistake breaking ball that you hit out for only your second boomer of the year. Worst yet, you went 33 games and 104 at bats between homers after averaging 33 homers a year for the past 4 seasons.
And now as we are about to hit the stretch run, and you are coming off a July where you are hitting only .232 since July 5th. That might be a Burrell improvement for 2009, but it is taking down the hopes of a Rays second playoff berth. And for that I can not let you slide Pat. We yearned for that excitement again. And you are a key piece to getting that chance again. August is a new month, and can be a good starting point for you to improve and show that you are the Rays type of player.
Sure you might work hard on and off the field beyond our eyes, but it is what we see between the lines that matter to us. You might have the admiration of your teammates and the staff, but we do not see that side of you here. We have seen the reserved and simply weak side of you so far in 2009. Oh, I want to throw you under the bus so bad, but we need you right now. We want you to make us admit we were wrong. We want you to show us that you got the guts and the glory still within yourself.
We want that Burrell that was advertised to us in the Phillies statistics over the last 4 years. We want those averages of 99 RBIs and 103 walks to show their faces. We want to see the guy that only trails the Nationals Adam Dunn in walks over the past 4 years with 413 bases on balls. We want to see the same desire and passion that got you noticed in Philly after you were drafted in the First Round out of that quiet school in Coral Gables,Florida. Show us that University of Miami swagger again that we have seen for years from their athletes.
Be true to the fans, and be true to yourself and all will be fine. In the 39 games since you came back off the DL we have seen basically shortstop numbers out of you. And I do not mean Jason Barlett-type numbers. You have hit only .209 with 4 HR, 6 doubles and 11 RBI. Those are not the type of power numbers a guy hitting fifth should produce. It is a no surprise that the guy hitting in the eight spot, Dioner Navarro is kicking your butt at the plate, and he is having a down year.
Your average with runners in scoring position is .292 this season. Not great, but it is showing you have had opportunities to drive in runs and produce. You just have to put some Scotch bonnets into the mix and flame up that average a bit to show that you have the killer instinct. Either that or let Aybar take your at bats and do not let the Rays suffer with you. As a key signing this off season, it is your duty as a teammate to leave it all out on the field every night. I have to admit Pat, some nights it seems that your English Bulldog Elvis has left a firm example of your at bats on the Field Turf.
If that is to imply your bat leave a doggie residue, then so be it. This is the time to shine. One more game and a new month is upon you. I am not telling you to take tonight off, but to start the ball, get the hits and show the hustle we know is within you and the crowd will again cheer. If not, that smattering of jeers during the Yankee series will just fester and grow until it can not be stopped by hiding in the dugout. It is time to man up and produce Pat.
I can not say it any other way. It is not like you are going to refund any of your salary back to the team because of your downfall. And it is not like we expect you to hit .750 the rest of the season either. Get some good hits, run well executed plays on the bases and the game will flow back into the positive for you. If you can not do it for yourself, do it for the kids in the stands that still believed in the Burrell magic. Do it for the women who have swooned when they saw you at Fan Fest only to be disappointed that the object of their affection is heading towards the bottom.
Do it for that guys to the left and right of you in the dugout. You know they are giving 110 percent every night and they have failed too this season but have not slacked off in the least. And last, do it for Elvis. That is right, do it for your English Bulldog. If it means bringing him to the game like you did in Philly the second hafl of the season every night, then outfit the car so you can do it. Westy will find someone to dog sit him for you. Heck, I will watch him if you like……but he better like french fries.
But most of all, do it for yourself. You got that beautiful ring this April in Philadelphia during a ceremony you flew in especially for that day. You got to hear the cheers and the noise that winning can spawn. You got to taste and smell what winning can do for you and a team. But most of all, you got to see why you have worked so hard all those years. If you can not do it for anyone else listed above, do it for yourself.
You do not want to be 60 years old and wonder if you could have done better. I know I did not go out of the game on my own terma and I see regrets and mistakes all the time I would change in a heartbeat. You especially do not want to sit back after the 2009 season and bask in the negative and let it consume you. It is time to shine.
Come on Pat, I do not want to really get upset and fully call you out onto the carpet again this season. This was a mild, nice intervention compared to the first two drafts of this blog. Maybe it is because I still believe the season is far from over. Maybe it is because I faith in my heart until it is plucked out by my sense of reality. If you can not do it for anyone else, do it for yourself Pat. You and I both know the drive and passion it takes to win. Now all you have to do is apply a little elbow grease, spread your stance a little bit and drive the ball. The rs
t will follow……trust me.