Pat Burrell, the former first overall amateur draft pick whose nine seasons in Philadelphia were as controversial as they were productive, has announced that he is likely to retire due to a chronic right foot injury.
Burrell, 35, was selected by the Phillies in the 1998 amateur draft out of the University of Miami, where he dominated college baseball, winning the coveted Golden Spikes award for the Hurricanes in 1998. While at Miami, Burrell earned the nickname "Pat the Bat," one that stuck with him throughout his career, although sometimes applied sarcastically.
He made his way to the Phillies in 2000 after a wrist injury to then starting first baseman Rico Brogna, and would play first base for the remainder of the 2000 season, hitting 18 home runs and finishing fourth in National League Rookie of the Year balloting. Burrell was moved to left field in 2001, where he remained for the rest of his Philadelphia tenure.
Burrell's career in Philadelphia is unfortunately defined by two seasons -- his breakout 37 home run 2002 campaign, and his dreadful 2003, which saw him bat .209. Many regarded Burrell as a disappointment for failing to live up to the hype of his draft selection and the "Pat the Bat" moniker.
Burrell found his footing after 2003, establishing himself as one of the league's best power and patience combinations, despite generally poor defense and baserunning. Burrell posted an OPS+ of 120 or above in each of his last four seasons in Philadelphia, averaging over 30 home runs, 90 RBIs, and 100 walks.
His greatest moment on the field in Philadelphia was also his last -- in the seventh inning of Game Five of the 2008 World Series, Burrell rocketed a double off the left field wall for his first and only hit of the series. Pinch-runner Eric Bruntlett would eventually score on Pedro Feliz's RBI single later that inning in what would be the Series-winning run. As a fitting tribute, and a not-so-subtle farewell gesture, the Phillies allowed Burrell, accompanied by his wife and his beloved bulldog, Elvis, to lead the World Series parade down Broad Street on a Clydesdale-drawn wagon.
The numbers tell the tale -- Burrell posted a .257/.367/.485 line in nine years in Philadelphia. His 251 home runs are the fourth most for any Phillies player, trailing only Mike Schmidt, Ryan Howard, and Del Ennis.
Burrell would spend parts of the 2009 through 2011 seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays and San Francisco Giants, winning another World Series ring in San Francisco in 2010 after posting strong numbers for the Giants after joining the team mid-season.
Burrell's strengths were often ignored by his critics, who felt that he didn't apply himself and that he could have been better than he was, based in large part on his first-overall draft selection, and insinuating that his notorious Philadelphia nightlife presence was diverting his focus from the baseball field. Not every first overall pick turns into Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, or Chipper Jones. Sometimes they turn into Shawn Abner, or Brien Taylor. Pat Burrell turned into Pat Burrell, a very good player on some very good and memorable Phillies teams.
See you at the Phillies Wall of Fame Induction, Pat.