Monday, August 25, 2008

Pat Burrell, latter-day Hojo

Now let me cleanse the palette by saying this: the Philadelphia Phillies have just pulled to within a half-game of the Mets, largely on the strength of the play of Pat Burrell, latest in a long line of ‘Met’ killers – that is, players who, if they played against the rest of the league the way they play against the Mets, would be first ballot hall-of-famers. Jay Johnston comes to mind as another. Terry Pendleton, to a lesser extent. Derek Jeter, of course (though he will be first ballot anyway). But Burrell may be the Met-killer to beat all Met-killers, and this year it appears that he has begun to show the rest of the league what he has been showing us for years now. I think he’s hit 30 HRs so far.

For some strange reason, however, I refuse to give the man his due – perhaps because I know that up to now, his performance against the Mets has been so odd and freakish. I don’t buy him, and I actually don’t think I’m alone in this. Seems to me he comes close to leading the league every year in outfield assists, which is less a measure of the quality of his arm than the fact that everyone always runs on Pat Burrell. They just do, and I would too. No matter how many times he throws runners out. No matter how many times he cracks crucial late-inning home runs against us, I still wouldn’t want him. I still expect to get him out every time he steps up to the plate...

All of which is to say, I think I feel towards Pat Burrell exactly the way Whitey Herzog felt towards Howard Johnson.

Was less respect ever shown, or more soundly punished?