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Pat Burrell gets his chance at baseball immortality

Earlier this week, the 2017 Hall of Fame ballot was announced, which had two familiar faces on it, former Phillies Pat Burrell and Matt Stairs.

Both played very different roles for the Phillies; Stairs came in to add some home run power off the bench while Burrell arrived during some very dark times in Phillies history. So much is made of Sam Hinkie’s process for the Sixers that fans forget about Ed Wade’s process that began almost 20 years ago and resulted in a 2008 World Series win.

Burrell was the first member of the World Series team to arrive after being drafted first overall in 1998 out of the University of Miami. He made his Major League debut on May 24, 2000 vs. the Houston Astros, where he went two-for-five with two RBIs. Burrell would go on to spend nine seasons with the Phillies, and in 2012 signed a one day contract to retire with the team. In 2015, Burrell was inducted into the Phillies Wall of Fame in Ashburn Alley.

Over the course of Burrell’s 12-year career, he posted 292 home runs, 976 RBIs, and 1,393 hits. His career high in home runs came in 2002 where he hit 37, while his career high in RBIs happened in 2005 (117). In the field, Burrell posted a career fielding percentage of .975 and racked up 92 outfield assists. For more great stats like these, you should visit The Sports Geek.

He was also the biggest Met killer.

Burrell’s bat gave the Mets’ bullpen nightmares as he recorded 42 home runs and 106 RBIs against them. But it was when Burrell would come through in the clutch that made those numbers sparkle a little bit more. There was always a chance late in the game when Burrell got to the plate against the Mets’ relief pitchers.  And it was always a beautiful sight.

While his career numbers are impressive to be honest, I was a little shocked to hear his name on the ballot. I hope that one day he gets in, however, if I were to name one Phillie of this generation of players I wouldn’t have thought of him first. I don’t necessarily know if he will ever get inducted. It hurts my heart a little to have said that.

However, Burrell does not need a plaque in Cooperstown to prove how much he was worth here in Philadelphia and what his play gave us for the nine seasons, he was ours. At the time of Burrell being drafted, the Phillies were one of the worst teams in baseball, occupying a permanent residence in the basement of the NL East. It is well to remember that the Phillies would not have had the money to draft Burrell had JD Drew not refused to sign with the Phillies in 1997. Everyone should have kept their D cell batteries to themselves.

Burrell was the first in a line of Phillies’ draft picks that drew palpable excitement. I affectionately refer to the 2001 Phillies as one of the better teams in recent history that no one seems to remember. That was Burrell’s first full season in pinstripes, and the team battled the Atlanta Braves for the NL East Title up until the final week of the season. If Burrell was the future, the future was bright.

The next few seasons were a horse race for the Wild Card slot and the NL East, but the Phillies fell short each year until they broke the 14-year playoff drought in 2007. No Phillie was happier than Burrell, who stuck with the team, waited for, and earned the payoff. In an age where there is virtually no loyalty to the team that drafted you, Burrell’s commitment was strong and we all saw it. His last season as a Phillie was worth all the years of struggle, because he left the team as a champion. Our last image of Burrell as a Phillie is exactly what it should be: him riding the Budweiser truck with his arms in the air.

So while it was exciting to see Burrell’s name on the ballot, and I’d book my trip to Cooperstown right now if I was overly confident he would get in, he isn’t as much of a lock as Allen Iverson was in basketball. I’ve been on record saying that I think Iverson is the only Philadelphia athlete from this generation who gets into their respective Hall of Fame, while I still do see arguments for others.

However, even if Burrell does not get in, it in no way takes away from his presence on the team, and how he helped drag the Phillies from the basement to the top of the mountain. That is what is most important. I’ve been wrong before, and here’s an instance where I really hope I am.

I’ve got my fingers crossed for you, Pat.