Marc Topkin has a nice story in this morning’s St. Petersburg Times detailing his efforts to get Pat Burrell to explain the stark contrast in his offensive performance in Tampa Bay and San Francisco.
The basic conclusion is not news. Burrell was bad at staying mentally engaged when he wasn’t playing in the outfield.
Topkin does add some interesting color to this particular chapter in Rays history.
First, Marc quotes several sources who all seem to agree that they told Burrell he would be an awful DH before he signed with the Rays. That, of course, begs two questions. How many people were certain of this ultimate conclusion and did the Rays talk to any of them?
Second, based on Shane Victorino’s memory, Burrell agreed to DH for the Rays because he didn’t have any other options. Wait. What? A team with noted payroll problems paid a guy $9MM a year when they were the only bidder? How is that possible? That might be the biggest news to come out of Burrell’s surge to the World Series.
Third, and maybe most important, Topkin alludes that the final straw in the decision to release Burrell may not have had anything to do with his on-field performance. Anyone that follows the Rays closely has seen evidence that Joe Maddon, for all of his advanced metrics and willingness to think outside-the-box, prizes clubhouse cohesion. To now, however, Maddon’s concerns over the clubhouse atmosphere had only negatively affected a AAAA outfielder (Justin Ruggiano) and an overrated LHP (Scott Kazmir).
Reading between the lines in Topkin’s story, it appears that the Rays value the clubhouse atmosphere so highly that they were willing to pay Burrell $8.7MM (the Giants have to pay $300K of his salary) to play for someone else rather than give him an opportunity to at least win a platoon role in rightfield.
That is a major statement to all future Rays. Also, just spitballing here, but how does that effect Carlos Pena’s future?
Either way, watching Pat Burrell, and Buster Posey play for someone else in the 2010 World Series will be particular painful.