Pat the Bat
This happens all the time. Fans and media members spend time bemoaning some player that does not suit their fancy for one reason or another, only to have that player come on strong to carry their team to glory. Then the individual who had been killing the player will talk of how the player has come out of nowhere when, in reality, the player had been quite good all along, just under-appreciated.
The guy Phillies fans and media alike love to hate is causing many of them quite a dilemma these days. A sub-.500 team as late as July 7, Philadelphia now finds themselves 2.5 games out of a wildcard slot. There is no individual more responsible for this late season surge than Pat Burrell. He has been the best hitter in baseball since the All-Star Break and better yet, has been getting it done in one clutch situation after another. The haters may just have to come around.
Pat Burrell can't field and can't run and I will concede that if he could do those things he would be a much better baseball player. If Magglio Ordonez could don the tools of ignorance once a week and spell Pudge Rodriguez instead of Mike Rabelo, that would help the Tigers a whole lot and make Mags a much more valuable player. He cannot of course, because he has limitations as a player. Just like Ryan Howard, just like Johan Santana, just like Burrell and every other athlete. Pat Burrell hits very well and this makes him a very good player. Focusing on what he cannot do while ignoring what he does quite well does Burrell a real disservice.
Burrell has been a good player for quite some time now. He is a career .259/.367/.484 hitter, good for a 119 OPS+. Since 2005, here is how he has been performing at the plate.
PA AVG OBP SLG OPS+
2005 669 .281 .389 .504 125
2006 567 .258 .388 .502 124
2007 522 .266 .406 .525 137
Pretty good, huh? Pat Burrell still can't field, still can't run and still strikes out all the time. He is also Philadelphia's only hope for reaching the post-season. He's hitting .332/.447/674 since the All-Star Break and fans seem to be coming around, as evidenced by the palpable excitement at Citizens Bank Park that can be sensed everytime he grabs a bat these days.
I imagine even Bill Conlin and Mike Schmidt and Jack McCaffery and Pat Gillick might soon be coming around.