For years, Philadelphia fans had to live with “The Curse of Billy Penn.”
Never mind that no one outside of Mr. Penn’s immediate family ever called him anything other than “William.” The “Curse of Billy Penn” was a real, living, breathing thing that prevented all four major sports teams in Philadelphia from winning a championship for 25 years.
But since the Phils won the World Series in 2008, busting the curse of Mr. Penn, they have yet to win another, despite trying to purchase a championship many times over.
(Editors Note: Buying a championship and having a huge payroll is not a bad thing. It is a very good thing. Now that we’re the ones doing it, that is. OK, we can move on now.)
After weeks of research and hundreds of hours of deliberative thought, I have deduced that there can be only one reason for the Phils’ failures in 2012, and for every season since winning it all in 2008.
It’s all Pat Burrell’s fault.
Ever since jettisoning the one-time #1 draft pick and star of the franchise, the Phils have taken one step back year after year.
In 2009, they made it to the World Series, but lost. In 2010, they lost in the NLCS to San Francisco. Last year, they got beat in the first round by St. Louis. And this year, everyone’s beating them.
Surely, this is not coincidence.
Like everyone else, I thought moving on from the Pat Burrell era was a good idea at the time. Sure he had a productive 2008 season, hitting .250/.367/.507 with 33 HRs, 86 RBIs and 102 walks, but he was a defensive liability, was getting older, and would not have been worth the money it would have taken to re-sign him to another deal.
It was time to move on, to get younger and more athletic in left field.
In that spirit, the Phils signed 37-year-old Raul Ibanez to a three-year deal. And while Ibanez had an extremely productive first half of 2009, his aging body rebelled against him in the middle of the season, leaving the Phillies with a left-handed plodder in the middle of a left-handed lineup for the remaining two and a half years. Defensively, he may have been even worse than Burrell.
Finally, after last season, the Raul Ibanez era ended. The Phillies finally had a chance to upgrade in left and find a replacement for Burrell’s missing on-base and slugging production.
They chose John Mayberry Jr. and Laynce Nix to fill the void, while adding Juan Pierre as an insurance policy.
They chose… poorly.
Mayberry has been atrocious, Nix has been hurt, and Pierre, while playing pretty well as a bargain basement veteran player, provides no power and even worse defense than Burrell and Ibanez.
It’s also no coincidence that Burrell, upon joining the Giants for the 2010 season, helped lead that team to the city’s first-ever world championship, even beating the Phillies in the process.
Clearly, the baseball angels are angry at the Phillies for getting rid of the great Pat Burrell.
You would think that bringing Burrell back to throw out the first pitch before the start of a Boston Red Sox game back in May would have been enough to soothe the savage beast. But clearly, the man is still holding a cosmic grudge, no matter what his public comments might be.
So how do we rectify the situation? How do we make things right? There are only three possibilities that I can see.
One, re-sign Pat Burrell immediately. I mean, what else is he doing right now, scoping out chicks in Florida or rolling sevens at a craps table in Vegas? I know Pat probably hasn’t picked up a bat in a year or so, and there is probably a little bit of rust that would need to be shed. But could he really be any worse than John Mayberry Jr.?
Two, put up a life-sized poster of a shirtless Burrell in the locker room. If signing Pat Burrell to a new contract leaves some in the organization feeling a bit uneasy, then perhaps a gentle reminder of the spirit of Burrell would be enough. Surely, gazing at a bare-chested Burrell lifting weights would be enough to inspire the gents in the locker room to hit the weights themselves, watch more game tape, and maybe even take the occasional walk at the plate.
Third, issue a public apology to Burrell for letting him go in the first place. It’s clear the first pitch thing back in May wasn’t enough. And it’s possible that Burrell is haunting the Phillies organization in much the same that those poltergeists were haunting Craig T. Nelson and his family in that movie about poltergeists that I can’t remember the name of. It was something with poltergeists in it I think. A public apology, made by David Montgomery, Ruben Amaro Jr., and Charlie Manuel, might be enough to satisfy the spirit of Burrell, which hangs over the Phils’ clubhouse like an anvil on a string in a Road Runner cartoon.
If any of those actions are taken today, it’s possible the Phils can reverse course and make the postseason for a sixth straight year. By doing nothing, the franchise risks continuing the “Curse of Pat the Bat.”
Or, maybe it’s all So Taguchi’s fault.