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Defending Pat Burrell's Decade Value

We don't do this often, but sometimes I feel like some of these things need to be addressed. I've always said at DRaysBay we cover the Rays and not the media surrounding them. However, the Rays aren't doing much right now and some of these statements are a bit egregious.

First, we had Ken Rosenthal saying the Rays (along with the Blue Jays and Orioles) should just give up on 2010 because, in his opinion, the Yankees and Red Sox had a superior front-four starting rotations. In a less offensible article, Jayson Stark has released his Least Valuable player for the 00s or Aught's.

The list in general isn't a problem. Without giving specifics about his reasoning behind the list, he named Juan Gonzalez the LVP of the decade. He does mention that production, salary and expectations are all variables among other things, but again nothing specific about how the actual order was selected. Without examining every player's case, it's hard to argue with the pick of Gonzalez. Despite missing half the decade, he earned a ton of money for basically nothing. WAR only dates back to 2002, but from 2002-2005 he made nearly $50 million dollars and was worth less than two and a half wins above replacement level combined. That's pretty un-valuable.

The problem I have with the list come at: #8 Pat Burrell. Without any explanation, I'm really not sure how Stark came to this conclusion, especially when Sidney Ponson ranked #9. This means to Stark, Ponson was somehow more valuable than PtB all things considered. Honestly, If Burrell had still been with the Phillies there is a good chance that I see the list and don't think twice. However, since he's with the Rays, and I, as well as all of you, have become very familiar with his career, I don't see how he was the eight least valuable player in the decade.

Pat Burrell made a lot of money in the 2000s; somewhere in the neighborhood of $65 million dollars give or take with incentives and bonuses. Again going back to the WAR genesis of 2002, Burrell has given his teams $70 million dollars in "production" meaning that he was been worth his contracts overall. The value in dollars also doesn't count 2000 and 2001 in which he posted wOBA's of .358 and .348 over nearly 1,000 PAs. He wasn't overpaid nor was he underpaid by much. With that being said, I don't see how he wasn't valuable for an entire decade in which he hit .254/.363/.475 and averaged 26 home runs, 26 doubles and a wOBA of .362. He was also a member of world championship team, which should probably count.

This raises the subject of falling short of expectations. Here are the words straight from Stark:

"No, friends, to win an LVP requires a certain level of expectation, of building up hopes and then squashing them, like a tractor running over a cantaloupe."

Ok, then.

In 1998, Pat Burrell was the "1/1" a.k.a. first overall selection MLB Amateur Draft. That alone comes along with a ton of expectations. Add in the city to which he was drafted, Philadelphia, and you can imagine the build up for The Bat. The problem with expectations is rarely do players live up to them; especially ones drafted at the top of the board. Looking at the two players to preceded Burrell at number one, neither Kris Benson nor Matt Anderson live up to hype, and currently, neither is on a 25-man roster in the Majors. The two players who superseded Burrell have both had MLB success, but there is one that definitely fell well short of the type.

Drafted in 2000 by the Florida Marlins, Adrian Gonzalez has lived up to the billings of a top pick and is now one of the most underappreciated players in the game. However, the player right before Gonzalez and right after Burrell was...Josh Hamilton.

Whatever the expectations for Burrell were, right or wrong, the expectations for Hamilton were 10 times that. He was the can't miss kid. THE Tampa Bay Devil Rays franchise. He was the Natural, damn it! The story doesn't need to be re-hashed, but  for a variety of reasons Hamilton never did and never will come close to fulfilling the hype.

No doubt, Hamilton had a monster 2008 season, but even if he has five more seasons just like that it still falls sort of the sure first ballot hall of fame career many expected. Outside of that 2008 season, Hamilton has two other seasons in which he's failed to accumulate 400 plate appearances due to injury. For what it's worth, Hamilton been worth 8.2 WAR in his three seasons that fall within the decade in which he was expected to dominate. That, to borrow a phrase from Carson Cistulli, is the "proverbial" tractor squashing the cantaloupe.

Then there is the expectations of living up to a contract. Once more without looking at every eligible player, one name sticks out to me that is nowhere on Stark's list. I'm sure most of you remember that in 2001 Mike Hampton signed a ridiculous eight-year $121 million dollar contract with the Rockies. I think it's fair to say Hampton didn't live up to the contract. In the 2000s combined (including 2000 before he signed the contract) he pitched just over 1,000 innings with just 259 of them coming in the last five seasons. It wasn't Hampton's fault he was built out of glass, but that shouldn't exclude him from the list nor make him more valuable than Burrell, who fulfilled his deal with adequate production (at least with Philadelphia).

In the end, it's a subjective list and much to do about nothing on a slow news day. Nonetheless, I think it's pretty unfair to label a player, who has produced for the better par tof the decade, and has lived up to the hype a lot closer than others, as one of the least valuable of the past 10 seasons.