When the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies reported for Spring Training in February, they were treated to shirts that posed the question, "Pat Burrell: Man or Machine?" The shirts pictured a shirtless Burrell (seen above) and were meant to poke fun at the veteran who is known for his reputation as a ladies man and a party boy.
Little did his teammates know that Burrell, along with Chase Utley, would carry the team through the first two months of the season. In April alone he hit .326 with eight home runs and 24 RBIs with a machine-like approach at the plate.
Aside from a hot-hitting July, Burrell's contributions at the plate have been few and far between since the first 30 or so games of the season, however. As most Phillies fans could probably tell you, a Pat Burrell slump is rarely pretty. This was never more evident than when he struck out a career high five times against Atlanta last week. But then a funny thing happened.
Charlie Manuel, in hopes to keep the Phils winning ways going, stuck with a struggling Burrell in the lineup. In the 6th inning of a 2-2 game, Pat blasted a two-run shot off Mike Hampton to put the Phils up for good and help complete a season sweep of Atlanta at Turner Field.
In case anyone needed an encore, Pat broke open a 3-2 game on Monday against Atlanta at home with a three-run shot that put the Phils 2.5 games up on the Mets. Suddenly, Pat is back, and it couldn't come at a better time for his club.
Burrell and Co. are clutching to a one game lead going into the final series of the year against Washington and the pressure couldn't be greater. Someone needs to step up and be the hero. Why not Pat? It is uncertain whether he will be back in a Phillie uniform next season, but his commitment to the team and the city have never been stronger.
Man or machine? You decide.