Monday, November 17, 2003

Catching Up with the Weekend Coverage

The Inquirer got its money's worth out of sending Jim Salisbury to the general managers' meetings. Salisbury reported Friday that the Phillies brass met with the agent of free-agent pitcher Bartolo Colon. The story appears to be more smoke than fire, as the price he'll command seems higher than what the Phils have indicated they'll pay. Indeed, Wade was pretty cool, saying simply, "It behooves us to have discussions about guys like Colon. It was a good meeting and we agreed to talk again down the road." Salisbury's interesting take is that the meeting could be a subtle message to the Diamondbacks and Curt Schilling that the team will not wait forever for a deal to develop on that front.

Both the Inquirer and Daily News reported the same day that sod -- you know, real grass -- has been laid at Citizens Bank Park. Each paper's coverage includes the obligatory photo of the Phillie Phanatic watering the grass.

And yesterday Salisbury wrote of catching up with Pat Burrell in Tempe, where the 2003 bust is training at Arizona State. Burrell opted out of a week of hitting in Florida in favor of maintaining his usual off-season routine, a tactic I think is sound. He's chalking up his awful year to simply one-of-those-things, and says he's confident that starting with a clean slate will make everything right again. That may sound blasé, but Burrell seems the kind of guy who can pull it off. He'd better.

It also must be noted that Burrell said all the right things to Salisbury, blaming no one but himself. He also spoke about Phillies fans' unexpectedly positive reactions to his helpless, season-long flailing:

Burrell understood Bowa's frustration. He also understood that the fans were frustrated with him. Still, he remains amazed about -- and appreciative of -- the support he received from the fans when they could have pounded his eardrums with boos.

"I'm sure there were times it was hard to watch," Burrell said. "But these fans were great to me. Ninety percent of the time, I'd be out to lunch and someone would say something nice to me.

"The people have been so good to me. I'd struggle for a week, then get a big hit, and the response would be unbelievable. I think, deep down, they knew how hard I was trying. I was probably trying too hard."

There's also a great nugget in Salisbury's story about Burrell's efforts to discover what went wrong:

Burrell actually started the search for his old self during the second half of the season, in a couple of phone conversations with retired slugger Mark McGwire.

Like Burrell, McGwire had early success in his career. But in his fifth full big-league season, in 1991, he could do little right, hitting .201 with 22 homers and 75 RBIs.

During his first conversation with McGwire, Burrell barely got a word out of his mouth before McGwire began to preach.

"This is going to be the best year of your life," Burrell says McGwire told him. "You're not going to believe all you're going to learn about yourself. You'll be better because of this."

In 1992, McGwire bounced back and hit .268 with 42 homers and 104 RBIs. Burrell believes that he can do the same sort of thing. He believes that he can be a survivor, just like McGwire.

"I have no doubt I'll get it back," he said.

Here's hoping.


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