Pat Burrell has been an aging baseball player hoping Pat the Bat was not a thing of the past.
But he hadn’t been in a position like today’s aging players.
If MLB and the Players Association can’t come to an agreement, players such as Hunter Pence (37) and Pablo Sandoval (34 in August) would become free agents, their returns to San Francisco very much in jeopardy. Their returns to the majors very much in jeopardy.
It took a retooled swing for Pence to mount a comeback last season with Texas. Tommy John surgery cost Sandoval the end of last season, and there was wonder if it had cost him his career. Both returned for this season, but it’s possible baseball won’t. Which means it’s possible they won’t.
“Especially if you’re getting near 30 or getting even past, you’re talking about getting a year off and skills diminishing, and there’s no guarantee skills are coming back,” Burrell, now the High-A San Jose hitting coach, said on “Murph & Mac” on Tuesday. “There’s been so much attention for Hunter Pence and Pablo coming back. Those guys don’t play for a year, it’s tough to get back on the horse. You spend a couple months even on the disabled list and you’re active, and it takes you a long time for a rehab assignment to get back and be good, let alone a year.
“I think about that quite a bit, just kind of the anxiety that every player has when you come to spring training and wondering, ‘Hey, man, am I going to have it back this year?’ And then of course you overdo it, and it comes back. I don’t know about the whole year. Basketball you can shoot hoops, you can play three-on-three, five-on-five, kind of get back. Baseball you can’t replicate the game. The pitching, the velocity, the separation. It’s a tough game, and it’s very hard to stay in shape for physically, let alone mentally. … I don’t want to paint a grim picture, but it’s just a tough time.”
He doesn’t want to paint a grim picture, but the picture is not optimistic. There is so much for MLB and the union to lose if the sport is held up by financial bickering. For the players, it’s more than money at stake.
“At the end of the day, what’s the best thing for everybody? Try to find a way to play,” Burrell said on KNBR. “I understand the health risks. I understand the financial concerns. But you signed up to play baseball at some point in your life, and this is the opportunity to do it I think.”