The 100 Greatest Colorado Rockies: 92 Jeromy Burnitz
We continue our look at the top 100 Colorado Rockies of all time in this article. Here, we look at No. 92 on our list, Jeromy Burnitz.
When Jeromy Burnitz was playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates, his last team of his career in 2006, he didn’t run out a ground ball one he would have easily been out on. It didn’t matter. Running out the ball was part of a bigger problem when he was hitting .185 through the month of May. The fans booed him mercilessly but his coach Jim Tracy kept him in the lineup every day. Tracy didn’t have much of a choice as Burnitz was one of his highest paid players. Burnitz commented on the situation to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Dejan Kovacevic.
“Are you kidding me? What else is he going to do? In this situation, of course he’s going to stay with me. This is the first team I’ve been on in a couple years where I’m Joe High-Paid Free Agent. That, in and of itself, should tell you the big picture that the team’s in. If I’m just another guy on one of those big-market, big-paying teams … that’s not the way it is here, and I understand that. I’m cool with it.”
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Burnitz was incredibly self-aware and didn’t take himself too seriously. Therefore he was respected and well liked in the clubhouse. He wasn’t ever going to be the greatest Rockie of all-time but he had his best season of his 14-year professional career in Denver. Making him one of the best outfielders the team has ever had.
When he signed with the Rockies for one year in 2004 he hit the highest average of his career at .283 and the second most home runs of his career with 37. His bat was good enough for a 2.8 WAR. The problem was his glove which hindered his right-field legacy. Burnitz was rarely had a positive Wins Above Replacement value with his glove but his -1.9 WAR in the spacious Coors outfield was the worst of his career.
Burnitz prolific bat continued when he signed with the Chicago Cubs in 2005 effectively replacing Sammy Sosa when he left for Baltimore. Burnitz played better than Sosa surprisingly at the time hitting .258 with 24 homers.
His overall WAR with the Rockies may be a conversation stopper, but he was really the only exciting thing about that 2004 season. He also made a positive impact in the clubhouse and the outfield where two future franchise stars would flourish in Matt Holliday and Brad Hawpe who both made their major league debuts that year.