Friday, June 14, 2013

Decisions: John Burkett.

In an effort to avoid discussing the train wreck in progress that is the Rangers current home stand I will be returning to T.R. Sullivan's Top 50 Decisions that have shaped the franchise.

Number 30 on the list is the August 8, 1996 trade that brought John Burkett, shown here on card 213 of the 1997 Score set, to Arlington. Texas was looking to make a run and sent Ryan Dempster and a player to be named later to Florida for Burkett. Rick Helling made the trip to Florida in September of that year to complete the deal.

Sullivan maintains the acquisition of Burkett was the pivotal move that put the Rangers over the top on their way to the division title in 1996, the first in team history. Much like the Cliff Lee deal in 2010.

Following the trade, Burkett made ten starts for the Rangers while pitching a total of 68.2 innings. In spite of posting a 4.06 ERA and a 1.325 WHIP he won five of his starts while losing just 2. Additionally, Burkett grabbed the Rangers only post-season win until 2010.

Based on John's numbers alone one has to question the validity of his inclusion on the list. However, once the numbers of the rest of the starting rotation are considered the case becomes a bit more convincing. Of the five other Texas pitchers who made more than 10 starts in 1996, three had ERA's over 5.00 and one over 4.50. Ken Hill and his 3.63 ERA were the only bright spot in the rotation. Once that is taken into account a 4.06 ERA looks better and the impact can be seen more clearly.

The impact on the franchise of Texas' appearance in the 1996 playoffs cannot be underestimated. For the first time winning the division and making it to the post-season was not a far-fetched dream, it was reality. The players, fans, and front office got the taste of October baseball and liked it. That would result in two more trips to the post-season in 1998 and 1999 as well as a vision that would lead to the World Series in 2010 and 2011.

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