Pat Burrell is used to being called out - just not like this.
Dallas Green. Mike Schmidt. Pat Gillick. Your brother-in-law. It seems as if everyone has taken a turn singling out Burrell for criticism. He's too this, not enough that. He should be so much more.
It's not as if everyone is wrong. Burrell is one of the most enigmatic Philadelphia sports figures in recent memory, and this is a town that knows enigmas.
Then, suddenly, he cranks two majestic home runs, driving in five runs by himself on a night the Phillies desperately need a win. And the fans call him out - in tribute, not in challenge - for a quick wave.
There's the Burrell conundrum. He is booed and criticized so harshly precisely because the fans, and the Phillies' organization, want so much to like him. This is a guy who was booed during pregame intros on opening day, but, given the chance to shower him with cheers, the crowd embraced it.
Today, the fans are just as likely to boo him again.
Looked at from one angle, Burrell is rich and good-looking, seemingly a man who has everything. Shift perspective just a bit and the view changes drastically. The world knows that the Phillies would have traded him for a case of sunflower seeds if someone would have agreed to pick up his contract. He works endless hours in the batting cage, trying to solve the flaws in his approach, only to lunge at an awful pitch for a strikeout and cue the boos again.
Can you envy and kind of feel sorry for the same guy?
In March, Schmidt arrived in Clearwater, Fla., clutching a prepared statement that explained off-season comments he had made about Burrell. It was painful listening to Schmidt, a Hall of Famer, explain just how much he identified with Burrell - seeing the talent, hearing the boos. For Schmidt, it brought back way too many memories of his own tenure as the city's chief enigma.
Burrell has produced great numbers at times, so you know what he can do. He has had some terrible seasons, so you know what he can do in that direction, too. Last year, he put up numbers that, by themselves, look pretty darn good: 29 home runs, 95 runs batted in.
Yet the overwhelming impression was that he had a disappointing season, that he was a liability in the lineup. This isn't just message-board chatter, either. Manager Charlie Manuel made a point of sitting Burrell on the bench regularly when the team was in wild-card contention in September.
Gillick tried to trade him. He couldn't.
Green told the world that Burrell needed to decide that it was more important to be a great player than to have a great time.
Schmidt said Burrell could be a great hitter if he just learned some basic lessons about pitch selection, then showed up in Clearwater trying to make nice.
Burrell barely said a word through all of it. He has decided, clearly, that talking isn't going to help. Maybe the most pointed communication from him was his initial choice of "Dirty Laundry" - Don Henley's biting commentary about the media - as the music to be played when he came up to the plate.
"Kick 'em when they're up, kick 'em when they're down."
Burrell got off to a strange start this season. His average and on-base percentage were pretty good, but he had hit just one home run before last night. He'd driven in only 11 runs.
But that's the Phillies, right? The leadoff guy has nine home runs, and the 5-hole hitter gets on base a lot but can't run. The last week or so, Burrell's average slipped. It was .237 going into the first game of this pivotal 10-game homestand.
That prompted Gillick to call the middle of the Phillies' lineup, including Burrell, the "culprit" for the team's record. Burrell and Wes Helms, the third baseman Gillick brought in over the winter, had one homer between them.
Now they have three. All Burrell's.
"I've got no problem with that," Burrell said of Gillick's comments. He said he wasn't aware of them before the game.
"I tend not to read the papers when we're here," Burrell said.
It was Schmidt who famously branded Philadelphia the place where you could experience the thrill of victory and the agony of reading about it the next day. At least Schmitty got to enjoy the victory part.
For Burrell, there has been more agony than ecstasy during his career here. Every now and then, he and the rest of us catch a glimpse of what it might have been like if the production had equaled the promise. Last night was one of those bittersweet times.