He’s gonna Burl

Blue Jays at Orioles 4/13/14

This afternoon may be the final time we see Mark Buehrle pitch.

It’s funny how things turn out.

When he was acquired from the Marlins as part of the massive Jeff Mathis trade, Mark Buehrle was something of an afterthought. Josh Johnson was poised to take the American League by storm and Jose Reyes was coming off a healthy and productive season, ready to electrify the fans in Toronto. Buehrle was considered, by many, to be the ugly contract the team had to absorb in order to make the deal work.

Fast forward a few years and the man they call Papa is been the biggest part of that deal, from a Blue Jays perspective.

Buehrle is an absolute treat to watch pitch. With stuff that doesn’t look much better than mine (note: I’m a decent pitcher…in my beer league) he’s managed to get by for so long on guile, changing speeds, and straight out Burl-ing. There’s really no way to describe how he’s found success.

And that’s not to mention the fact he’s routinely among the fastest workers in baseball, is a great fielding pitcher, and one of the better pick off artists in baseball. He’s just fun to watch.

While the Jays struggled to find the right recipe to create a playoff-bound team, Buehrle was the one guy you could always rely on, day in and day out, to take the hill. His reliability perhaps led us, as fans, to take him for granted. And every time he hit a rough patch the knives came out as media, fans and talking heads questioned whether Father Time had finally caught up with the ageless wonder. And each time he’d silence the critics by going back and Burl-ing a seven-inning, one run gem.

But now it appears, that perhaps, it truly is the end of the road. Buehrle, himself, hasn’t said anything definitively, for either his career or his time in Toronto. But it certainly feels like it might be. People around the team are talking like it is.

If so, I sure hope he goes out this afternoon with his 200 innings.

It’s funny, Buehrle’s been considered done, for what it feels like, most of the season. But with a couple innings this afternoon he’ll finish the season with a very Buehrle-esque 200 innings, 3.82-ish ERA, 2.3 fWAR, and a 15-7 record. In what might be his final season in Toronto, perhaps his final season in the big leagues, Mark Buehrle has once again been taken for granted, in a sense. Without his steady play early in the season – when the starting pitching was a disaster – the team might not have been close enough to convince Alex Anthopoulos to pull off the big trades he did. That shouldn’t go unnoticed.

It’s a shame we probably won’t see Buehrle in the playoffs. And it’s too bad that’s totally the right call. In years past Gibby could have run Buehrle out throughout September to get him his 200 without today’s somewhat odd plan. It’s the price you pay for success. There’s no room for sentimentality. No room to honour the veterans.

Perhaps the best way to honour Mark Buehrle in a season like this, is for the young pitchers he’s mentored over the past few years to go out and Burl their ways to a World Series.

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