A Tribute to “Papa” Buehrle

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As Mark Buehrle walked off the mound in the bottom of the seventh inning Friday night in Tampa, it very well could mark the last time he walks off a Major League Field. Buehrle would pick up his 15th win of the season as the Blue Jays.

Buehrle has now thrown 198 innings on the year leaving him two innings short of extending his streak of 200 innings pitched to 15 seasons. There is a slight possibility that the Blue Jays could let Buerhle start Sunday’s regular season finale in Tampa to get those two innings in, but the Blue Jays would most likely only do that if the have home field advantage throughout the playoffs wrapped up.

For the past 15 seasons Buehrle has never missed a start due to a stint on the disabled list and with the exception of this season for the moment has gone out and pitched 200 plus innings. In this day and age of injuries and the every day grind having a pitcher being able to achieve 16 seasons in the big leagues without ever landing on the DL due to injury is an astonishing achievement to me.

Buehrle has come along way since first getting his shot in the Big Leagues with the Chicago White Sox, working out of the bullpen in 2000 getting his first taste of playoff experience that year too as the White Sox won the AL Central before getting bounced in the first round by Seattle.

The next season he made the rotation and started his streak of 200 plus inning seasons. Buehrle would win 16 games in his first full season in Chicago and would make his first All-Star appearance in 2002. Buehrle, who wasn’t blessed with a blazing fastball topped out around 90-91 miles per hour in his early years in the Majors quickly made a name for himself as a workhorse and always has prided himself as being a quick worker. Buehrle is usually at the top of the list every season for quickest times between pitches.

Buehrle would go on to be apart of a World Series team with the White Sox in 2005, Buehrle picked up the save in the World Series clinching game that season against the Houston Astros. Buehrle was also a part of  baseball history with his days with the White Sox he pitched a no hitter against the Detroit Tigers in 2007 and adding a perfect game in 2009 against Tampa to his career achievements. In all Buehrle has been named an All-Star five times during his career, including last year his only time as a Blue Jay. Buehrle also has won four gold gloves.

Buehrle left Chicago as a free agent at the end of the 2011 season and signed a four year deal with the Miami Marlins that off-season. Buehrle’s time as a Marlin lasted all of one year before he was dealt to the Blue Jays as part of “The Deal” in November 2012.

I’ll be completely honest here, when the deal was made with Miami, I like most other Blue Jays fans were much more interested as in Josh Johnson. Johnson was the guy with plus stuff that everyone thought would lead the Blue Jays into the playoffs that next year, all I knew about Buehrle was that he was a soft tossing lefty that had enjoyed a ton of success in Chicago and that he and his wife owned a pit bull that thanks to Ontario’s pit bull ban was not welcomed in Toronto.

I give Buehrle a ton of credit though, he was a total professional about it as his family stayed in his hometown of St.Louis during the season while he was in Toronto and never once did it ever come up during his time in Toronto.

His start as a Blue Jay didn’t go so well as he had a more down than up April. There was that game in Tampa in early May that year where he gave up seven runs in the third inning as the Blue Jays fell behind 7-0, but he stayed in the game and gave the Blue Jays a chance to stay in the game as they would come back and win the game on a J.P Arencibia home run in the top of the ninth inning to win 8-7. From that point on that season he pitched well and carried that over into last season and for the most part this season.

But the biggest thing to me about Mark Buehrle goes beyond his stat line and what he does on the mound, it’s the leadership that he has shown during his time in Toronto. He’s a quiet guy that goes about his business and leads by example and is not your typical rah rah guy in the clubhouse. Drew Hutchison, whose locker was next to Buehrle last year, said he learned a ton just by watching Buehrle go about his work and preparation for a start.

It wasn’t as well known until last season when he took the rookies under his wing and became their mentors. There was the publicized shopping trip to fit a few of the rookies with a good suit, but there was more to it than that. Buehrle remembered when he was a rookie in Chicago and how there were a few veterans on that White Sox team that had no problem leading him down the wrong path and making his transition to the big leagues a tough one, he vowed that he would never be like that. He’s forged a strong friendship with Marcus Stroman, who has taken to calling him Papa Buehrle. Even while Stroman was undergoing his rehab this season away from the team he would always text Buerhle after every start. Buehrle also has been open with the young guys on the team letting them know if they ever have a question about anything that they can ask him and he’ll be more than happy to help guide them along.

Buehrle is well respected and loved by his younger teammates, the first one to greet him in the dugout after he came out of the game Friday night was Marcus Stroman who embraced him with a hug. Stroman also sent out this tweet after the game tonight.

Kevin Pillar added this.

There is a pretty good chance that Buehrle doesn’t make the post season roster and that won’t be an easy thing for John Gibbons to tell him that, the fact that Buerhle is a professional and has been around the block long enough to know and even admitted last Sunday that his career resume shouldn’t be a factor in the decision. The only thing that should matter is who are the best four that are pitching the best at the time and he gets it. But let it not be forgotten that the stretch of starts Buehrle had from May to late July, he was the best Blue Jay starter and I honestly don’t believe they win the division without his contributions to this team.

Buehrle’s experience being involved with pennant races also helped his teammates down the stretch as after games he was the one that would order the clubhouse guys to make sure that anything other than baseball was on the clubhouse televisions as he didn’t want his teammates to focus on what the Yankees were doing, and to only focus on what they could control and focus on the task at hand in winning the division. Buehrle is also one not to revel in the spotlight. When the Blue Jays clinched a playoff spot it was reported that he made a sandwich and stayed in the background for the celebration.

If indeed Friday night was Mark Buehrle’s last start not just as a Blue Jay but as a Major League pitcher I would like to wish Buehrle congratulations on a great career and best wishes in his retirement.

Also thanks for the three years that he gave the Blue Jays where he quickly became a fan favourite and a joy to watch pitch. A true class act, And in the end Cee Angi was right about how Blue Jays fans would love Buerhle.

 

 

 

2 comments

  1. Pingback: A Tribute to “Papa” Buehrle | Toronto Blue Jays
  2. Pingback: A Tribute to “Papa” Buehrle | Ruthian Sports

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