Jeromy Burnitz

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Jeromy Neal Burnitz

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Biographical Information[edit]

“If somebody wants to do it, that’s their decision. Whatever you think is fine. But when I’m 50 and I’m running around with my kids in the backyard, and you’re dead, that’s your deal.” - Jeromy Burnitz, to John Harper of the New York Daily News, on steroids, May 30, 2002

Jeromy Burnitz hit 315 homers in a 14-year career. Playing with seven teams, he may be best remembered for his time with the Milwaukee Brewers, making an All-Star appearance in 1999.

Burnitz played for Team USA when they were just 1-5 in the 1989 Intercontinental Cup. Even though he had not been All-Conference his last year at Oklahoma State, the New York Mets took him with the 17th pick of the 1990 amateur draft. He began his career with the Pittsfield Mets, hitting .301/.444/.497 with 45 walks in 51 games, leading the New York-Penn League in OBP, earning a brief stint with the High St. Lucie Mets. Baseball America named him the #10 prospect in the league. In 1991, Jeromy hit .225/~.369/.508 with the Williamsport Bills, drew 104 walks, cracked 31 homers, stole 31 bases, legged out 10 triples, whiffed 127 times, scored 80 runs and drove in 85. He became the first 30-30 player in the history of the Eastern League, led the league in homers, made the All-Star team and was rated the #3 prospect in the EL and #2 in the Mets chain (behind Todd Hundley) by Baseball America. In 1992, Burnitz only hit .243/~.295/.357 for the Tidewater Tides. His walk rate collapsed as he only coaxed 33 and he only homered 8 times. He stole 30 bags in 37 attempts to lead the team. He was still ranked as the club's #2 prospect, now behind Bobby Jones.

In 1993, the right fielder only hit .227/~.296/.404 with the Norfolk Tides, but still got the call to The Show, debuting on June 21, 1993. He had a solid big league debut, with a .243/.339/.476 line and 13 home runs in 263 at bats, roughly one every 20 at-bats. His speed was fading - only 13 steals in 26 tries - but he clearly possessed the pop in his bat to play regularly in the majors. Jeromy made the 1994 club out of spring training but struggled, putting together a meager .238/.347/.329 line in 45 games. He spent most of the year back in Norfolk, where he hit to a .239/.340/.452 line. On November 18th, he was traded, along with Joe Roa, to the Cleveland Indians for a player to be named later, Paul Byrd, Jerry Dipoto and Dave Mlicki. Burnitz spent 1995 with the Buffalo Bisons, producing at a .284/~.356/.503 clip. He led the American Association in RBI (85), slugging percentage and intentional walks (8) while his 19 homers tied for second best in the loop, four behind Brooks Kieschnick. He earned a September call-up and went 4 for 7 with 4 runs scored for Cleveland. In 1996, Jeromy had a fine .281/.406/.523 line for the Indians but they had Albert Belle and Manny Ramirez entrenched as their corner outfielders. And so, The Tribe dealt him at the trading deadline to the Milwaukee Brewers in return for Kevin Seitzer, who would appear in just 86 more games. Jeromy hit just .236/.321/.375 for the Brew Crew but he was about to take flight.

Burnitz seized a regular role, playing 153 games and batting .281/.382/.553 for the Brewers in 1997. He finished third in the AL in triples (8), 6th in extra-base hits (72), 9th in slugging percentage and 10th in OPS+ (140). He enjoyed his lone 20-20 season that year, with 27 bombs and 20 bags. Milwaukee moved to the National League in 1998 and Burnitz kept right on hitting, compiling a .263/.339/.499 line with career highs in homers (38), RBI (125) and strikeouts (158). He finished fifth in the NL in RBI and tied two players for sixth in home runs. Jeromy made his only All-Star team in 1999, when he produced at a .270/.402/.561 rate, setting career bests in OBP, slugging and walks (91). At the game, he replaced an injured Tony Gwynn in the starting lineup, becoming the first Brewer Paul Molitor to make a start. He finished 9th in the NL in OPS+, his best finish ever. In 2000, he became the second Brewer in history to hit at least 30 home runs in three straight seasons, following in the footsteps of "Stormin'" Gorman Thomas. Burnitz homered in four straight games from May 7th to May 10th and, on June 24th, he hit the longest home run in Turner Field history, a 454-foot blast. On September 9th, he was the first player to hit a ball into the right field upper deck at Enron Field, the new home of the Houston Astros; no one would match that feat until Yordan Alvarez in 2019. Overall, his line that year was .232/.356/.456 and he set a career high with 99 walks, 8th-best in the NL. In 2001, Burnitz hit .251/.347/.504 and scored a career-best 104 runs with 34 bombs and 100 RBI.

The Mets, having realized they had lost another young player before they blossomed into a star, sought to get Burnitz back in the fold. They acquired him in a 10-player, three-team deal involving the movement of fan favorite Benny Agbayani to Colorado and pinch hitter extraordinaire Lenny Harris to Milwaukee. Back in New York, Burnitz fell off a cliff production-wise in 2002, hitting a meager .215/.311/.365 with 19 home runs and 54 RBI, his lowest power totals since 1996. When he got off to a hot start in 2003 (.274/.344/.581 with 18 bombs in 65 games), the Mets peddled him to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a Victor Diaz, Jose Diaz and Kole Strayhorn. Jeromy's power forsook him once again, batting only .204/.252/.391 with 13 homers in 61 Dodger games. In 2004, he got a boost from Coors Field after signing with the Colorado Rockies as a free agent and hit .283/.356/.599 with 37 homers, 8th in the NL. The Rockies' were widely criticized for the move, but Jeromy had been a pleasant surprise for a 68-94 team. The Cubs added him the next year but he hit .258/.322/.435 with 24 homers and 87 for a mere 96 OPS+. Even though the Pittsburgh Pirates had a better right fielder in Craig Wilson, Dave Littlefield decided "what the hell, I'll make another bonkers move" and threw $6 million Jeromy's way. He declined hard in 2006, hitting only .230/.289/.412 for a 80 OPS+. Eventually, Jim Tracy stopped hitting him in the heart of the order, then began using prospects like Jose Bautista in his place. As he sat on the bench, Jeromy discussed retirement with reporters, something which became effective after the season.

In 1,694 games played during an offensive explosion, Jeromy slashed .253/.345/.481 while mashing 315 taters, driving in 981 runs and coming around to score 917 times. Burnitz was on the 2012 Hall of Fame ballot but failed to receive a single vote.

Sources include 1991-1996 Baseball Almanacs

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • NL All-Star (1999)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 8 (1997-2001 & 2003-2005)
  • 30-Home Run Seasons: 6 (1998-2001, 2003 & 2004)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 4 (1998, 1999, 2001 & 2004)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 1 (2001)

Related Sites[edit]