Pat Burrell proved it Friday, returning to the World Series champion San Francisco Giants for a nominal $1 million one-year contract, even though general manager Brian Sabean said that the team will go to Spring Training with Burrell the "incumbent" left fielder.
"He was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice," said Sabean. "We established early on this season that no matter what the baseball card says or the contract, we play the best people. In some ways, he comes to Spring Training as the incumbent left fielder. We'll see what develops. While it's role-player money, we won't shy away from what he contributed this year and what he's able to do next year."
Burrell, who has earned $70 million over an 11-season career and $9 million in 2010, negotiated the deal himself.
"Sometimes it gets complicated the more people that get involved," said Burrell, who won the World Series two years after winning one in Philadelphia. "I wanted to come back to San Francisco, and that's all I needed to know. Different things are important to players at different stages of your career. Obviously, young players want to get established. I was fortunate to be a part of pretty good deals.
"In Philly, it taught me that winning is the only thing that matters. You can play 20 years and not get the chance for celebrating the postseason and the camaraderie with the guys. You don't hear that much these days, but for me, it's big. And the Giants gave me the opportunity to play again. I feel loyalty to that as well."
Burrell was one of Sabean's shrewd pickups en route to glory. Burrell was released by Tampa Bay after hitting .202 in 24 games of the second year of a two-year, $16 million contract. Signed by the Giants in May, he hit .266 with 18 home runs and 51 RBIs in 96 games.
"His production was something we sorely needed," said Sabean. "He's so old-school, he brings so much to the table. Our goal was to keep as much of the team together going forward. Pat's timely decision takes a lot of the pressure off us in so many ways. He did a great job leading that room [clubhouse] and showing people how to work. I'm gratified he wants to remain a Giant."
Burrell acknowledged that his World Series performance has been forgettable (1-for-27 with 16 strikeouts), especially this year.
"I more than struggled. I had trouble putting the ball in play," he said of an 0-for-13 World Series with 11 strikeouts against Texas. "Deep down it bothers you, of course, but we won, and that's all that matters. I didn't come back because I feel I have to prove something."
Originally the first overall pick in the 1998 Draft by the Phillies, Burrell has a .254 career average with 285 home runs and 955 RBIs. He has at least 30 home runs in four seasons and at least 20 in nine seasons.
"At this point of my career, it's more important to be part of something special than to test free agency and all that goes with it," he said. "I don't know where I would have fit in free agency. What I wanted was to come back. The Giants gave me the chance to be part of something really special. My mind was made up three-quarters through the year. If I was going to play this year, this is the place to do it. At this point, it's about being happy and enjoying the players and staff and the organization and the way the Giants do things. They are first-class. I couldn't be happier."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.