Veteran left-handed reliever Sean Burnett has announced his retirement from baseball in a lengthy, heartfelt statement via the New York Post’s Ken Davidoff (Twitter links). The 36-year-old southpaw had been pitching for the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate before deciding to call it career.
Burnett last saw big league action with the Nationals in 2016 — one of many comeback attempts from a clearly talented pitcher whose promising career was decimated by injuries. As Burnett notes in his statement, he underwent four different surgeries — two of them Tommy John procedures — over a professional career that spanned parts of 19 seasons.
Originally selected by the Pirates with the No. 19 overall pick in 2000, Burnett was regarded as one of the game’s pitching prospects prior to his MLB debut, twice landing on Baseball America’s Top 100 list (including a No. 25 placement in 2003). His rookie campaign in 2004 was rough around the edges, as evidenced by a 5.02 ERA in 71 2/3 innings, but Burnett also showcased his upside with a complete-game shutout in just his sixth career start. The fact that said shutout took place in Montreal against the Expos is a testament to the length of Burnett’s career and the tireless effort he put into striving to return from the injury woes he faced.
Arm troubles shelved Burnett for the entire 2005 season, and he wouldn’t make it back to a big league mound until 2008, at which point he’d transitioned to a relief role on a full-time basis. He was eventually traded from the Pirates to the Nationals, alongside Nyjer Morgan, in the deal that sent Joel Hanrahan and Lastings Milledge to Pittsburgh. Burnett was already throwing well at the time of the swap but stepped up his game over the next three and a half seasons in D.C., working to a combined 2.81 ERA and handling plenty of high-leverage spots ( 71 holds, 10 saves).
That strong run led Burnett to ink a two-year, $8MM contract with the Angels in free agency. Unfortunately for both Burnett and the Halos, he pitched just 10 1/3 innings over the life of that contract due to one of the aforementioned Tommy John procedures. From that point forth, Burnett battled myriad health issues as signed numerous minor league deals in an effort to return to the big leagues — a goal he achieved in that brief 2016 showing with the Nationals.
All in all, Burnett’s career will come to a close with a 3.52 ERA in 378 1/3 innings of work at the MLB level, though on can only wonder what type of success he might’ve had with better health. That said, the majority of fans and players alike would be thrilled to appear in 380 Major League games, toss a shutout, collect 91 holds and 10 saves, and earn a bit north of $13MM in salary along the way. In addition to his time with the Pirates, Nats and Angels, Burnett also pitched in the minor league ranks for the Mets, Twins, Marlins, Dodgers and Braves (plus the Phillies in Spring Training 2017). Best wishes to the lefty in his post-playing endeavors.
Thanks for all the time you spent entertaining us all. You were a good guy! Good luck in the future with whatever your endeavors may be.
I had forgotten all about Lastings Milledge. I never understood why he couldn’t get on w/ a big league club again – he seemed like a good ball player and his stats decent.
Always wondered why he could never put it all together too. Given his age, should still be playing in the bigs. I remember when he was the Pirates, it was brought up that he had issues. Just can’t remember what those issues were.
You used the magic word: “decent”. Milledge did everything decently well, but didn’t have any outstanding traits. A good comparison would be another ex-Pirate OFer, Jose Tabata. They both had decent power. decent speed, decent defensive ability… but IMO neither guy did any one thing well enough or consistently enough to make you want to keep them in the lineup.
To go with the merely decent stats, he was an absolute self-centered jerk that couldn’t get along with anyone anywhere.
I remember his Mets teammates got together at one point to leave a “know your place” (or something to that extent) banner on his locker. He even managed to piss off Frank Robinson too, I believe it was, when the team got to meet him. Was a constant problem who never put his physical tools into action
I assumed it had to be more than his stats – I just hadn’t heard of any character or off field issues. There are plenty of players with similar or worse stats that end up having full careers….so it’s always interesting to me to find out what went right or wrong for them to end up with the length of career they have.
Milledge had a lot of talent but came into the draft with some off the field issues (google it, would have been much more serious these days) but Then drew the ire of the Mets veterans in that 2006 season, namely slapping hi five with the fans after a game tying home run when he ran out to right field the next inning at Shea (think off Armando Benitez) Maybe his on field antics would be more celebrated today in the leagues desperate attempt to be “fun”. He also rapped which you can imagine wasn’t looked favorably on by anyone in the Mets clubhouse or front office.
Mendoza Line 215
Both Tabata and Milledge lacked power,and by that I think maybe 6-8 home runs a year.That really does not cut it for a ML outfielder.Like these posters have said,they were decent ball players otherwise,but after the newness wore off,and the Pirates realized what they had,they wanted to find better.I also think that their personalities may have contributed to the quickness of their falls.
Good luck Sean!
Sounds like he got a call from the Buccos 🙂
Adios Burnie…glad you kept pitching after your TJ surgery early in your career.
As a Pirates fan, good luck in retirement Sean.
I hadn’t realized he was still plugging away in the minors. Good for him for continuing to give it his best shot time and time again.
Yet another Angels player never really got to see on the field. Way too many of those over the years.
Mendoza Line 215
I may be wrong but I seem to recall reading that Burnett said that he was not enamored with the Pirates organization after he left.Of course that was when they had been pretty bad for a long time.
I remember the day he jacked up his arm. The poor guy looked like he wanted to break down and cry knowing that he was going to need TJ surgery right then and there.
With such a statement you merely show your age, or more pointedly, lack thereof.