Burks looks to the future

Updated: April 12, 2004, 6:54 PM ET
By Jerry Crasnick | ESPN Insider
Ellis Burks has played for nine managers in 18 big-league seasons, and none had a more profound influence on him than Dusty Baker in San Francisco. So when Burks reached his mid-30s and began thinking more about a post-career course of action, it made perfect sense for him to knock on Dusty's office door in search of guidance.

When Baker told Burks he might make a good manager with time and the proper tutelage, it was the mother of all votes of confidence. Let's put it this way: It carried a lot more weight than an endorsement from Al Gore.

"As a player, there are managers you don't feel you can talk to about certain things," Burks said. "But I learned a lot from Dusty. He'd explain why he made this move, or whatever. You can talk to him about anything."

Burks, now 39, took a pay cut from $7.1 million to $750,000 to play for Boston as a part-time DH this season. His knees are shot; he can't throw because his elbow hurts too much; and he's off to a 1-for-15 start at the plate. If this isn't the end for him as a player, it's not far off.

But Burks should have an abundance of choices when he decides to retire. Survey everyone from front-office people to former teammates, and he's considered prime future manager material for a number of reasons.