Sunday, July 18, 2010


What does $4,125,000 mean to you? A century worth of salary for many Americans, for sure. Well, this is also the amount of money AJ Burnout makes in a quarter of the season. Assuming the guy throws 32 starts, a quarter of the season would be eight starts.

In AJ's last eight starts, he is 1-6 with an 8.12 ERA. In 38 2/3 innings, Burnett has walked 22 guys compared to 29 strikeouts, and he has surrendered ten home runs. His stuff has been so electric that opposing batters are hitting .306 with a .965 OPS against him. We all know about the "electric stuff." Burnett is a talented player who only consistently has it all together. Part of it is mechanical. And part of it is mental. The fact that he's punching doors with his pitching hand is further proof that the guy doesn't have it together.

Look, people were questioning Burnett's mindset all the way up until the World Series last year. However, the guy performed and he gained Pat's undying adulation forever, as did Arod and everyone else wearing the uniform except for Girardi. That's why I'm taking over and calling out a guy whose inability to keep himself under control is preventing his team from twisting the knife and winning the division by ten games. Sometimes you gotta keep it real. As Pat said, at least he gives a [expletive]. At least he feels bad about the fact that the late Steinbrenner's electric bill since June 8th was over $4 million but has gotten nothing but brownouts. By brownouts, I mean Kevin Brown.

But last October, we thought we had seen a new AJ Burnett. A guy who cared but could channel his energy correctly. A guy who lived up to the hype, lived up to the money, lived up to the electric stuff. The stuff about how he's fragile physically and mentally and how, specifically due to that, the controversial $82.5 million signing was tremendously risky. Compared to this, the Javier Vazquez (which I really didn't consider a bad deal) signing is small potatoes.

But here we are. He hasn't performed since May. At some point, when you're making as much as Burnett makes, you shouldn't need Dave Eiland to hold your hand. If this were Vazquez in a slump this long, the only reason we'd be discussing it here is for the specific fact that it is fun to rag on Pat. This is bigger than that and, yes, the money and the years in the controversial contract are issues. This is a roster spot for a long time, and it's money that theoretically could be used to acquire Cliff Lee or another better free-agent pitcher.

This is more than just a slump: it's a quarter of a season. Pat not talking about this is like if I had not talked about Ortiz last year. Granted, the Yankees are 25 games over .500. But AJ Burnett pitching like what he's capable of would enable the team to twist the knife and make sure this race is over by August 15th.

The fact that he's losing fights against doors proves he cares. That's cool, I guess. But the fact that he's not telling the Yankees about it - and the fact that he hurt himself doing it - screams Kevin Brown. Pat's boy Joel Sherman of the Post said Burnett can't be trusted. That he's wasting his talent by failing to concentrate and keep it together. Bottom line:

It's the same old AJ.


Anonymous said...


Burnett is a guy who has hot streaks and cold streaks. Some are more pronounced than others. Last year the guy was hot and cold at different points of the season. Some of the cold streaks were shorter, some of the hot streaks were longer. He really wasn't any different last year than he'd been any other year (his career ERA+ is 108 and he put up a 106 last year). The only difference is that for the first time in his career he pitched in the playoffs. And he had a hot streak. But so have guys like Russ Ortiz, Matt Morris, Livan Hernandez, and Jose Contreras. It doesn't make any of those guys great. And while it may have changed expectations for him, it is probably unfair that it did.

All that we're seeing now out of AJ Burnett is exactly what you said--the same guy that he's always been. Not that he's always been a guy with an ERA north of 8, but this cold spell is part of the ebb and flow that is AJ Burnett. I'm certain he'll pitch well later in the season. The bigger issue for everyone else is that as horrible as he's been lately, the Yankees have only gotten better. The only way the Yankees could get caught by anyone is if they get a Red Sox like injury bug and a lot of other stars like Andy Pettitte start falling.

--the Gunn

the gm at work said...

I'm assuming that's a tongue-in-cheek comment with Pettitte being out for 4-6 weeks with a groin?

PF said...

Bingo gunn. The only reason this is a story is if (1) you need to sell newspapers (which is understandable) or (2) you're not a rational baseball fan (like dan) and have been ornery because of an injury and just want to hammer negative storylines about players you don't care for (like dan). Why? Because it's all been said before. Burnett can't be trusted and is a peaks and valleys pitcher? You're kidding. Dan tried to spin this story anew by saying we thought that changed last year after the playoffs. I don't know who "we" is, because that's news to me. What I remember is him going out and throwing the biggest game of his life (and biggest game for any yankees starter in a decade) and following that up with an absolute stinker in game 5 with a chance to close out the series. Aj burnett is who aj burnett is.

And if you can take a moment to peel yourself away from the hyperbole, that's fine for the yankees. Its the perfect spot for him. He's surrounded by a deep rotation, where in terms of total production he's at best the 4th, possibly the 5th starter. This allows his hot streaks to be maximized and cold streaks to be minimized. When he's on, he's as talented as any of them and can carry the team if need be. He was 4-0 with a 1.99 in early may, helping the yankees absorb vazquez's horrid month. He was 6-2 with a 3.28 in early june, helping the team deal with simultaneous injuries to rivera, posada, pettitte, and granderson, which nobody talked about much because the yankees kept winning, thanks in part to burnett.

Has he been bad since? Yes, worse than his usual slumps, even. But that's what he does, and the yankees' rotation is deep enough to absorb it in order to get the world series game 2 or how he was in april and may. That's why you sign a high upside guy. Not everyon can just chug along consistently for 6 months. And unless you're dv, that's ok.

PF said...

Should he be punching things in frustration? No. But as someone who played sports for a long time, sometimes you get frustrated and lose your cool. Give me a guy like that any day of the week than a guy who doesn't want to win. That's probably why burnett is as loved in the yankee clubhouse as he is. Again, not everyone can be so perfect as to only vent their frustration in the best possible way. So who really cares.

And part of it, as always, is timing. If burnett was punching walls and going through one of his cold streaks along with a yankees losing streak or other things going wrong, this is all more of an issue. But he's been at his best when the yankees needed him most, and off his game while the yankees are 25 over. You could argue, as dv is, that if burnett was pitching the yankees would be up more than 3 games. That ignores that if he headnt pitched in april/may, they wouldn't be up 3 games. When you aren't purely interested in sensationalism and ripping people, these are the type of things you can see.

Same old aj. Yup, and that's just fine. As gunn said, he'll turn it around again, because that's what he does. His 2 starts prior to saturday are evidence of that, so long as he can stay healthy. Average on the whole, elite at his high end. Going to be in trouble if that type of player is leading your rotation. At the middle-back end, it's just what the yankees' ordered. Nothing has changed, and that's more than fine, as last year's world series ring on his finger reminds us.

PF said...

*biggest game for any yankees starter in nearly a decade. Some pretty big ones in 01, 03, and 04.

the gm at work said...


Thanks for providing the exact response I was anticipating. Brightened up my Monday. Not sure whether it's entirely fair to launch the personal attack ("ornery because of an injury"), but your points at least make some kind of sense.

I don't see why it's necessary to "peel [my]self away from the hyperbole," because at the end of the day, it's fun to rag on a high-profile, often second-guessed Yankee signing of a guy with a history of inconsistent, checkered performance. I'm pretty sure that especially seeing that the Red Sox' season is going right down the toilet, I have more than just a license to rag on a Yankee when he f***s up. I feel like it's my responsibility as a Red Sox fan to do it.

Let's just say you were sharing a blog with Theo Epstein, someone who won't admit that the JD Drew signing was questionable. Provided that the Yankees weren't performing in a way that is worth writing about, if you read that JD sat out a game due to a sore neck, then belted two home runs in the next game, would you rag on JD that next day? If you don't rag on JD for it, you're not doing your job as a fan of the rival.

Does this feel like 1996 or what? Oh, wait, we'll probably get to that tomorrow.

Anonymous said...


Off topic here. But I want to know where Jon Bandi has been. He should be ashamed of himself for not getting into this space and stirring it up. Yes, he's employed. Yes, he's still acting head of the A-Team. But that doesn't change the fact that he has an obligation to make snarky remarks and cause problems at HYD.

--the Gunn

PF said...

Considering that you told me in a side conversation that you have been more on edge due to injury/lack of running, I didn't view that as a personal attack, but perhaps I wasn't supposed to take that public. If so I apologize. I would say that normally the "irrational" comment would be more of a jab, but I know you pride yourself on that.

Fair points on the rival team philosophy and resultant rip job.

the gm at work said...


What's irrational is the fact that the Yankees paid $16.5 million for a third starter.

I can rip Burnett for sucking and punching doors for the same reasons I can rip Karim Garcia and Jeff Nelson for sucking and assaulting groundskeepers, the same reason I can rip Chuck Knoblauch for sucking and throwing baseballs at Keith Olbermann's mom, and the same reason I can rag on Steve Howe, Darryl Strawberry, and Dwight Gooden sucking and blowing more coke than Len Bias.


The re-addition of Bandi would be good, but as you said before, the person we need in this debate (and others) is FTB. He has made extended disappearances before, and I doubt that Pat's defense of his heroes against FTB keeping it real is keeping FTB from coming back. It would be nice to have another Burnett-hater on my side, especially if he's from the inside.

PF said...

In your opinion. I doubt I'm the only fan that is less concerned with "value" than "winning". On the whole, aj burnett helps the yankees win. This is not debatable. There just aren't a lot of guys who can do what he can with the baseball, ala the game against boston at yankee stadium last august, world series game 2, etc. The yankees will live with the clunkers to get those performances, because they are so helpful to in winning, which is the goal, and you can't find those performances just anywhere. Is it worth 16.5 million? I don't know, I don't care, and I don't think it matters. What I do know is that it isn't irrational, because he helps the yankees win. The yankees spent what they needed to to obtain that player (atlanta offered 2.5 million less over the same years). What cost to get him isn't important. That they got the player is. He helped win the 2009 world series, and thus made it even easier to play for his contract. Think small and get small results. Think big and take risks and get big results. Let everyone else cry about how much your third starter costs or "efficiency". I'd rather count world series rings.