A Premature But Nevertheless Entertaining Farewell To A.J.

February 13th, 2012 by Jane Heller

It’s very possible that a trade with the Pirates will be announced in time to celebrate Valentine’s Day, so Wally Matthews of ESPNNY was ready with a fond goodbye.

A six-pack to savor: The Best of A.J. Burnett
February, 13, 2012

By Wallace Matthews
In anticipation of the imminent end of the A.J. Burnett Error, ESPNNewyork.com humbly offers “A.J.’s Greatest Hits,” the highlights — or is it lowlights — of the three-year Yankees tenure of Allan James Burnett.

1. The Shiner

Every bit as mysterious as the Jack Nicholson/Stanley Kubrick film of a similar title, Burnett showed up with a black eye — the right eye, by the way (as an ex-boxing writer, I tend to notice these things) — before a start at Camden Yards in September of 2010, the source of which has never been revealed. All we were told is that it was not “baseball-related,” meaning none of his teammates took a poke at him, and a call to the local police stations in Baltimore revealed no evidence of an off-field incident involving the Yankees’ right-hander. I even asked Joe Girardi if he had popped Burnett. No,” said the manager, who was not laughing.

2. I have two words for you, Joe Girardi

“What keptcha?”

No, that’s not really what Burnett said when the manager came to collect him in the second inning of a miserable outing in Minneapolis. In fact, you didn’t have to be a lip-reader to know what Burnett threw back at his manager on the way off the mound, although everyone involved denied it afterward and Girardi even had an on-air meltdown when questioned about it by the YES Network’s Jack Curry. Whatever was said, and to whom, was serious enough to warrant Girardi charging down to the clubhouse and demanding that Burnett repeat it, according to Burnett, but the two claimed to be lovey-dovey after the game.

3. Clubhouse doors, beware

After Burnett pitched a shaky but certainly not terrible second inning against the Rays at Yankee Stadium on July 17, 2010, he was abruptly removed from the game after facing two batters in the third. The Yankees offered no explanation for the sudden pitching change until after the game, when Girardi, rather awkwardly, said, “A.J. got a little frustrated, and, er, hurt himself.” Turns out Burnett, after allowing a two-run HR to Reid Brignac in the second, had stormed into the clubhouse and slammed his hands into the doors leading to the back area, slicing the palms of both hands on the Plexiglas frames used to display the lineup cards. Burnett then made it worse, lying to Girardi that he had tripped on the stairs and landed on his hands. The result: the frames were gone by the next time Burnett started and the lineup cards are now taped to the doors.

4. Soupy Who?

In 2009, Burnett endeared himself to Yankee Stadium fans by treating teammates who won games with walkoff hits with a cream pie in the kisser — really nothing more than a blob of shaving cream in a towel — a continuation of a routine he had started while a Toronto Blue Jay. Since the Yankees had 15 walk-off wins in the regular season and two more in the post-season, Burnett threw more pies than Soupy Sales, the old TV comedian for whom pie-throwing was a form of comic aggression. In fact, Sales died during the 2009 season, an event I informed Burnett of in front of his locker. “That sucks,” Burnett said, with real concern on his face. “Who’s he?”

5. ABJ — Anybody but Jorge

No, there was never any problem between Burnett and Jorge Posada. The two got along fine –except on days Burnett was pitching and Posada was catching. And even though both vehemently denied what was clear to anyone paying attention –that Burnett didn’t like throwing to Posada and Posada didn’t like catching him — of the 15 post-season games the Yankees played on the way to the 2009 World Championship, Posada caught 10 of them, light-hitting Jose Molina the other five. The five pitched by Burnett. And as soon as Burnett left the game, so did Molina, for Posada as a pinch-hitter. In 2010, it was a similar arrangement, with Francisco Cervelli assuming the Molina role. Last year, there was no Posada behind the plate for A.J. to kick around, and in fairness, he seemed to find a rapport with Russell Martin.

6. It wasn’t all bad. Really

There was, of course, Game 2 of the 2009 World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies, both a blessing and a curse for Yankees fans. The blessing was that Burnett pitched seven strong innings, striking out nine, in the Yankees 3-1 win, the victory that evened the Series after Cliff Lee had stifled the Yankees in Game 1. The curse was that this was the game Girardi kept pointing to as his reason for keeping Burnett in the rotation, even when it was approaching two years in the rear-view mirror.

As Matthews notes, it wasn’t all bad, and that was the frustrating part of A.J. Burnett. He was always capable of throwing a no-hitter and he won some big games for the Yanks. But watching him pitch was like watching a trapeze artist fly without a net; you just never knew when he’d lose it and plunge.



Tags: , ,

8 Responses to “A Premature But Nevertheless Entertaining Farewell To A.J.”

  1. James Buxton says:

    It was a while since my last comment, a lot of work.
    I want to wish to every Yankee fan a happy new spring taining!!!!
    I have mixed feelings for AJ. he wasn’t bad all the time, but he wasn’t good either.
    His highlight for me? My sister went to watch the A’s in Yankee Stadium, hoping to se Jeter, Jorge, and Mariano.
    It was the only game from that series the Yankees lost. The pitcher? AJ Burnett.
    I hope he returns to his old form. Bye bye AJ!!

  2. barbara says:

    i think he needs to go but i don’t really believe he is going. i think the ny market is too tough for him. i miss the pies and that is all

  3. Jane Heller says:

    Nice to see you, James. Happy Almost Spring Training. If the trade happens, I think AJ will do well in the NL, particularly at the Pirates’ stadium. I wish he could have improved and stayed a Yankee, but at this stage of his career he’s not going to become something he’s not.

    You don’t think he’ll be gone, Barbara? It’s sounding like a pretty good bet, because the Pirates really want a veteran like him and the Yankees seem willing to pay some of his $$. I guess it’s just a question of the prospects we’d get in return.

  4. Emma says:

    AJ Is like Billingsley. We never know what we are going to get with Billz. I so hope he pitches well this year. I hope AJ gets it together too no matter where he ends up.
    Is my blog’s 3rd year anniversary today! I have met wonderful people as a result of my blog like you Jane and some of your fans.
    I played in a softball tournament on Saturday with about 12 Dodger blogs. I alternated the catching with another lady but Oh boy! I was very sore on Sunday. Next time I better get in shape before I agree to play.

  5. Emma says:

    Don’t know what happened to my post. HI Jane! AJ reminds me of Billingsley. You never know what you are going to get with him. I know I’ve been saying this every year but I hope he gets it together this year. Hope is eternal.
    Today is my blog’s 3rd birthday! 2/13/2009 I started and I have met so many people because of baseball. I love it! I played in a Softball tournament with Dodger Blog teams about 12 teams. It was so much fun but boy was I sore the following day. I shared catching duties with another lady. Isn’t great baseball is around the corner!!

  6. Jane Heller says:

    Happy Anniversary to you and your Dodgers blog, Emma. Sounds like you’ve been getting a head start on spring training by playing in that softball tournament.

  7. Jeff says:

    Fascinating trip this AJ Train has taken us on, isn’t it? I remember when he was the big free agent signing. Just goes to prove nothing is a sure thing.

  8. Jane Heller says:

    I remember that press conference with CC and AJ, Jeff, and it was such an exciting time in the AJ journey. But nothing is a sure thing, especially when it comes to pitchers.