By Rob Kotaska
What a relief it must have been for A.J. Burnett once he was traded. Never mind that the Yankees would not have won the 2009 title without his gutsy performance in Game 2 ( I am sure Yankee fans will focus on his un-Dude performance in Game 5, so be it), he was persona non grata in the Bronx due his lack of production in the two seasons that followed the title.
To be fair he was awful.
But what most people and some Yankee fans understand is that not all players are wired to play in the Bronx. The lure of money and the chance to be in the mix for the title every year overcomes common sense more often than it should. This is the Yankee Way, and the players should only shoulder half the blame. But it is never the Yankees fault in any way, even when it is. (see Danny Tartabull and Carl Pavano)
For example: Josh Hamilton would be a nightmare in New York, his relapses would far outnumber his titles won. Though Josh should know better so should the Pinstripes. It would surely be money ill spent, and life left in ruins.
So A.J. was shipped off to baseball Siberia, the lovely city of Pittsburgh and never heard from by the mainstream media again. After Burnett was injured in Spring Training (in no small part due to the fact that he plays for the Pirates) I did not think about him again, until today.
While checking out the Indians score on ESPN.com I noticed that the formerly put upon starter/anti-Christ was thriving in his new digs, posting a 6-2 record and a 3.61 ERA heading into today’s game. Before you think, “What lowered standards we are judging pitchers by these days” keep in mind that A.J. has a career 4.09 ERA and his inflated ERA this year is largely due to a 12 earned run performance on May 2nd.
He has pitched into the 6th in 7 out of his 10 starts prior to today and boasts a .244 batting average against, with 57 strikeouts to 22 walks. It may not be the stuff of Cy Young, or even of his over-inflated contract, but A.J. looks to have found some peace of mind pitching in the Steel City. That is a nice story, one that could be told rather than the constant updates on the status of Josh Hamilton’s IV drip. Then again, his is pitching for the Pirates. They don’t matter even when they should…
NOTE: Burnett is now 7-2 after the Bucs beat the Tribe yesterday.