So, A.J. Burnett chose to go the "rip the New York Yankees' route on his way out the Bronx Bombers door and into the Pittsburgh Pirates den. Upon arriving in Bradenton, Fla. to join the Pirates after being traded by the Yankees, Burnett told reporters he had allowed the Yankees to "tinker" with him too much.
"I let a few too many people tinker with me, maybe," Burnett said. "When you let that happen, you start doubting yourself sometimes. You wonder, ‘Am I doing it right? Is this how it's supposed to feel?' and things like that. In ‘09, nobody messed with me. I was able to do what I wanted to do on the mound, whether it was turn around, close my eyes and pitch upside down. Then you have a few bad games and you start changing and listening."
Sure, A.J. Rip the team that foolishly signed you to a five-year, $82.5 million dollar contract when no one else was willing to overlook your inconsistent and give you that kind of scratch. Rip the team that you won a World Series with. Rip the team that showed more patience with your frustrating inconsistency than you deserved a right to expect. A team that is still paying $20 million over the next two seasons for you NOT to pitch for them.
Sorry. Not buying it.
Burnett just had the two worst seasons of his wildly up-and-down 13 year career, posting ERAs of 5.26 and 5.15 while going 21-26 over those two seasons. He threw an amazing 41 wild pitches.
Maybe no one would have tinkered with Burnett, or tried to help him, if they hadn't been paying him gobs of money while he went from 6-2, 3.28 at the end of May in 2010 to 10-15 5.26 by year's end. Oh, and did I mention winning only once in his final 12 starts.
Maybe no one would have tinkered with him if he hadn't been just as awful last season, winning once in 12 starts from July 4 to September 7.
Maybe if two excellent pitching coaches, Dave Eiland and Larry Rothschild, hadn't tried everything possible to rescue Burnett we might buy that his struggles were everyone else's fault.
ESPN New York's Andrew Marchand wrote this about Burnett:
"The problem here is about responsibility. Burnett didn't know he should just take the blame that he had a five-plus ERA the last two years and didn't earn his money. That should have been it. But to blame anyone else is ridiculous."
Precisely. Own the fact that you didn't pitch well and didn't give the Yankees what they paid for A.J.
Burnett will probably pitch well for the Pirates -- at least most of the time. After all, he will be out of the spotlight playing for an organization that hasn't contended in ages. If he doesn't, though, you have to wonder who he will blame then.