The Ordeals of A.J. Burnett

At their current trajectory, the Yankees are going to be eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. Here in the Bronx, A.J. Burnett – to my thinking the most important player on the roster – has again succumbed to the yips, and, for the fourth time in his last nine starts, surrendered six or more runs – twice in twelve days to the less-than-daunting Orioles. As on Monday, Burnett, staked to a 1-0 lead, wobbled in the second, giving up a blast to Nolan Reimold and then walking Matt Wieters with one out. There followed three successive singles – the last two of them dink hits by Aubrey and Andino – and then the almost predictable kaboom: a crushed and crushing grand slam by Brian Roberts.

Burnett’s ability to handle misfortune – or even ordinary adversity – seems to be declining. And as was speculated here in the press box by Pete Caldera of The Bergen Record, on what can the Yankees depend if they were to lose a Sabathia playoff opener 1-0 and had to hand the ball to Burnett in an essential second game? More daunting still, until today Burnett had made 14 starts at Yankee Stadium and only once given up more than three.

64 comments

  1. bigdave

    Hey, Keith! My thinking is that some of these players are already looking ahead to the playoffs and when they do get into that atmosphere, like a previous comment, it’s time to turn it up! On a personal note…..I grew up in L.A. and enjoyed your sportscasts back when we were both much younger. Regards, David

  2. judithlgregory@comcast.net

    Geez Krith:

    Previous 14 starts and no more than 3? Why, great record discounted by one night? Good thing your other job does not require you to be on each night. As a long standing fan of your other passion, there are nights you never hit it out of the ballpark and your opposition scores more points than you.

    Lighten up. You must have felt the “press”ure to be so negative by sitting in the wrong box.

  3. waynet@gmail.com

    Keith is dead-on. As mediocre as Burnett has been all year, his worst starts have come when there’s been some pressure. (Burnett’s ERA is exactly league average. Yankee Stadium has proven to be only a slight hitter’s park. Baseball-Reference rates it at 103. While balls have been flying out of there, doubles and triples have been depressed equally significantly. Both the Yankees and their opponents have scored almost as many runs when the Yanks are on the road as when they’re at home.)

    Once the post-season starts, there will be no more Mitre, Wang, Penny, Smoltz, et al. In games started by Sabathia, Chamberlain, Burnett, and Pettitte, 117 games in all, the Yankees are playing .658 ball. In games started by Lester, Beckett, Buchholz, and Wakefield, 89 games in all, the Red Sox are playing .699 ball.

    Add into the equation the fact that Beckett and Lester on the Sox side and only Pettitte on the Yankees side are proven big game pitchers and the fact that the Million Dollar Arm/Ten Cent head (see: Burnett, AJ and Chamberlain, Joba) doesn’t play well in the post-season, and Keith has ample reason to be concerned.

  4. kvanvlac@u.arizona.edu

    If you look at the moments in his career when AJ signs new contracts- he is super good prior to signing the new contract, and then mediocre the following year. This could be a case where AJ is suffering from the New York jitters. New York isn’t the most forgiving environment for a player especially if you sign a huge contract and you are told anything but winning the world series is unacceptable.

  5. ddhaff@verizon.net

    Keith, this is on a different subject, but I just read that you had written the forward in the book “More Than Merkle” by David Anderson. Did you know Fred Merkle personally? I went to school with his daughter Marianne, and dated his business partner’s daughter Joanne Thornton in the late 40’s.
    Don Haff

  6. ddhaff@verizon.net

    Keith, this is on a different subject but I just read that you had written the forward in the book “More Than Merkle” by David Anderson. Did you know Fred Merkle personally? I went to school with his daughter Marianne, and dated his business partner’s daughter Joanne Thornton in the late 40’s.
    Don Haff

  7. ddhaff@verizon.net

    Keith, this is on a different subject, but I just read that you had written the forward in the book “More Than Merkle” by David Anderson. Did you know Fred Merkle personally? I went to school with his daughter Marianne, and dated his business partner’s daughter Joanne Thornton in the late 40’s.
    Don Haff

  8. bodhiness@gmail.com

    Although I’m not a baseball fan, I enjoy your blog.

    Off topic, my best thoughts and prayers go out to your Dad. I hope he gets out of the hospital soon. My mom-in-law just had a major stroke so I have some idea of what your family may be feeling. Take care!

  9. lisakaz

    I think Burnett will be okay. He’s too good for this to keep going on. I think emotions can get the better of him but still he needs motivation (like the PS) to get him to work at his best.

  10. thebluebeaver@gmail.com

    In the 90’s a great farm system was coupled with some amazing acquisitions. The kind of guys who had been avg. good and some real good and the thing that united them the most was how they were a Yankee. Even Redsox fans can attest to that teams greatness. Those guys all played up to the bill. They were a great “TEAM”. Then somehow we and I mean Cashman lost his touch for putting an “Octoberish Picture” together. In recent years we have brought in the types of heroes that couldn’t fetch the damsdal in distress and left her tied down to the tracks. 18-2 one night and then lose 3-2 the next 10 nights. We are back on track or the tracks, we’ve got the girl in our arms and we are about to fly away having saved the day. And all of this is because a great team assumes each others mistakes and makes damage control look like fun. The Yankees are having a great year, they are having fun and there is no one guy, and even though the pitching has been good it is nice to know it doesn’t have to be. Also Beckett hasn’t looked so hot lately.

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