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A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News

Strange end to a strange saga

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Misc on Feb 17, 2012 Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post


Hideki Matsui was the MVP of the 2009 World Series, and it was well deserved, but no individual performance mattered more than A.J. Burnett’s start in Game 2.

The Yankees had lost the series opener at home, and they needed a Game 2 win to avoid going into Philadelphia, down two games to none, needing to win two of three on the road just to stay alive. They were about to face Cole Hamels in Game 3. There was another Cliff Lee start looming. The series was tilting the wrong direction.

Burnett pitched seven innings of one-run ball. He went toe-to-toe with Pedro Martinez, fending off the Phillies lineup until the Yankees could finally get something going. It was a turning point of the series. It was Burnett’s finest hour in pinstripes.

No matter what came before or after, Burnett earned his World Series ring that night. Whether he earned his $82.5 million is debatable at best, but Burnett was terrific on a night the Yankees couldn’t settle for anything less.

Things have changed, of course, and the Yankees have decided it’s time to settle.

There’s nothing good about paying a pitcher $20 million to pitch for someone else, but Burnett had lost all value to the Yankees. He followed that one big postseason start with more bad days than good, and the Yankees had to move on. Their offseason additions provided plenty of rotation alternatives, and Burnett became more valuable as a salary dump than as a starting pitcher.

One good moment won’t define Burnett’s time in pinstripes. His Game 5 start in that very same World Series was a two-inning debacle, and his solid division series start last year came at the end of a second straight disappointing regular season. He made 98 starts for the Yankees and carried a 4.79 ERA. He twice led the league in wild pitches and once led in hit batters. He was often a mess, which masked the fact he was occasionally pretty good. His first two months were pretty good in each of the past two seasons, but his performance inevitably dissolved into the frustration of a lost cause.

What went wrong, you ask? It honestly felt like no one could quite figure it out. Maybe it was age and a fading fastball. Maybe it was a series of mechanical inconsistencies. Maybe it was a spiraling lack of confidence.

For whatever it’s worth, I believe Burnett is and was a hard worker. I believe he always showed up in shape, ready to pitch. I believe he was a standup guy with the media — I told people several times, nobody rips A.J. Burnett quite as well as A.J. Burnett – and although he was always optimistic about what came next, he was also disappointed after every one of those missed opportunities. And there were a lot of them.

Burnett won’t be remembered fondly in New York, and that’s fair. He signed a massive contract and didn’t live up to it, and players rarely receive a hero’s sendoff when that happens. So this is how it ends, with Burnett sent away for pennies on the dollar, a strange conclusion to a saga that could have ended no other way.

Associated Press photo





54 Responses to “Strange end to a strange saga”

  1. cs in la February 17th, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    Paying Pittsburgh $20 mil to unload AJ is a crime. But its nothing like the headaches we had all summer every five days.

    I wish the best for AJ and hope he’s lights out there.

  2. Ys Guy February 17th, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    i’m actually fine with burnett. he didnt perform during the regular season, but that didn’t keep them out of the playoffs. then in the PS he won a couple of big games. i’m happy they are getting rid of him because i think they have better options, but i have no problem with burnett. i hope he does great in pittsburgh.

  3. Yankee Trader February 17th, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    Has it been reported which Mystery team was interested in Burnett.

  4. LGY February 17th, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    Burnett won some big games in October but he also completely bombed in others.

    He finished 2-2 with an ERA over 5 as a Yankee in the playoffs.

  5. MG February 17th, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    LGY February 17th, 2012 at 5:51 pm
    Burnett won some big games in October but he also completely bombed in others.

    He finished 2-2 with an ERA over 5 as a Yankee in the playoffs.
    Burnett was so inconsistent as a Yankee the stats don’t mean much because the extremes are so far apart.

    I thought he should have been pulled from the rotation permanently after being absolutely bombed by the Orioles one night, there is no telling how the 6 man rotation affected the rest of the staff, in particular CC. He did pitch better after that but I think the Yankees would probably been better off with the shorter rotation down the stretch and had a better chance to win some rounds in the playoffs if CC was pitching as well as he did prior to the rotation change (we’ll never know for sure, of course, it’s all speculation).

    But the Yankees as a team are better off without Burnett because they have so many other options available to fill that final spot in the rotation, they haven’t been this deep in many, many years.

  6. stuckey February 17th, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    “Advantage Yankees at 2B and 1B. Advantage Rangers at SS, 3B, RF, C.”

    We talking line-up or overall?

    Offensively (just going by pure memory) Andrus over Jeter is a stretch.

    Napoli is also not their everyday catcher (their everyday catcher has a lower OPS than Martin) and it’s likely Napoli doesn’t approach what he did last year.

    And would anyone be shocked if Arod had the better year?

  7. yanks 27 February 17th, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    #yankees won’t finalize ibanez and chavez until burnett deal is approved and he passes physical sunday w/ pirates.

  8. Irreverent Discourse February 17th, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    stuckey – That should be overall, not just offense. I hope that’s what he meant, anyway.

  9. Joe from Long Island February 17th, 2012 at 6:01 pm

    aj filled a need, when they needed it, in 2009. after that, it was kind of like chad said.

    i’ve said it before, it’s too bad he wasn’t better for the nyy, because he seems like a good teammate.

    best of luck to him, but he wasn’t getting any better here, and they have better options.

  10. MoRings42 February 17th, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    It kinda sucks that theres going to be no more pie in the face.. really wanted to see Jeter get it one of these days

  11. 108 stitches February 17th, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    Burnett was a less than .500 pitcher for 3 regular seasons and 2-2 in postseason appearances.
    Larry Rothschild did his level best to correct his flaws and teach him how to repeat his mechanics but to no avail even with going to Burnett’s barn in Maryland last winter.
    Good luck to Pirate pitching coach Ray Searage. Maybe he can perform magic.

  12. Cashmoney February 17th, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    It kinda sucks that theres going to be no more pie in the face.
    the two essential ingredients r still in place- a face and some shaving cream. So there is hope in that area.

    On AJ, i wish him the best endeavor in PIT, he prolly do aight in that park and in NL.

  13. hardwired7 February 17th, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    Didn’t know what to think when they signed him. As he rides off into the sunset I still don’t know what the hell to think.

    Just an enigma…

  14. m February 17th, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    Good luck to AJ. He’s better than this, and he wouldn’t be the first or last to fail to live up to expectations in New York.

    Go kick some butt in the NL Central!

  15. Cashmoney February 17th, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    i think Pit sees a possible veteran, playoff tested (good or bad), inning eater in burnett. At 13 mil for 2 season and lack of top flight pitchers willing to commit to Pit for money or other reasons it is not a bad move for the bucko.

  16. Cashmoney February 17th, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    m… with a deteriorating fb and still lack of command he may or may not to better than ‘this’, however that may translate into mediocrity in NL central.

  17. m February 17th, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    If the Braves are making the playoffs in the next year or 2, I could see a swap with the Pirates.

  18. trisha - true pinstriped blue February 17th, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    I feel sad losing AJ for all of the reasons that have already been noted. It makes me kind of tear up, because he was really a good guy and a stand-up guy. He always wanted to do good for the Yanks.

    I’ll remember AJ not for the times he may not have finished the job, but for the times he did it in a blaze of glory. I’ll remember his successes on the mound when he paired with Molina and Cervelli. I’ll remember his filthy knuckle curve and watching batters totally frozen when that thing would just drop right out of the zone. I’ll remember how he mowed them down in the WS against the Phils, and I’ll remember how he kept the Yankees playoff hopes alive in Game 4 this past postseason.

    But most of all I’ll remember his heart. Because if you watched the man and not just the numbers, you couldn’t have missed it.

    Happy Trails AJ. You were always an ace in my books.


  19. trisha - true pinstriped blue February 17th, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    “Good luck to AJ. He’s better than this, and he wouldn’t be the first or last to fail to live up to expectations in New York”

    Amen, mel.

  20. amfinfin February 17th, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    We all start to cry
    because there will be no more Pie

  21. PacoDooley February 17th, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    I ‘m surprised that i feel some sadness to the trade. Mind you, I am happy that the team no longer has to send out a guy that finds a way to put up a 5+ ERA (regardless of his FIP). But there was always this annoying hope with AJ. He would flash that fantastic curveball and make you believe at times. And so there was always some level of optimism that he could put together a great start. I won’t feel bad if he goes to the Pirates and has a great season. The way I see it, the team traded two years of a losing pitcher for one year of Kuroda, with a little cash left over.

    I’m hoping that they invest some of that savings in signing Soler now so we have another outfielder to look forward to…

  22. blake February 17th, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    4:46pm: Heyman says the Yankees won’t “finalize” things with Ibanez and Chavez until after Burnett has passed his physical and the league has approved the trade (Twitter link

    Damon better hurry

  23. blake February 17th, 2012 at 6:58 pm

    “I’m hoping that they invest some of that savings in signing Soler now so we have another outfielder to look forward to…”

    Me too….but its looking like they will sign Ibanez and Chavez and then invest the rest in gold…..

  24. blake February 17th, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    Yankeesource @YankeeSource 4h Cashman finally puts down the “objective pipe.” Smoking kills, so does trusting Burnett after the 4th inning.

  25. Nick in SF February 17th, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    “I had no reason to be over-optimistic
    but somehow when you smile I can brave bad weather”

    AJ :cry:

  26. trisha - true pinstriped blue February 17th, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    Nick – that made me cry.

    blake, I really don’t see any reason to trash AJ on his way out. Really. We all know you’re happy about this, but it isn’t that the guy didn’t try his best. How about showing a little appreciation for whatever good he did for the team, or in the least, not giving in to the temptation to post nasty tweets about him.


  27. MTU February 17th, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    I’m looking forward to this Ro in 2012 :


    And to this one in 2013 :



  28. blake February 17th, 2012 at 7:12 pm


    If you read back through….I’ve posted three separate times thanking Way for what he did and wishing him well in Pittsburgh …..that tweet is more a dig at Cashman IMO and pretty harmless……I’ve trashed Heyman on here numerous times for his mean spirited tweets about AJ and also defended AJ numerous times from folks talking about his supposed “mental health”

  29. trisha - true pinstriped blue February 17th, 2012 at 7:13 pm

    If that was more for Cashman, then I take back what I said.

  30. GreenBeret7 February 17th, 2012 at 7:13 pm

    So, who’s the next dog for this board to kick? Hughes? Rodriguez? Swisher? Nunez? Teixeira? Somebody new?

  31. trisha - true pinstriped blue February 17th, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    GB – sad isn’t it.


  32. MTU February 17th, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    Blake has a heart of gold.

    Just like you Trisha.


  33. blake February 17th, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    And I am happy about the trade ….but only because its what’s best for both parties….AJ included

  34. sevrox February 17th, 2012 at 7:17 pm

    Any idea where one can go to see current Spring Training pix of the Yanksters? Thanks.

  35. trisha - true pinstriped blue February 17th, 2012 at 7:17 pm

    blake, I understand. I still have a lot of faith in his ability and totally expect for him to excel in Pittsburgh. And I’ll be rooting for him all the way. A real good guy and a real good Yankee.

  36. blake February 17th, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    AJ might start opening day

  37. yankeefeminista February 17th, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    Good luck, AJ. You were gutsy and a battler. I will never forget Game 2 of the WS. May you prosper in Pittsburgh.

  38. trisha - true pinstriped blue February 17th, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    I am now breaking down and re-upping my DTV subscription almost two months early because the Sports Pak contains MSG.



    TS, how old are your kids now? I’m almost afraid to ask! And how about sending me some recent snaps of them!?

  39. MTU February 17th, 2012 at 7:19 pm


    My guess would be either Kuroda or Pineda.

    Some people may have their expectations set too high.

    That almost always leads to disappoinment.

    I am particularly concerned about Pineda since so many see him needing to be equivalent or better than Jesus immediately.

    God help him if he stumbles for a while.

  40. blake February 17th, 2012 at 7:19 pm

    Yea….I hope AJ does great for the pirates….pirates….

  41. LockDown February 17th, 2012 at 7:20 pm


    I’m one of those who will miss AJ. I believe he’ll do well next year & wish him all the best. As much as I wanted him to bounce back in NY and be a feel good story in 2012, I think it’s best that he start over in Pit-land. I could see him thrive there. I wouldn’t mind seeing the pirates get to the post season too. ;) But I have a feeling AJ will be traded. And if this is the case, I hope he goes to the phillies (lights a candle), though Det keeps coming to mind.

    BTW: Phillies was the mystery team but couldn’t unload blanton. (I was praying they were the mystery team). AJ could be teaming up with Roy once again. :P

  42. Nick in SF February 17th, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    Trisha, before you sign on for DTV, be aware that while the Sports Pak carries MSG, that doesn’t mean the Knicks games won’t be blacked out. They usually make you pay seperately if you want the pro games (NBA/NHL/MLB) even if they’re carried on a regional sports network. I would ask them before you commit to anything.

  43. Ys Guy February 17th, 2012 at 7:23 pm

    “So, who’s the next dog for this board to kick? Hughes? Rodriguez? Swisher? Nunez? Teixeira? ”

    aside from the constant dogs on here, cashman and girardi, i’d say here’s the 3 most likely to be dogified (even worse) on this board this year;

    1)pineda-montero freaks want instant ace-dom
    2)martin-montero freaks think jesus can catch
    3)teixeira-needs a big comeback season

  44. kd February 17th, 2012 at 7:23 pm

    i really think it was time for both parties to move on. aj clearly needed a change, and i think he’ll do well in pittsburg.

    the yankees now have a few decisions to make. sign chavez, damon, soler and move on.

  45. trisha - true pinstriped blue February 17th, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    Nick, thanks. I’m on with them right now so I am going to make sure to ask that before I sign on. I’m hoping that since I’m not in their market that I might not be subject to black outs.

    They told me that I would not be blacked out of games. Of course if it starts happening, I’ll be on them like white on rice!

  46. Pat M. February 17th, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    GB……..The kick the Yankee order will be, Pineda, Hughes, Martin….I see those fortunate ones as the top 3……Having Eric Chavez as a bench option at 3rd & 1st base is a very good option…..Ibanez is going to have a squeeze one more hurrah type season before he hangs then up……I read where so many are ripping these moves yet offer really better options……Damon, Vladdy ??? Really, neither one packs a Rawlings anymore, nor should they……..

  47. trisha - true pinstriped blue February 17th, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    Nick, also, I re-up every season with DTV so I can watch YES so the worst thing that would happen is that I pay a few extra months. Hey, I’ll start watching ST reports and whatever else YES has to offer.

    THE GUY BETTER BE RIGHT ABOUT THE KNICKS GAMES! The test is coming up right now.

  48. yankeefeminista February 17th, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    Trisha, with DTV, you have to buy the sports packages for the individual sports. You won’t get live games unless you do.

  49. trisha - true pinstriped blue February 17th, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    Lock – so good to see you. No surprise that we’d be on the same page about AJ.


    DVT – LINSANITY!!!! YES!!!! Pre-game on now, game on at 8. Lin on the big screen.

  50. J. Alfred Prufrock February 17th, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    AJ left us giving his best, in Game IV.

    Too bad we couldn’t win that series. Maybe a few things would have been different around here.

    AJ, may you bring your best with you to Pittsburgh.

  51. trisha - true pinstriped blue February 17th, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    YF – I have the sportspak. It’s the only way I get to see YES.

    I’ve had DTV for more than 10 years. Once I got Verizon though I decided to only keep DTV rolling during the season and postseason. So I suspend my account every year right after the WS. Because I need to see Jeremy on the big screen, I decided to go early.


  52. yankeefeminista February 17th, 2012 at 7:37 pm


  53. Luds February 17th, 2012 at 7:43 pm

    For what it’s worth, I think that trading Burnett now is a mistake. His upside, which he never really reached as a Yankee is worth the pains. I really hope Hughes puts it together again, but if he doesn’t, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Yanks regret this deal. Hope I’m wrong, and good luck to AJ.

  54. stanzy February 17th, 2012 at 8:10 pm

    Always liked AJ. Always hoped he’d get it together. Was usually disappointed.

    Still, even though he was inconsistent and frustrating, I’ll miss seeing him in a Yankee uniform — though I can’t say exactly why.

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