Well if you think that was the end of things, you don’t know the New York media very well, and really haven’t paid attention to the rules governing situations that involve A.J. Here’s a representative example from Mike Vaccaro at the Post, though this one skips a little bit further than most into alternate-reality land, declaring Burnett “stubborn” and difficult to coach, even though every report from this reality about Burnett since last winter has been about how closely he’s been working with Larry Rothschild to make himself better. He even tweaked his delivery in spring training. That doesn’t sound like being resistant to coaching to me, but I’m sure Vaccaro just has a really good super secret source in the Yankees’ clubhouse giving him the real scoop.
What I find particularly hilarious about this particular episode is that the writers got rather touchy last night after Girardi got visibly angry with them during his press conference. Yet, this morning, they’re showing why Girardi was exactly right to work them over like he did. Because the stories today bear no resemblance to what anyone in the clubhouse said, preferring to stick with the “Burnett showed up his manager” story, even though literally everyone denies that interpretation of events. To the extent they acknowledge what the actual people in question say, they basically just accuse everyone of covering for Burnett. The notion that it simply wasn’t a big deal and that the people in question behaved like adults is apparently too much for them to believe.
I give Girardi a lot of grief for some of his answers in press conferences, periodically dubbing him the Most Illogical Man in the World based on some of the painfully bad answers he gives to explain, say, having Curtis Granderson bunt in the 2nd inning or something. But in this case he was exactly right to stand up forcefully for his player, and I wish he’d do it a bit more. I also wish a lot of the team leaders and more well respected players in the clubhouse would demonstrate a little less patience with reporters when they do this crap as well. I’m looking at you St. Jeter.
No one’s going to accuse me of being an A.J. apologist. I’ve been writing longer than most that he was clearly the odd man out in this team’s rotation, and shouldn’t have a guaranteed starting job just because of his salary. But by all accounts, he’s a solid professional, hard worker, and legitimately good guy who’s well liked by his teammates. That isn’t any better reason to keep running him out every five days than his salary is, of course, but it is a reason for the guys who cover the team to treat him with a little more respect. Burnett isn’t a good pitcher by any means these days, but that’s never been enough for the “professionals” in the local media, who have been intent on making him out to be a bad guy for some time now. It’s unfair and embarrassing, and the writers and editors responsible for this stories ought to be ashamed of themselves.