I guess it was time for some controversy

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.

About Brien Jackson

Born in Southwestern Ohio and currently residing on the Chesapeake Bay, Brien is a former editor-in-chief of IIATMS who now spends most of his time sitting on his deck watching his tomatoes ripen and consuming far more MLB Network programming than is safe for one's health or sanity.

12 thoughts on “I guess it was time for some controversy

  1. There's a story that a lot of people want to tell, about how Girardi is intimidated by the veterans on the Yankees, and consequently that he coddles them, allows them preferential spots in the batting order, etc. I imagine that there's a tiny bit of truth in the story when it comes to other Yankees, but not A.J. For example, Girardi did bench A.J. for nearly all of the 2010 playoffs.

    A.J. is A.J. He clearly gave the impression last night that he was cursing out his own manager. Just as clearly, the explanation that Girardi and A.J. provided last night makes more sense. The 8-letter word that A.J. screamed last night is more commonly employed as an adverb than an adjective, meaning that it WAS more likely a comment on the umpire's call than on Girardi as a person.

    The story of A.J. is not a he said, she said story. It's the story of a starting pitcher who (per FanGraphs, qualifying starting pitchers) has the least effective fastball in the American League, and who consequently is required to throw his curve ball more often than any other pitcher in the American League. Include A.J.'s OK change-up, and that's all the guy has to bring to the mound. As A.J. has no slider or cutter, it becomes possible for opposing teams to sit on the fastball and punish it, especially when A.J. falls behind in the count. This has been A.J.'s story since he joined the Yankees, and despite all we read about A.J.'s "inconsistency", this story has been remarkably consistent in the 3 years A.J. has been a Yankee, with the only significant variation being the effectiveness of A.J.'s curve ball (very effective in 2009, below league average last year, pretty good this year).

    This is, I think, the problem in a nutshell. The Yankees need A.J. to pitch like a # 2 starter in order to match up against the Red Sox or Phillies in the post-season. On occasion, A.J. looks like that # 2 starter. Girardi should have A.J.'s back, in the hope that A.J. can be that starter. But A.J. is not that guy, and he's not going to be that guy with a league-worst fastball that he throws more than half the time. The gulf between who A.J. is, and who the Yankees need him to be, is going to result in frustrated yelling and screaming from time to time. Keep your eye on the ball here: the issue is the gulf I've mentioned, not the yelling and screaming.

  2. How could Girardi bench Posada, and not have taken AJ out of the rotation yet? It makes no sense- Posada is in the midst of an awful season, he's been a Yankee for 16 years, but he has a shorter leash then Burnett, who is having his second awful season in a row? Come on.

    • Easy question to answer. Posada is the DH. There's no chance Posada will consistently produce David Ortiz-like numbers at this point. The Yanks have other guys who can DH.

      A.J. is a starting pitcher. The Yankees have received remarkably consistent and effective starting pitching from the other starters in their rotation, but come the post-season the team has to be nervous about who they have to match up against the #2 starters for Boston and Philly. If there's even a 10% chance that A.J. might pitch himself into a suitable match-up against the likes of a Cliff Lee or a John Lester, the Yankees have to take that chance.

      Unfortunately, it's clear at this point that there isn't even this 10% chance. A.J.'s fastball is too ineffective to hold out any chance that he can deliver a post-season elite performance — or the chances of Hughes or Colon producing such a performance are better. But the long leash was understandable in A.J.'s case.

  3. I totally agree with you Brien.

    As you've said, I think it's pretty clear that what happened — after the walk when he was pulled out, Girardi probably said something about the call to him, and Burnett responded to that by saying the call was "f-ing BS." Burnett wasn't aiming the expletives at Girardi.

    I also think that too much has been made of this. So everybody thinks that Burnett doesn't deserve his position/his job, whatever. Target him for that; ie. target his ability. Don't target him because he's capable of saying three words in a row as he was walking off the mound.

    • The more I thought about it this morning, the more I realized I really wouldn't have even cared if A.J. did in fact cuss out Girardi, assuming he had apologized after the fact and everything was fine between the two. But then, I expect players and managers to be both humans and adults, so I'm probably in the minority on that one (though probably not here, I assume).

  4. Michael Kay and his fellow commentators should be ashamed of the way they handled the reporting of A.j.'S departure of the pitching mound last night. They rushed to judgment and piled EVERYTHING on A.J. I have always respected Michael Kay, but lately he has made a second career out of A.J. bashing. Last night's reporting that A.J.'s comments were directed at Girardi turned out to be the furthest thing from the truth!!! The lame explanations given today by Kay & Co.smacked of self righteous justifications; a simple apology to Joe Girardi and A.J. Burnett would have shown a lot more integrity!!! Next time Michael Kay, please get the WHOLE story before stating SPECULATIONS AS FACTS!

  5. Hate to be boring but I agree with everyone else here. This is a shameful piece of "professional" writing and sorry excuse for humanity too. You probably all saw it but Wallace Matthews also wrote some nonsense on the subject: http://espn.go.com/new-york/mlb/story/_/id/688153… . For disingenuous rubbish this line takes the cake:
    "But for a manager to ignore the repeatedly disrespectful behavior of one of his players and worse, try to turn it around on a man or woman simply asking him to explain what the television cameras clearly saw, well, it doesn't not speak to much managerial authority in the clubhouse."

    Talk about judge and jury. I really, really despise the MSM!

  6. Since when have writers ever waited for "facts" before writing a story? I'm reminded of a real foot in mouth story from about 10 years ago. We all know how baseball players reserve the God given right to spit and adjust their balls. I remember when Roseanne Barr sang the national anthem, she spit and made an "adjustment" to show she too knows baseball. But the next day, the media took off on some anti America tangent accusing her spitting on the song and attaching the "adjustment" to being some nonsense as well. The media are made up of wanna be athletes, present company excluded…and are pretty much idiots. Give a member of the media a chance to "misunderstand" a situation, and they will….lock, stock, and double barrels.

  7. "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."

    Back on August 6th, I posted on my blog (http://theviewfromthemiddleoftheroad.blogspot.com/2011/08/bit-of-diversion.html) an analysis on why AJ shouldn't be in the starting rotation. This analysis was from the perspective of the discipline of financial decision making. The analysis holds even more today.

    How many more times will the Yankees have to dig themselves out of a hole after the 1st, 2nd or 3rd inning because Girardi (or Cashman) can't stand "wasting" AJ's big salary? And, will that cost the Yankees the divisional title and home field advantage?

  8. Lot's of stuff being ignored or swept under the rug here. First and foremost, it is NOT Girardi's call here – anyone who thinks he hasn't had a few (ok – MORE than a few) talks with Cashman about WHAT to do (and what he, Girardi will be allowed to d) with AJ is smoking more than an objective pipe. It is Girardi's job to get the team to the WS and to win it. I'm pretty sure he knows better than anyone what AJ brings to the table; give him an alternative that management will go along with, I'm sure he'd sign on in a minute.

    With Colon possibly turning back to a pumpkin and Garcia nursing his "owwie," all of a sudden our six-man rotation includes CC, Nova, Hughes, and – yeah, AJ makes it 4. Unless you're going to call up someone else from AAA, the team will keep trotting out AJ, and NOBODY is going to be happy.

    Simple as that – Girardi isn't happy with it – so he's going to be testy. AJ is a pro – no way in h that he's going to be pleased to go out and lay a giant dodo egg and get pulled in two innings. Expect more words, more drama, every time Burnett takes the mound. Which, really guys, is going to be every 5th start.

  9. They used to do this to A-Rod all the time until Jeter buried the hatchet with him. It's nothing new, just A.J. taking over as the new whipping boy.