A.J. Burnett: The New York Yankees’ Problem Child

July 19, 2010   ·     ·   Jump to comments
Article Source: Bleacher Report - New York Yankees

On an episode of the hit FOX television series “Glee,” highly competitive and aggressive cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester calls three of her cheerleaders into her office to express her disappointment in them for failing to sabotage McKinley High School’s Glee Club.

After giving them one of her biting lectures, she asks the girls to smell their armpits.

“That is the smell of failure,” she tells them. “And it is stinking up my office.”

A.J. Burnett may want to take Sue Sylvester’s advice and check his own body odor for the smell of failure. Because right now, the scent is following him onto the mound and into the Yankees clubhouse.

In between innings of another dismal performance on Saturday against the Tampa Bay Rays, Burnett cut his pitching hand. He concocted a story about how he fell down the stairs and ended up getting injured, an excuse he thought would work when he explained why he was doing so poorly.

It later came out that Burnett was so angry about his performance that he punched glass doors in the clubhouse.

It was the latest in a string of problems for the Yankees’ often troubled starting pitcher.

Not only did Burnett purposely hurt himself, he had the balls to lie about it to manager Joe Girardi and his teammates.

His lie was not only hurtful to his team, but to the press who reported that and the fans who heard it. As a Yankees fan, I felt insulted that Burnett would make up a story to cover up his own foolishness. It further hurt my negative opinion of him, and right now, I feel what he did is unforgivable.

Talk about bad public relations.

For being a part of an organization that prides itself on player discipline and championship excellence, Burnett is looking like a clubhouse cancer.

During the YES Network pregame show on Sunday, even commentator Jack Curry said in so many words that what Burnett did was selfish and showed a lack of maturity.

When even the television announcers are talking about how undisciplined a pitcher Burnett is in front of an audience of millions, you know he has a few screws loose.

Is this the kind of behavior you would expect out of a veteran pitcher? 

Even the Yankees’ mediocre bullpen has better composure than this when they screw up a game. Have you ever heard of Joba Chamberlain kicking and punching things when he messes up a lead?

Do you think Andy Pettitte pouted and cried about how life wasn’t fair when he got injured in Sunday’s game?

This weekend, I was having a conversation with Isaiah Clark, another baseball writer here on Bleacher Report. He was watching Saturday’s game on TV, and since I was at Yankee Stadium, he had some insight into what the FOX commentators were saying.

He said the announcers mentioned how Burnett said he will take advice and listen to others’ suggestions, but mentioned that he doesn’t have a .500 winning percentage for nothing.

Since when did .500 become something to brag about? Sorry, A.J., but you are not that great that you are above advice from others.

Rumors have it that Burnett still has an ongoing feud with veteran catcher Jorge Posada. When A.J. is starting, youngster Francisco Cervelli is behind the plate. There is no love between Burnett and Posada, but no one seems to know why.

Posada has made an effort to get along with Burnett. He has even spoke highly of the pitcher, but Burnett has none of it and still won’t work with him. He even blew off Posada in the dugout after a rough outing against Arizona.

Here’s my take on that:

Do you know how when you have a job, one where you’re not making $16 million a year to absolutely suck and still get that fat check?

And you know how there’s that one person you just can’t stand?

Guess what? You still have to work professionally with them. You don’t have to be their best friend once the workday is over, but you still have to get along and have some degree of professional respect.

Burnett needs to remember that and take it to heart.

Finally, Burnett seems to be lost on the concept of accountability, another principle of the Yankees organization and professional sports in general.

When he was struggling during pitching coach Dave Eiland’s absence, he complained it was because he missed Eiland, who he has a close relationship with, and claimed Eiland knows him better than anyone else.

I do understand the value of a strong player-coach relationship, but come on. Burnett has several years of experience. He should be able to pick himself up when Eiland can’t be around. Ultimately, he should be taking the blame for his performances and not getting upset because he can’t have his hand held 24 hours a day.  

So what do the Yankees do about this?

My first reaction is to say Burnett should be traded.

But what team is going to pick up that $16 million a year contract? Brian Cashman likely isn’t going to find any takers, especially when there is a bad attitude coming with that contract.

I also suggest that Burnett gets removed from his second spot in the rotation. But Girardi seemed to defend Burnett on his show yesterday, saying that he is not the first pitcher to act out in such a manner and won’t be the last.

Girardi has a valid point, but if he’s not going to punish Burnett, then what is really being learned here?

Burnett could also be put in the bullpen, but what pitcher do you put in the rotation in his place? Hardly anyone in the bullpen has earned the right to be a starter. David Robertson may be a possibility, but I personally have no confidence in any of the relief pitchers to move up to a starting role.

Or do we just wait it out? This could be the most painful of options. But Burnett did pitch well in the playoffs last year and seemed to have his attitude under control.

Let me know what you think. Take my poll and/or leave a comment.

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