Yankees starter A.J. Burnett hardly endeared himself to manager Joe Girardi and GM Brian Cashman with last Saturday night’s early exist and subsequent profane outburst (one the testy Girardi claimed was aimed at home plate umpire D.J. Rayburn). The every cynical Bob Raissman of the New York Daily News suggests that despite such putrid performances, Burnett is hardly worthless down the stretch ;
Burnett’s second-inning stroll off the mound Saturday night, along with those obscenities, is the most notable exit from the hill by a Yankees pitcher since July 18, 1995. That’s when Jack McDowell flipped the bird to Bombers fans who were booing him after he gave up three homers and nine earned runs in 4-2/3 innings against the White Sox.
No doubt YES’ designated mouths will present the only crumb of a storyline the Yankees have left to feed baseball’s media seals. And that is the composition of the Bombers pitching rotation for the remainder of the regular season. And whether Burnett will continue to be a part of it. Much of the case made for banishing Burnett to the Stadium parking garage has everything to do with him not earning his $82.5 million.
His failures indicate that those who preach that sermon are correct in their assessment. Then again, in baseball’s modern economic model, one in which a team can have a big stake in its own network – or own it outright – there is more than one way for a player to earn his dough.
If Burnett continues down this unpredictable path, proving to be a bizarre attraction who can deliver TV ratings, he cannot be totally indicted for not earning his keep. He may not be making his dough the old-fashioned way – by dominating on the mound – but still is a huge asset if he can attract eyeballs to YES.