A.J. Burnett's Redemption Song

It wasn't always pretty, but ol' A.J., who has caused so much ink to be spilled there is a massive shortage (even here in cyberland) came through. I know I am jaded, cynical, and prone to think in worst-case scenarios, but I'll tell you something I think you long-time readers already well know: I love being surprised.

During the postgame show on this here network, Michael Kay suggested that the fateful line drive at Curtis Granderson in the bottom of the first inning might have been the last pitch Burnett threw as a Yankee had it not been caught. To this, Ken Singleton correctly replied that Burnett's hefty contract means he's not going anywhere, leaving unsaid: unless the Yankees just eat the money. It's somewhat surprising to find myself on the same wavelength as Mr. Kay (but then we both do have very large hat sizes) but during the first inning I was wondering the same thing he was, with the difference being that Singleton's caveat was the answering thought, so the internal soundtrack had me thinking, "I wonder if this is it. They way this is going, they'll WANT this to be it; they won't want to look at him any more. But they're stuck with him through 2013, so unless you just write off the dough, it's not so easy to be impulsive about that and send a guy into exile. That said, what alternative do you have at that point? You can't go through another year this way."

My multiple personalities and I didn't come to any resolution, because even for the Yankees, the size of this contract seems to trump all other considerations. However, the money is spent either way and the Yankees have young pitchers who should be able to post a 4.90 ERA in 180 innings next year. That's how low the threshold of success is.

Despite the happy outcome of this evening's game, one that undoubtedly surprised a great many people who had resigned themselves to a long winter, there is still every reason to say, "You can't go through another year this way." If the Yankees win Game 5, go on to the next round, and Burnett continues to pitch well, I will probably still feel that way: trade him while he's hot, if such a thing is possible. The strikeouts are there, the stuff is there, the pitcher is not always there, and mostly hasn't been for two years. He did a heroic job recovering from the difficult first, but he was also aided by some fantastic defensive plays. We're not applauding the guy for pitching well or dominating, we're applauding him for surviving.

I know, I know: cynical, a killjoy. That's why no one will ever ask me to the Sadie Hawkins Day dance. I accept that. It's just the incorrigible realist in me that says just because you dodged one bullet doesn't mean you should go stand out on the firing range. The Yankees had their lucky break tonight. They might have no choice to push it for the rest of October, should their October last beyond Thursday night. Next year is a different matter.

One note of clarification: Several readers jumped on me for my last post, saying I had scapegoated Derek Jeter. That wasn't my intention at all. He was by no means the culprit in the Game 3 loss. He just happened to be the guy who made the last out. I was speaking out of disappointment, not blame, and sadness. When Jeter first came up I was 24. I'm not 24 anymore, and neither is he. There are some things I could do then that I can't do now. There are some things he could do then that he can't do now. I wish I could. I wish he could. On Monday, he didn't. That's the way life goes, unfortunately. I was expressing that feeling in one little sentence, but I understand how it could have been taken as pejorative. Again, this is why even at family gatherings I tend to stand in the hall coat closet--and they let me.

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