What exactly goes through the mind of A.J. Burnett? A former standout pitcher for the latter part of his days in Florida and his three years with the Toronto Blue Jays, he’s become a scapegoat of rather large proportions in the Bronx.
Perhaps expectations were set a tad too high when he was simultaneous plucked off the free agent market alongside CC Sabathia in the off-season preceding the 2009 campaign. I can’t help but imagine that he will forever be compared to Sabathia and always be thought of as the guy that never could quite complemente Sabathia the way he was supposed to.
After all, Burnett’s average game score in all 98 regular season starts of his career in New York is 49.14 (50 is considered average) and the overall standard deviation of 17.95 in those 98 games portrays a picture of inconsistency across the board.
He was signed to that five year, $82.5 million contract with the expectations that he would provide spectacular depth in an otherwise depleted rotation and help bring the Yankees back to the promised land.
Three years later, all hopes and dreams of playoff survival ride on the arm of a shaky A.J. Burnett.
Who would have thought that this is where we’d be this morning? The situation looks bleak for the New York Yankees as they head into Game 4 of the American League Divisional Series trailing the Detroit Tigers two games to one in a best of five series. In fact, it appears eerily similar to the 2006 ALDS. Who else will New York turn to with the desperate desire of keeping the season alive other than one of the more controversial Yankee players in the past decade in Allan James Burnett?
Burnett has his hands on one of the biggest opportunities of his entire career. He will take the ball for the Yankees tonight against a tough Tigers offense in a roaring environment inside Comerica Park. He has a chance to rewrite his legacy in pinstripes when he trots out to the mound slightly after 8:45 PM.
Whether you like it or not, Burnett can erase many painful memories with a quality start in Game 4. If he paves the way to victory, it will surely be enough compensation for fans to forget about all his terrible outings and complete meltdowns he’s experienced over the course of the past two years. If Burnett fails to rise to the occasion, it will certainly be a long and dreary winter in the Bronx full of "what ifs".
He's proven that he can handle the pressure cooker once before. Game 2 of the 2009 World Series was his biggest start with the Yankees, pitching seven innings allowing four hits and striking out nine Phillies.
A.J., it’s time to go out there and prove us all wrong. It’s time to put on your big boy pants, trust your stuff, and not let a rough at-bat or two get to your head. Block out all the outside distractions and just throw the ball where your catcher frames it. The lights have never been brighter and the situation has never been more dire.
It’s time to shine, A.J. Now go get it.
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