One unnoticed aspect of Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman’s defense of A.J. Burnett is that it’s quite possible that Cashman’s agenda is preventing manager Joe Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild from doing what they might prefer by pulling Burnett from the rotation.
Cashman doesn’t need to justify the contract given to Burnett—he’s not stupid; he knew what Burnett was. Presumably when he signed Burnett, he was hoping that Burnett would be able to stay healthy (he has); pitch into the 6th or 7th inning most of the time (he has); accumulate wins because of a run-scoring machine offense and a good bullpen (he hasn’t); and be serviceable (he has).
Burnett has delivered what was expected by the rational minds. During the winter of 2008-2009 spending spree, the Yankees got their number 1 and Cy Young Award contender in CC Sabathia; and their mid-rotation starter with ace-stuff in Burnett.
The problem isn’t Burnett, per se; it’s that he’s suddenly supposed to be something he’s not because of that contract. At 34-years-old, this is it and it’s not going to get better.
With a little luck, he could’ve won 18-20 games in 2009 and the Yankees would’ve been perceived to have “unlocked” the real Burnett when he was actually garnering wins as a byproduct of wearing pinstripes.
The six-man rotation isn’t going to affect the Yankees one way or the other. I don’t see it as healthy that there’s almost a hope that Ivan Nova falters to easily frame him being demoted to the minors or sent to the bullpen, but it is what it is. Cashman wants Phil Hughes and Burnett to start and that’s what’s happening.
Is this what Girardi and Rothschild want? After yesterday’s explosion (that will only make matters worse), I have to wonder.
Cashman’s running things and if that means telling his manager what to do, so be it.
As with many of his uncharacteristically headline-grabbing comments over the past year, Cashman should’ve kept his mouth shut—again—because this does more harm than good.