The Scorpion That Stung Brian Cashman

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Everyone knows the fable of the Scorpion and the Frog.

A scorpion, looking for a change in his life, set out on a journey to find a new home. He came to a river and, when he couldn’t find a way across, asked a frog if he’d let him ride his back to the other side of the river.

The frog was suspicious that the scorpion was going to sting and kill him. The scorpion explained that he wouldn’t do that while they were going across because then they both would die; nor would he do it when they reached the other side of the river because he’d be so grateful for the help that he’d let the frog live.

Of course, halfway across the river, the scorpion stung the frog. The frog asked the scorpion why he did it and the scorpion said, “it’s in my nature”.

This fable reminds me of A.J. Burnett.

A thing is what it is and can be nothing other than that.

A.J. Burnett is a talented pitcher.

But A.J. Burnett is not a good pitcher.

There’s a big difference. Now, at age 35, the days of possible evolution are over.

They probably never really existed.

This is what he is.

The Yankees are desperately trying to unload Burnett and the $33 million he’s owed through 2013 and unless they eat a significant chunk of it or exchange it for another club’s headache/onerous contract (Chone Figgins for example), no one is taking Burnett.

When the Yankees signed him, they held a joint press conference introducing both Burnett and CC Sabathia. The idea seemed to be that because they were paying him like a superstar and treating him like a superstar, he’d become a superstar.

That hasn’t happened.

But Burnett is being blamed for being Burnett and it’s not fair.

What did they think they were getting?

Burnett’s been somewhat worse than what his career averages were when he arrived in New York, but not by much. It’s been within the margin of expectations as his ERA has risen by a run from his career level in the past two seasons, but that could be a natural decline for a pitcher in his mid-30s rather than any mental or physical limitations.

He’s wild, he allows a lot of home runs and his power fastball/wicked curve combination have never yielded the results over the long term that each and every one of his teams has expected. Of all the teams that had Burnett, the one that got the most value from him was the team that drafted him—the Mets—because they traded him for Al Leiter in February of 1998 and Leiter was a linchpin to the good Mets teams of the late 1990s-2000.

Was it arrogance on the part of the Yankees thinking that slotting Burnett into the middle of their rotation with a strong bullpen and a club that scored a lot of runs would gloss over his frailties and allow him to win 15 games a year, give them 200 innings and render it meaningless when he walked a load of hitters and had the occasional game in which he gave up 10 runs?


It actually sort of made sense.

In the winter of 2008-2009, they had the money to spend and Burnett was coming off a fully healthy season for the Blue Jays where he seemed to have figured it all out. The Yankees wanted to appease their spoiled and angry fanbase with some drastic and expensive signings to make up for their first season of missed playoffs since 1994 so they signed Mark Teixeira, Sabathia and Burnett.

They hoped Burnett would continue evolving and he regressed.

A pitcher like Burnett never figures it out and there’s no reason to blame him for that.

He’s consistent in his inconsistency just as he’s always been.

The Yankees might find a way to get rid of Burnett, but it’s never going to answer the questions of what they thought they were getting when they signed him. There’s no reason to be mad at him for being who he is. They paid for Burnett and that’s who they got.

He’s the scorpion that stung Brian Cashman.

Because he’s A.J. Burnett.

It’s in his nature.


7 thoughts on “The Scorpion That Stung Brian Cashman

  1. I suppose the question really is why is Cashman the frog giving out water taxi rides in the first place? Steinbrenner’s WERE a shipbuilding family way back when but not anymore. Now baseball and horses seem to fill the ledger.

    We hear almost weekly about the great the new ferry they got down the slipway at the farm is…almost ready to smash the champers on…then they don’t seem to hold water out for very long.

    So Cashman keeps giving out rides…sometimes Hank and Hal do ala Soriano…but sooner or later dontcha think the frog is gonna wallow waiting for the new ferry when the Steinys get sick of paying for rides?

      1. You say Burnett is a mediocre pitcher who stung Cashman. Cashman stung himself right? Isn’t that the lesson of the fable?

        Well here’s the underlying lesson: don’t give rides to scorpions, develop your own frogs. And stop crapping on about how great your tadpoles are while your still getting stung.

      2. Cashman took the scorpion on his back and the scorpion stung him, so Cashman put himself in the position to be stung by signing Burnett.
        The Yankees don’t know how to develop their own frogs. That was the reason they had to spend the money on Burnett to begin with—because Hughes, Chamberlain and Kennedy failed.

      3. Exactly my point to begin with. Yankees for some reason don’t seem to be able to develop reliable starters..sure you get a 16 win from Nova or an 18 from Hughes pitching outta the 5 slot, but then Hughes fell off the map. And the Yankees are wary of Nova themselves,rule 5’d once,sent down midseason for Hughes; hence more scorpions this year.

        Do you think the ferry building Steinbrenners are gonna get sick of giving out free rides? Oh yeah they don’t build ferrys anymore. Or frogs.

  2. Not an obsession just a hint of a notion of a concept that maybe the Steinbrenner’s interest in baseball ultimatly goes the way of shipbuilding. The old man could hustle to make a buck. Hal wants to hold ’em, Hank wants to splash it around. Theyve never had to hustle in their priviledged lives and if there is a cash crunch well theyre not gonna choose a pennant over their country club fees.

    The notion that this team could ever get under the LuxTax threshold is idiotic: the tax was tweaked this offseason to maximize the amount of pain it could cause the Yankees. Sure spend 10m on a Hoki Kuroki but thats really 14.2m for a #4. Hows that gonna look on the ledgers further down the line.
    And please spare me the ‘Yankees can buy whoever they want’ line. Ownership has shown they are reluctant to pick up any more long terms which are hanging them already noting that CC is an exception. He wasn’t a luxury item ,he was a necessity. Do their rotation without him. Ouch.
    Yanks are gonna want to keep the revenue sharing money. Afterall it is a business…and its gonna get run like one from here out…or shut down down and sold like shipbuilding.

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