It’s indicative of the Yankees that they thought A.J. Burnett, Javier Vazquez, Kyle Farnsworth and others would be transformed into something other than what they were strictly by the simple act of putting on pinstripes.
Those who try to defend Yankees’ pitching decisions by pointing to CC Sabathia are scraping through the muck of viable argument.
Sabathia would be a great pitcher as a Yankee; as a Met; as a Dodger; as a Pirate; or as a Yakult Swallow.
Burnett was never worth the money the Yankees paid him nor was he suited to develop into a solid starter behind Sabathia.
The decision the Yankees made to develop their own pitchers; to focus on statistics; to shun buying the big names on the free agent market were three separate concepts opposed to one another in a triangular fashion when they signed Burnett.
He was never that good.
But they paid him as if he was; as if by merely joining the Yankees, bolstered by their offense and great bullpen, he’d relax and pitch 6 or so innings a start giving up 3-4 runs to rack up wins simply by pitching within his own abilities. Burnett used to fire every pitch like it was his last; he tried to embarrass the hitters instead of just getting them out. That would explain the rampant injuries that subsided over the past four years.
But the dying phrase for many a regime, “we’ll be able to handle him” is a self-destructive and ruinous strategy that’s failed repeatedly.
Torre could not handle Albert Belle.
The Navy Seals would have trouble handling Albert Belle.
Rafael Soriano had a reputation as a diva. Rafael Soriano acted like a diva. He allowed big homers and had trouble handling pressure before he became a Yankee; he had those same problems last season as a Yankee.
Reputations are what they are for a reason. For years, Burnett had the moniker of “injury-prone underachiever” hovering over his head with the Marlins and Blue Jays; when he busted out in his potential free agent year (he had an opt-out in his contract) for the Blue Jays in 2008 with 18 wins and 231 strikeouts, he was believed to have “turned the corner” and would blossom in New York.
He was okay in his first year and mostly bad and aggravating in the subsequent two.
The expectations were such that the Yankees and their fans were disappointed even though they got what they bought—not what they paid for, but what they bought.
At least he stayed healthy.
Comparing him to a Yankees bust like Carl Pavano is absurd because Burnett came to New York and did the best he could while Pavano was swallowed up by the pressure immediately. It wasn’t the pressure that got to Burnett—he handled New York fine—he’s just A.J. Burnett and pitched like A.J. Burnett.
That the Yankees had to pay about $20 million of his remaining $33 million to get rid of him says that they realized they couldn’t continue with him on the team. It’s not because Burnett was clubhouse poison and they had to get him out of town before he infected the rest of the room, but because he’s not that good and they didn’t want to deal with the aftermath of putting him out on the mound and watching him implode for another season.
And now he’s gone from a place he probably shouldn’t have been in the first place.