What did the Yankees do to A.J. Burnett?

I wrote earlier in the year that the Blue Jays had the top rotation in baseball and definitely the best 1-2-3. This was, of course, after watching the Yankee hitters struggle against the likes of A.J Burnett.

Last night was another typical 2008 Yankee loss: great starting performance squandered, offense unable to get a big hit, huge defensive mistakes – really it had it all.

But what I starting wondering about the most is A.J. Burnett. His season line doesn’t look all that great: 4.51 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, ERA+ 94 (That means he’s pitched BELOW the performance of a league average replacement!). How is it possible that when he’s the starter against the Yankees I’m confident they’re doomed?

Burnett has started against the Yankees 3 times this year and those were 3 of his best starts of the entire season. Last night was his finest.

Burnett’s demeanor out there last night was intense; he looked like a man possessed, pumping his fist after strikeouts as early as the 4th inning. Now, I don’t follow the Blue Jays regularly, so maybe that really is his M.O., but I doubt it.

So what did the Yankees do to Burnett to make him hate them so? Break into his home? Kick his dog? I just don’t get it. I’ve always said that if you took the Yankees roster and moved it to another team, they would immediately be good for at least 5 more victories because of stuff like this. That walk off grand slam Byrd hit for the Rangers against the Yankees a couple weeks back? The Rangers celebrated like they’d won the World Series. I know all players should play their hardest all the time, but that is simply not the reality of it. Even those teams out of the race show up to play when it’s the Yankees they’re against.

Big I digress- what I’ve really been wondering is, should the Yankees pursue Burnett in the offseason? From a purely empirical standpoint I say no; after all, the numbers show he’s not really that good and he’s injury prone. But just getting him out of Toronto would probably give the Yankees an extra 3 wins a year or so.

So most of all, the Yankees just need to hope that he does indeed opt-out of his contract. Another top name pitcher on the market will give the Yankees more leverage negotiating with Sabathia. Then hopefully Burnett signs in the NL and the Yankees never have to see him again.

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