Thursday, August 4, 2011

AJ Burnett should worry about his Yankees job

Quick question: why doesn't AJ Burnett have to worry about keeping his job, as erratic and inconsistent as he is?

I truly find myself dreading Burnett’s turn in the New York Yankees rotation. I came home from an alumni meeting to find the Yankees leading 13-1. Pleasantly surprised, I began to answer some emails, but I kept the television on to keep track of the game. Somehow I knew that even a 12-run lead was not safe in Burnett’s hands and I couldn’t have been more right. The Chicago White Sox crept closer and closer until finally they were in striking distance before Cory Wade came in from the bullpen in the 5th inning and bailed Burnett out of trouble.

Joe Girardi is fiercely protective of his players, always finding something positive in the most disappointing performances, but there was visible strain and frustration on his face in the post-game interview. His team is operating on all cylinders right now, with the obvious exception of Burnett. Girardi gave Burnett every opportunity to work out of the self-imposed jam, but after realizing that Burnett simply didn't have the stuff or the confidence to put the White Sox down, Girardi chose his team over the player and pulled him.

Burnett said he wasn't mad at Girardi, but very angry with himself. Seems like a little white lie. I think he was slightly mad at his manager for pulling him short of a victory. But I also think AJ was smart enough to understand, once he cooled down, that he has no one to blame but himself for forcing Girardi to make the move.

The Yankees used the possibility of losing his job to try to motivate Phil Hughes into being the Phil Hughes of last year. Why don't they use the same technique with Burnett? A major reason is Burnett's big contract, but I also think that the Yankees worry that Burnett's psyche is simply too fragile to handle losing his job to 24-year-old Ivan Nova, even if the kid is a lot more consistent than the veteran. But the Yankees and Burnett have to figure out some way to get him on track because everyone is running out of patience.

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