There were a lot of feel-good stories in the first half of the 2012 baseball season. But for me, AJ Burnett pitching so well for the first-place Pittsburgh Pirates is one of the best ones.
Sure, most of the talk around baseball this year has revolved around exciting young players such as Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Giancarlo Stanton, deservedly so. But after struggling during most of his three-year tenure with the New York Yankees, I’m very happy that Burnett finally found a place where he belongs, one where he is not weighed down by our often unrealistic expectations.
To be fair, Burnett did not live up to the hype of his $82.5 million contract, given to him in large part because of his dominant performances over the Yankees and the Red Sox while in a Toronto Blue Jays uniform. But that massive contract often overshadowed the fact that AJ came through with some big-game performances for the Yankees, including a crucial Game 2 win in the 2009 World Series and a clutch division series victory last year against the Detroit Tigers.
Perhaps AJ simply belongs in a place like Toronto or Pittsburgh with a more supportive fan base rather than under the never-ending New York media glare. He’s already won 10 games this year (his Yankee protégé Ivan Nova leads the Yankees with 10 victories at the break) to help the Pirates take first place in their division and I’ll be rooting for him to continue with his solid pitching in the second half of the year.
I’m glad AJ found himself again. Perhaps we’ll see him back on the Yankee Stadium mound in October, pitching against the Yankees for the National League champion Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series. Wouldn’t that be something?