11:30 PM Eastern
Believe it or not, I planned to write this for LAST Monday, but it was a late Sunday night getting in from the Annual Blue Jays Production Crew Tom Cheek Memorial Money-Losing Adventure, and then I spent the week helping my sister-in-law move. Well, not so much helping her move as sorting through the things I’d left in storage at her place when I got married nine years ago. It turns out I have almost 2,500 comic books, mostly DC and mostly from 1975-1995. Some valuable, most not so much, and I have no clue what I’m going to do with them now. I also came across some old play-by-play tapes from Welland, New Britain and Watertown, and some of my old Graham/Shaw/Rogers 10 phone-in TV show from the early ’90s. Fun stuff. Didn’t find my Bumper Stumpers or Test Pattern appearances, though – good thing, those is some bad memories.
I also found something called “The Blue Jays Rap” by the Wham Bam Blue Jay Gang. I haven’t got a clue what it is, and I haven’t worked up the nerve to listen to it yet, but I think I’ll be giving it away as a prize for “Cheesy ’80s Trivia” at some point this week.
Anyway, I figured that it was time I write something here, mostly because I should really throw in my two cents about A.J. Burnett signing with the Yankees.
Also, though, because I’m back on the air this week! It’s that “it’s Christmas, bring in the Jews” time of year, so I’ll be hosting on the FAN590 four times this week. Monday night from 7:00 to 9:00 pm (all times Eastern) before the Raptors’ next loss — I mean, game — Tuesday from 7:00 to 11:00 pm, Wednesday (xmas eve) from 1:00 to 4:00 pm and Friday (Boxing Day) from 4:00 to 6:00 pm. There’ll be at least an hour of phones every day, since all those shows fall within the regular call-in hours at the station (7-8, 1-2, 4-5), so if anyone wants to do the “live chat” thing, let’s do it on the radio! I haven’t thought much about what guests I’ll have on, but I’m thinking maybe I’ll bring in the big brother for an hour of sports movie talk at some point.
As well, I’ll be on the Grill Room tomorrow (Monday) night, on SUN TV at 11:00 pm.
OK, so on to the A.J. Burnett thing. I didn’t think he was going to wind up with the Yankees. I figured he’d sign with Atlanta, St. Louis or Baltimore, but the Yanks came up with the most cash and with the fifth guaranteed year (good luck to them on that). It’s funny to think back a few months when the slings and arrows were out in this very space and both my intelligence and sanity were questioned for daring to suggest that Burnett would get a five-year, $80 million contract as a free agent. It got so bad that a few times I actually thought about changing my stance, that I might be overstating his market value. As it turns out, I was wrong. I was understating it (but not by much). Apologies will be graciously accepted in the comments section.
Here’s the deal with A.J. – he has all the talent in the world, but he’s never been able to put it all together for a full season. He’s only had two seasons in his entire career in which he’s made at least 30 starts, and both have been seasons in which he was pitching for a free agent contract. That should make alarm bells ring like crazy, but the only way the Yanks were able to get him to sign was to offer up that five-year guarantee, so they did it. The Jays, three years ago, at least left it up to him (more on the opt-out later).
Would it have been a good idea for the Jays to sign Burnett, given the terms of the contract? Of course not. A team that’s operating within their $80-$100 million payroll can’t afford to have so much money tied up in a guy who simply can’t be counted on from a health standpoint. Never mind the fact that Burnett, in what was his “career year” (yeah, I know, 18 wins, but come on, people!) wasn’t as good as Jesse Litsch and barely outperformed David Purcey once Purcey became a regular in the rotation.
Just to save you from looking it up – Burnett had a WHIP of 1.342 and allowed his opponents an OPS of .710. Litsch had a WHIP of 1.233 and a .761 OPS allowed (but his ERA was half a run better – figure that). Purcey, discounting his first two “one-off” starts, had a WHIP of 1.353 and allowed an OPS of .752.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but Burnett’s WHIP in his “career year” was higher than Litsch’s CAREER WHIP.
Granted, none of the above numbers are overwhelming, but then remember that Litsch and Purcey will COMBINE to make less than $850,000 next season. Was it worth it to the Jays to pay Burnett 20 times that for EACH of the next five seasons? Of course not.
Some of you fell under the “A.J. loves Toronto, loves Roy Halladay, loves to hug Blue Jays, won’t leave his best buddies” spell towards the end of the season as well. I don’t want to turn you into cold-hearted cynics, but no matter how one feels about one’s surroundings and fellow employees, no one is inclined to turn away close to thirty million dollars for one extra year of work, unless there are extraordinary circumstances. A.J. Burnett is not an extraordinary human being.
I don’t think Burnett is a heartless mercenary (though his medical records may indicate something close to that), and I think that if the Jays had been in the ballpark with their offer, that he might well have stayed for a bit of a discount. But there was a reason that I dismissed all the arguments about his friendship with Halladay and the bond between them, and that’s because while Burnett tried his best to play it up, they weren’t best friends. Like Cathal Kelly of the Star wrote last week, Halladay’s best friend on the team is strength and conditioning coach Donovan Santas, and it’s not even close. Halladay comes to work early every day to work out, not to hang out. He’s not anti-social, but he has work to do. All the time. I don’t know if I have ever seen him just sitting at his locker shooting the breeze with a teammate.
The thing is, what have the Blue Jays lost? A guy who was the fourth-best starter on the best pitching staff in baseball last season (behind Halladay, Litsch and Shaun Marcum), but who has the potential to be unhittable every time he takes the ball. It’s a big loss, for sure, but is it the reason for writing off the season in December? Certainly not.
You could argue that losing Marcum along with Burnett and not having Dustin McGowan out of the chute while not improving the offense are reasons for writing off the season in December, and you’d have a good point. But the off-season isn’t done yet.
This is getting to be too long, but before I go I just have to mention the fact that CC Sabathia has an opt-out after the third year of his new contract with the Yankees, and Brian Cashman had to give it to him in order to get the big lefty to sign. Please don’t change your argument from “J.P. Ricciardi is the only G.M. stupid enough to give a pitcher an opt-out” to “CC Sabathia isn’t A.J. Burnett”.
Also, as far as the Yankees being unbeatable thanks to their signing of CCAJ, remember that all they’ve done so far is replaced Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte and gotten Chien-Ming Wang healthy (they think), but in the meantime, they’ve also lost two of their best three hitters from last season in Bobby Abreu and Jason Giambi and replaced them with Nick Swisher.
Remember to tune in all week long and a happy Chanukah to all who are celebrating (first of the eight crazy nights is tonight!).
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome!