Including the playoffs, A.J. Burnett has had 17 opportunities to throw pie in the faces of happy Yankee players who have delivered “walk off” hits. The last time was last Sunday at around 12:30 AM in game 2 of the ALCS, when he “pied” Jerry Hairston, who had singled and scored the winning run on Maicer Izturis’s throwing error in the 13th inning.
A.J. has been so significant in changing the Yankees personality from a roster of conservative, stodgy players, to a group that has chemistry, camaraderie and fun. Even A-Rod looks happy. For example, in one of the final regular season games, when Ramiro Pena hit his first major league home run, the Yankees were shown in the dugout to be jumping up, ready to congratulate Pena. But Alex realized that the “silent treatment” should be the way to celebrate with him; and his teammates followed his lead. A-Rod has become a leader in the dugout, rather than the egocentric player he had always been. Alex is now adding, not detracting, nor distracting from team unity.
A.J. Burnett deserves the credit. He is a wacky guy who does wacky things. (By the way, if anyone can find the video to the story behind this link, please let me know where it is. It is incredible, but I couldn’t find it.)
Ironically, his season on the field, was not that good. He was 13-9 with a 4.04 ERA, a 1.40 WHIP, and a walk ratio of over 4.5 per 9 innings. In 10 of this 33 starts, he gave up five or more runs. Statistically, he was not worth the bloated contract he had signed. He was mostly mediocre.
What does all this mean to the Mets? The Mets always seem to be feeling the pressure of each and every game. They play tight and anxious. There is not much smiling or emotion. Jose Reyes has always been the key to the Mets. As he goes, so goes the team. But his pervasive smile and enthusiasm are only present when he is playing well. When he doesn’t play well and he sulks, he brings the team down with him. The other Mets stars like Beltran, Delgado, Wright, and Santana are each leaders in their own way. However, none of them are the types to be able to lighten the load, lessen the anxiety, and loosen everyone up. Burnett is that type of leader.
Imagine Burnett, a Mets free agent signing for 2009 and beyond. Although his 13-9 record would likely have been reversed, he might have single-handedly changed the personality and culture of the Mets. And helped them salvage the season, despite the injuries.
Either way, there would have been no playoffs for the Mets this year . But looking ahead toward 2010, the Mets desperately need a player(s), like A.J., with a wacky personality, who can teach his teammates how to pull for one another, to stand up for each other, learn how to win again, and at the same time have fun.
Don’t be surprised to see A.J. working his magic during the World Series, possibly on the mound, but certainly after another exciting Yankees win.
A.J. Burnett signs a 5 year – $82.5 million contract
Yankees 2009 Payroll – $206 million
Most expensive Yankee ticket prices – $2,500
A.J. Burnett throwing a pie in your face – PRICELESS