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article imageOp-Ed: Saying Goodbye To A.J. Burnett, Just In Case

By Nawest Vazquez     Sep 25, 2008 in Sports
If last night was A.J. Burnett's final start with the Toronto Blue Jays, he went out in style, throwing another gem against the detested, the hated, the loathed New York Yankees.
His line last night, you ask? Eight innings pitched, seven hits allowed, one earned run, two walks, and 11 strikeouts. Filthy. Yeah, the Jays lost, but it doesn't matter. Last night was about A.J., and watching him receive a standing ovation, and then a curtain call, made me feel slightly aroused. He deserved it.
Speaking of curtain calls, they're special here in Toronto. We don't mess around, like Yankee fans, who give curtain calls to everyone and their mother.
A.J. appreciated his moment in the spotlight:
"It gave me goose bumps and tears, almost at the same time. It's great, man. They've been awesome all year. When they've booed, whether I wanted to admit it or not, they deserved to. I think they realize I've taken a big step from who I was when I first came here."
That's right, A.J., you're a pitcher now. No longer a misunderstood young man with a 95 mile per hour heater who couldn't put it all together. Nope, not anymore. Trust me, we realize.
If he leaves us, you know what I'll miss most about Allan James? Efforts like last night's, against divisional douchebags the Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and (I can't believe I'm saying this) Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Looking at A.J.'s splits, he was money against the Red Sox and Yankees this season. Below is a breakdown, so check out the layout:
A.J. vs NYY in 2008 (including last night's bonerific start)
Games started: 5
W/L: 3-1
Innings pitched: 38.1
ERA: 1.64
WHIP: 0.94
Hits: 30
Runs: 8
Earned runs: 7
Walks: 6
Strikeouts: 43
Opponents Batting Average: .219
Two of those starts came in Yankee Stadium, one was a complete game, and one was on three days rest.
A.J. vs Boston Red Sox in 2008
Games started: 4
W/L: 2-0
Innings pitched: 27.2
ERA: 2.60
WHIP: 1.23
Hits: 21
Runs: 9
Earned runs: 8
Walks: 13
Strikeouts: 24
Opponents Batting Average: .206
Both of Burnett's wins against the Sox came in Fenway Park, not exactly the easiest place for a guy to pitch. In 13.2 innings on the mound in Fenway, Burnett did not allow an earned run. For you math whizzes out there, that's an ERA of 0.00.
Like I said, money.
While Burnett didn't enjoy the same success against the upstart Rays, he still pitched 'em respectably, going 1-2 with 3.15 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, and a .263 Rays batting average.
Although injuries messed up Burnett's 2007 season, he did beat the Red Sox once, and the Yankees twice (small sample size alert):
A.J. vs NYY in 2007
Games started: 2
W/L: 1-0
Innings pitched: 15.0
ERA: 0.60
WHIP: 0.93
Hits: 8
Runs: 1
Earned runs: 1
Walks: 6
Strikeouts: 13
Opponents Batting Average: .160
The way Burnett has pitched the Yankees over the last two years, I won't be surprised if New York goes hard at him with a ton of loot. You know, the Johnny Damon approach. If you can't beat him, piss everyone off by offering him, in this case Burnett, a contract he can't refuse, and that no one in their right freaking mind can match. The true Yankee way.
A.J. vs Boston Red Sox in 2007
Games started: 1
W/L: 1-0
Innings pitched: 8.2
ERA: 3.12
WHIP: 1.38
Hits: 9
Runs: 3
Earned runs: 3
Walks: 3
Strikeouts: 11
Opponents Batting Average: .273
I know, it was only one start, but it was a quality.
As you can see, A.J. brought his best against the best. I'll definitely miss that.
If he leaves, what I won't miss is his 9.82 ERA in 14.2 innings against the Baltimore Orioles (what the hell?), his 6.61 ERA in 16.1 innings against Oakland (seriously, what the hell, the Athletics?), and his 7.30 ERA in 12.1 innings against the Texas Rangers (I have no snide comment, the Rangers are the best hitting team in baseball, and it's a damn shame they have zero pitching).
Ironically, A.J.'s "career year" has seen him put up the highest ERA (4.07) and WHIP (1.34) of any season in which he's made 19 or more starts.
I don't mean to take anything away from A.J. He was great this summer, and a lot of fun to watch. He made it past 220 innings, 221.1 to be exact, good for third in the American League. His 18 wins are good for fourth in the AL, and he'll likely finish first in the AL with 231 strikeouts. Post all-star break, Burnett was dominant, putting up an 8-2 record with a 2.86 ERA (including last night's bonerific start). He was a big reason why the Jays were able to make September a little more interesting for us playoff-starved fans.
If last night was the end of the line, a destroyer of the Yankees and Red Sox is how I'll remember A.J. The injuries and frustration of 2006 and 2007? Forget it. A.J. circa 2008 was the guy we thought we were getting when we signed him back in 2005. This is why we gave him the dollar dollar bills, y'all.
Even if we do only end up getting one good year out of Burnett, man, he was worth it.
Raise your glass: cheers, A.J.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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