Losing the Handle
It matters less what A.J. Burnett says than what he does.
And what he does, very consistently, is win about the same number of games as he loses. He’s 75-72 over the course of his major league career, 10-8 last season and 6-6 this season, albeit with an ERA more than a full run per game higher.
He’s been getting an awful lot of money to be basically a .500 pitcher from the Blue Jays mostly because J.P. Ricciardi believed he could be more than a .500 pitcher, and has been proven wrong.
With the team sinking – again – and with Burnett approaching a clause in his contract that will allow him to opt out of his deal after this season, of course there is going to be speculation about his future.
But instead of being bothered by the fact he apparently would love to pitch for the first place Cubs rather than the last place Blue Jays, Blue Jay fans should probably be more encouraged by the possibility that over the next six weeks there may be a chance for the team to cash in on this opportunity to auction off the right-hander for significant returns.
Of course, it would be quite another thing for Ricciardi to be excited about that opportunity.
If he has to dump Burnett, it will be painful repudiation of his baseball judgment, or at least that of his administration. Moreover, with the club currently sitting six games behind the Tampa Bay Rays, there is also rampant speculation already surrounding the future of Ricciardi and manager John Gibbons.
This ball club hasn’t played meaningful games in August and September for a long time, and Ricciardi was supposed to change that. Burnett is symbolic of Ricciardi’s empty promises, and for him to be forced to peddle the pitcher to a contender would probably erase the last vestiges of the baseball reputation he once held in this city.
Ricciardi and Paul Godfrey probably really began to lose a handle on this thing in spring training of ’07 when they out-and-out lied about B.J. Ryan’s arm injury, and the faith of local baseball fans was tested more in the fall when Troy Glaus was pinpointed as, if not a steroid user, one who liked to order them in the mail. Rather than face the truth police again, the Jays just helped Glaus never answer the questions about his training regimen.
The Jays made Glaus go away in exchange for the peppier, easier-to-sell Scott Rolen over the off-season, but now along comes the Burnett issue with the team having lost two of three in six consecutive series. Attendance is flat, with another season apparently gone south already by June.
So in the bigger picture, it really doesn’t matter what Burnett, a decent pitcher destined to never fulfill his potential, thinks about playing for the Cubs.
What matters is when a direction-less Blue Jays baseball club is going to get a new direction.
Burnett's simply an expensive symbol of seven wasted years.