During the 2010 playoffs, I found myself cringing every time I saw AJ Burnett's name listed as the starter for the upcoming game. Every series, every game, no matter what.
I'm pretty sure every Yankee fan felt this way simply because Burnett can't be trusted. Sure, he's shown signs of greatness in the past, but the guy is 110-100 with an ERA near 4 for his career. Not to mention last year he went 10-15 with an ERA over 5. Who the hell expects him to start getting better? Nobody, not even Brian Cashman. That's why Cashman got some insurance by signing Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia and Mark Prior all to minor league deals...oh yeah, that's right, it doesn't insure anything.
That's like playing five on five, having one guy on your team with a limp and picking a six man that has one leg. It just doesn't make any sense. Suddenly Cashman seems to be reverting back to his old self, signing old veterans who've had there time, hoping for a year of nostalgia. In the past the Yankees have gone after guys like Randy Johnson, but these moves seem even worse to me.
Regardless, with Andy Pettitte officially retiring, betting a season on Burnett is just crazy. I'm sure Joe Girardi, and the Yankee's organization, is counting on CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes to carry the starting rotation, another VERY risky move. Hughes just had his breakout out season last year, going 18-8, with an ERA over 4 (eh), and his postseason ended with...um....yeah. CC will definitely get his and hopefully have another Cy Young-worthy season.
At the same time, that still leaves the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation, presumably being field by a two-man combination from Freddy Garcia, Ivan Nova and Sergio Mitre (I'll wait while you fill your garbage can with vomit). Nova has proven absolutely nothing and Sergio Mitre hasn't proven anything either, except in much, shall we say, grander fashion. And Freddy Garcia is...............Freddy Garcia. If you're excited right now it must be because you're a new Yankees fan fresh off the Pittsburgh Pirates bandwagon. Welcome to Nervoustown, via Suckville. (Also, I realize Bartolo Colon is supposedly in the running for a rotation spot. My dog farted while I was typing that sentence. Very fitting.)
In the end, it basically comes down to AJ striking people out and the Yankee bats igniting like a phoenix rising from the ashes that were Arlington last fall (or the ashes that were anything owned by Yankees fans with David Robertson's number on it (RAISE YOUR FIST TO THE SKY AND SCREAM)). I'm sure AJ will strike people out, but he almost seems to expect that the Yankees will score enough for him to make a few mistakes here and there. "I'm just gonna let it fly and pray that if this guy hits a dinger, we'll make it up". That's not an actual quote, but can you tell the difference? Not if you've watched a Yankee game lately.
The comparison that constantly enters my mind every time I watch AJ play is Rasheed Wallace when he played for the Celtics a couple of years ago. He was there for a much shorter period of time, but the idea of risk and reward shined brightly during his time there. Rasheed had his size and shooting ability but hindered the team with fouls and inconsistent play. AJ, on the other hand, can strike out anyone but if he decides to be "AJ", he just lets it fly with a lackluster curveball and reckless abandonment of ideal pitch location. Both guys have won one championship a piece, but both have their downsides. Rasheed's has always been his attitude and AJ's ridden that train on a number of occasions.
The comparison between a basketball and a baseball player is tough to make, so I'll end by saying this: Do you really want your third (maybe second) best starting pitcher to be more known for pieing people in the face than winning postseason games? Didn't think so.