New York Yankees: The 5 Darkest Days of A.J. Burnett's Yankees Career
When Burnett signed with the Yankees before the 2009 season, he was expected to give the team a huge boost in the pitching rotation. During his first regular season with the team, Burnett finished with a 13-9 record and a 4.04 ERA.
Consequently, the end of the 2009 regular season also marked the beginning of what will go down as "the downfall of A.J. Burnett." Plagued by lackluster performances and behavioral mishaps, Burnett's next two seasons with the team had the Yankees organization and fans begging for another club to lift his burden off New York's shoulders.
Now that a deal has been finalized, Yankees fans can reflect on the days that continuously gave them less and less confidence in the possibility of a harmonious relationship between Burnett and the Bombers.
In chronological order, these are the darkest days of Burnett's stay in New York.
Game 5 of the 2009 ALCS
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
The Yankees were up 3-1 in the series versus the Los Angeles Angels in the 2009 ALCS. One game away from earning a trip to the World Series, the Yankees turned to a pitcher whom they presumed to have big-game potential: none other than A.J. Burnett.
Granted, it was his first career road postseason start, and Burnett came out visibly nervous. In the first inning, he allowed four runs before recording a single out. However, he showed signs of greatness by punishing Angels hitters through the sixth inning.
After the Yankees went on a six-run rally in the top of the seventh, however, Burnett struggled to earn an out. Instead of continuing his domination, he gave up a single and a walk to the No. 8 and No. 9 hitters in the Angels' lineup.
Burnett was pulled in favor of Phil Hughes, and the Yankees went on to lose the game 7-6. Though some would like to blame Hughes or even manager Joe Girardi for the loss, the burden ultimately belongs to Burnett for failing to stay consistent after getting off to a rocky start.
Regardless of whom you may feel deserves the blame, the fact of the matter is that the Yankees spent huge money on Burnett with the idea that he would come through in clutch situations.
He failed to do his job with an important game on the line and immediately began the tampering of his expectations among Yankees fans.
Game 5 of the 2009 World Series
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Despite Burnett's failure to close the Angels out in game five of the ALCS, the Yankees earned a trip to the World Series to battle the Philadelphia Phillies. With the World Series on the line, Burnett got his shot at redemption.
Once again the Yankees were one win away from a title, this time with the opportunity to bring a 27th World Series trophy to New York. If Yankees fans thought Burnett couldn't get off to a worse start than he did against the Angels, they were forced to think again.
In fact, Burnett only lasted two innings, posting an atrocious stat line: four hits, four walks, one HBP and six runs. Of those four hits was a three-run home run by Chase Utley, made possible because of Burnett's BOB.
After an attempt to resurrect the game through unleashing a series of relief pitchers, the final scoreline read Phillies 8, Yankees, 6.
Although the Yankees went on to win the 2009 World Series, Burnett's performance will go down as one of the worst by a pitcher in World Series history. When it was time to step up, Burnett laid down. The Yankees invested too much money in the pitcher to allow implosions at times when domination is expected.
Burnett lost the faith of many Yankees fans that day, and his demise only continued from there.
Injuring His Pitching Hand
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
On July 17, 2010, Burnett got the nod against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. After allowing three runs through the first two innings, Burnett threw a temper tantrum, taking his anger out by slamming his hands against the clubhouse doors in the dugout.
When the trainers noticed that Burnett's hands were cut up, he lied and told them he had fallen while descending the stairs. The trainers bought it and allowed him to return to the field for the third inning.
Clearly, the damage to his hand and that to his ego affected his performance. Burnett began the third inning by beaning Evan Longoria. Next was a wild pitch, followed up by a hit that knocked in the fourth run of the game.
Needless to say, Burnett was pulled from the game. Afterwards, he admitted to lying about his injury and apologized for letting the team down.
Not only was he out of hand with his actions but he caused damage to his throwing hand and lied to his trainers. That certainly doesn't reflect the attitude of someone who puts the team first.
The Mysterious Black Eye
Burnett's "black eye" incident was just plain weird. On Sept. 17, 2010, Burnett pitched seven innings against the Baltimore Orioles, allowing three runs and earning a no-decision.
The strange part, however, is that he did it with a black eye.
Although it may have had nothing to do with his performance on the field, his black eye reflected his instability and general well-being.
Just like in the clubhouse-punching incident, Burnett showed that he has little regard for his body, which may or may not be extremely important to being an athlete. He claimed that his injury wasn't baseball-related, which allowed for even more speculation.
To this day, Burnett's black eye remains a mystery. As a result of this incident, his stability and regard for his own well-being were rightfully brought to the forefront.
Cursing at Joe Girardi
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
On Aug. 20, 2011, Burnett got the start against the Minnesota Twins. In less than two innings of work, Burnett managed to let up five hits, three walks and seven earned runs.
Rightfully, manager Joe Girardi made his way out to the mound to pull Burnett from the game. Apparently, Burnett wouldn't be satisfied without putting his two cents in.
Viewers everywhere looked on as Burnett looked at Girardi and, clear as day, told him that he felt the move was "bull----".
Although Girardi took the high road and stood up for his player, the exchange of words should have never happened in the first place.
No matter what profession you may be involved in, it is completely disrespectful to swear at your coach, especially when you are being broadcast on live television.
Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images
In his three seasons with the Yankees, Burnett seemed to have more dark moments than he did bright.
When he was signed to a five-year, $82.5 million deal to the team, he was expected to be a huge contributor to future success.
Instead, Burnett frequently dug himself into holes by underperforming and showing signs of attitude problems.
Yankees fans are most likely happy to see Burnett go, but most probably wonder what he could have been had he continued to be the big arm he was throughout his early career.
His departure provided the Yanks with enough money to sign DH Raul Ibanez and could perhaps even provide the a raise in morale throughout the bullpen.
All in all, the Yankees are better off without Burnett and his dark days, because unfortunately, they couldn't be overshadowed by the signs of light.