Mehno: Burnett will be missed by Pirates
PITTSBURGH – The Philadelphia Phillies come to town for the July 4 weekend, so that should create a rowdy party atmosphere if A.J. Burnett pitches.
He won’t get a good reception. You left us? Aw, never liked you anyway. That’s the way Pittsburgh works for outdoor sports. (On the other hand, the Penguins produce warm and fuzzy welcome back videos for Tyler Kennedy).
Pirates fans booed John Smiley when he appeared in a visitor’s uniform, even though Smiley had been traded away and wept when he was told he was leaving.
Burnett has a one-year, $16 million contract, which apparently represents $4 million more than the Pirates were willing to offer him. GM Neal Huntington says the agent told him Burnett’s decision was based on the 100-mile proximity to his Maryland home. That seems like a pretty serious commute, but whatever.
Burnett didn’t owe the Pirates anything. It would have been nice if the matter had been settled earlier, but that’s OK.
Don’t think the Pirates won’t miss him. He gave them 191 reliable innings last season on a team that depended heavily on its pitching.
The mythical “leadership” qualities that have been ascribed to him are less of an issue. Whatever mentoring value Burnett had was undermined by his occasional selfish bursts of temper.
Unless the Pirates want young pitchers to yell at the manager and complain about defensive shifts backed by extensive research, they shouldn’t want them to follow Burnett’s example. A real leader would have handled not getting the Game Five playoff assignment better, too.
At times it seemed like Burnett was cranky just for the sake of being cranky. No big deal, but it speaks to an overall peevishness that can wear thin.
Clint Hurdle has a track record of getting what he wants (Clint Barmes, for example). If Hurdle had been more adamant about wanting Burnett back, would this scenario have played out differently? At minimum, maybe the Pirates would have made the $14.1 million qualifying offer and set themselves up to get an extra draft pick.
We’ll never know. Burnett is getting fitted for a Phillies uniform now, and the Phillies should be ready to expect some fits from him.
If he has another year in him like 2013 at age 37, good for the Phillies.
The Pirates have a challenge to replace what he contributed last year. They’ll miss the 191 innings, the 3.30 ERA and the 209 strikeouts. But the supposed leadership? Don’t sweat that.
NBC’s Olympics reporting roster is deep enough to include ROOT Sports alumnus Trenni Kusnierek.
Added as a part-timer, she’s been covering curling. (This is based on spy reports and not first-hand knowledge. Even being snowbound can’t justify watching curling.)
Mehno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org