As Pittsburgh Pirates fans have we become so used to observing bad baseball that we can’t recognize good baseball? How else can anyone explain the vitriol spewed toward hot-topic-of-the-day, A.J. Burnett?
Burnettt comes to Pittsburgh.
He kicks ass. Well most of the time anyway.
He shows leadership, pitches like he hasn’t pitched in years, the team adds important players, the players win. The fans show up. A.J. gets standing ovation after standing ovation.
He pitches like shit in St. Louis. Again.
So now what? He leaves? A.J. is somehow the bad guy?
He retires? I trust not.
Here’s what I think it is. I think some Pittsburgh fans got so used to pitchers the likes of Zach Duke, Ian Snell and Victor Santos happily handing the ball to John Russell and Jim Tracy so they could hit the showers. The Pirates haven’t seen a character like Burnett in…well, forever maybe.
We haven’t watched intense competitors for such a long time we don’t know how to act when such players act like such players do. The media doesn’t like Burnett because he isn’t the nicest of guys. He treats team officials like team officials. He’s the modern day Stone Cold Steve Austin for the wrestling fans out there.
I say that seeing such piss poor baseball for such a long time has made an impact on the eyes of some of the Pirates fans. Big time pitchers hate coming out of the game. If you don’t believe me, what happened to the Boston Red Sox as reported on MLB.com
Lackey didn’t get through his outing, though, without at least a little bit of controversy. With Martinez on first base and two outs in the seventh, Farrell decided that Lackey’s night was done.
Farrell came out of the dugout to call upon left-hander Craig Breslow. Lackey looked incredulous on the mound and appeared to let Farrell know what he thought of the decision with a few choice words.
The moment drew comparisons to a similar outburst Lackey had in Game 5 of the 2009 ALCS against the Yankees as a member of the Angels. On the receiving end that time was Angels manager Mike Scioscia, but in this case, the move by Farrell proved to be a good one. Breslow got out of the inning and Boston’s bullpen went on to throw another two scoreless frames to earn the win.
Even though Farrell was essentially called out on the field by one of his players, it wasn’t something he was concerned with after the game. Everyone in the Major Leagues is aware of Lackey’s demonstrative behavior and in Farrell’s opinion there is a far worse reaction that could have taken place.
“Well, you can anticipate him not wanting to come out of the game,” Farrell said. “And you know what? That’s what makes John such the competitor that he is. I’d rather him come off arguing than come off with his head hanging. That means we’re probably on the reverse side of the scoreboard.
“You never want a pitcher to come out of the game. If something is made of that, we don’t want John to change who he is as a person, and certainly who he is as a competitor.”
Remember Tom Brady? The Patriots QB screams at his receivers. Brady even screamed at his coach, Bill O’Brien.
Look, it happens all the time with the elite players.
The fact that the Pittsburgh Pirates Baseball Club hasn’t been the home to anything elite for the past 20 years doesn’t mean that just because Clint Barmes had his feelings hurt that A.J. Burnett needs to head out of town.
You want to see #Buctober again in 2014? Then wise up and start to understand that leadership comes in many forms. Leaders lead in many ways, elite players that post ridiculous numbers in their age 36 season do things that some people view as being ridiculous.
Hurdle respects Burnett. A.J. respects Hurdle. They get it. The fans don’t. The media doesn’t.
And most of all, more important than anything they play. They win.
Let’s all get used to it.