Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
February 19th, 2012 may be the most important date of the last twenty years for the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was the day A.J. Burnett was traded by the New York Yankees to the Pittsburgh Pirates for minor leaguers, Exicardo Cayones and Diego Moreno. To say the Pirates won this trade would be a gross understatement. How many of you have heard the names Exicardo Cayones and Diego Moreno since that trade? Neither have made much of an impact and only Moreno has seen Major League service time to the tune of 10.1 innings and a 5.23ERA with a 4.30FIP. However, I am not here to talk about numbers or how well Burnett has pitched as a member of the Pirates, I am here to talk about what he has meant to our city’s baseball club.
A.J. Burnett spent most 2012 and 2013 as the ace and leader of the Pittsburgh Pirates. From the moment he got here, you could feel the attitude shifting and the culture changing. He wasn’t going to let the Pirates be pushovers anymore. From his first start as a Pirate, April 21st, 2012 against the Cardinals, you knew that Batman meant business. On that day he pitched well as he went seven innings, allowed zero runs on three hits, struck out seven and the Pirates won 2-0. 2012 also saw the Pirates in contention for most of the season with Burnett leading the charge as the team was built around their starting pitching staff. Unfortunately we all remember how September 2012 went, as the Pirates collapsed and faded out of contention all the way to a 79-83 finish. You could feel the tides starting to turn, however as the Pirates finally broke through and made the playoffs in 2013, winning the memorable Wildcard game, before taking the St. Louis Cardinals to five games.
Burnett has a lot of memorable moments as a Pirate. From telling Hanley Ramirez to “STFD,” the Opening Day 2013 rosin bag explosion, his almost no-hitter against the Cubs, his complete game victory against the Rockies and all the Walk-off victory pies. It’s easy to quantify Burnett’s value in terms of numbers, because he’s been such a consistent pitcher while wearing the black and gold, but his contributions go so beyond numbers, which may be sacrilege to my fellow saber-heads, but it’s very obvious that his teammates love him and love playing behind him when he’s starting. So, without further adieu here are my top-five favorite A.J. Burnett moments as a Pirate…
Next: Number Five