How did the Yankees go from paying A.J. Burnett $82.5 million to paying $20 million just so he would go pitch for somebody else? A.J. thinks it might be too much tinkering from the coaching staff.
“I let a few too many people tinker with me, maybe,” Burnett told the AP. “When you let that happen, you start doubting yourself sometimes. You wonder, ‘Am I doing it right? Is this how it’s supposed to feel?’ and things like that. In ’09, nobody messed with me. I was able to do what I wanted to do on the mound, whether it was turn around, close my eyes and pitch upside down. Then you have a few bad games and you start changing and listening.”
One of the people on the Yankees who probably knew him best, catcher Russell Martin agreed with his comments.
“Exactly,” Martin said. “A big part of getting better is knowing what information to retain and knowing what information to block out. The best way to do it is, when you’re working on something, work on something specific, work on that well and make it muscle memory. Once you get that going, you can move on to something else. If you’re trying to tinker with eight things at the same time, you’re not going to get any progress.”
Martin also went on to say that a big part of Burnett’s problems were from head games.
“I think sometimes he would let negative thoughts get into his mind and they would affect him a little bit,” Martin said. “It wasn’t the fact that he didn’t care or anything; he probably cared more than anybody. He’s just very hard on himself and sometimes over-critical, and when you do that, sometimes you just go the wrong way. Instead of just simplifying the game, he would listen to everybody trying to help him out, and when you do that, it becomes chaotic. I think that’s what was happening in his mind.”
Burnett wasn’t responding to Martin, but he did say, “I think I put more pressure on myself to get out of it than anything.”
It’s hard to say how much of it was too much tinkering or how much was just in his head. It is probably a combination of both. However, there is a good chance that Burnett sees an improvement in his results this year. Not only is he moving to the National League and into a bigger park, but the fact that his xFIP last year was 3.86 compared to his actual ERA of 5.15 suggests he is in line for some stat regression.
With all of those things going for him combined with the lack of media attention in Pittsburgh, 2012 could end up being a good year all around for A.J.
WIFE NOT AFRAID TO FLY: The prevailing thought on why A.J. invoked his no trade clause to block a deal to the Angels is because his wife is supposedly afraid to fly. However, it turns out that’s not exactly true. His wife isn’t afraid to fly, but he said that California is too far away from his kids who won’t be relocating out of Maryland.
“It’s too far. My kids are 7 and 10 and they’re in school.” he told Anthony McCarron of the NY Daily News. “She met me on freakin’ 15 different trips last year. She loves to fly.”