If He Signs Elsewhere, Pittsburgh Pirates Fans Should Not Hate A.J. Burnett

A.J. Burnett

Charles LeClaire-USA Today Sports

Think back to before the Pittsburgh Pirates had A.J. Burnett. You probably don’t want to, right? Okay, sure, if you’re old enough to remember the 1970s until 1992, you don’t mind it as much, I’m sure. I can only speak for myself, obviously, but I am not old enough to remember 1992; I was born in 1993. ‘Winning baseball and ‘Pittsburgh’ didn’t belong in the same sentence before Burnett arrived.

I bring this up because of the Burnett free agency saga that will surely draw hate towards Burnett from some Pirates fans. Let me preface this by saying that I will not tell you what to think or how to feel. I will simply tell you how I feel and what I think is the correct way to approach the situation.

Think back not as far as the 1970s or to 1992, but just to October right after the season ended. Burnett went on Colin Dunlap’s radio show on 93.7 The Fan, a Pittsburgh sports-talk radio station. The veteran pitcher addressed several tough topics in his lengthy interview with Dunlap, including apparent shouting matches with manager Clint Hurdle and shortstop Clint Barmes, Hurdle’s decision to go with Gerrit Cole over Burnett in Game 5 of the NLDS and Burnett’s future with the Pirates.

Burnett was extremely candid in this interview, which is surprising in this day and age, but not surprising if you know Burnett’s straight-forward personality. Burnett told Dunlap that “as of right now” (right now obviously being the day of the interview) he would take some time to choose between retirement and pitching with the Pirates in 2014. At that time, he had no interest in pitching for a different team. The key there is four words — “as of right now.”

When Burnett signs elsewhere — and it seems like he will — remember that he did not lie to you. He chose his words carefully. He said he loved it in Pittsburgh and that he wanted to retire a Pirate at some point, whether it was after the season or after this upcoming season, and I believed it. I still believe it. If he signs elsewhere it doesn’t mean that what he told Dunlap was a lie. People change their minds sometimes, folks. It happens.

Keep in mind, even if you still do think Burnett lied for some reason he owes you nothing. In two seasons, Burnett pitched 393.1 innings for the Pirates with a 3.41 ERA and 389 strikeouts. He, along with his teammates and Hurdle, changed baseball in Pittsburgh. They changed the mindset among the fans and the players. They gave the city a taste of what winning feels like — something far too many baseball fans from Pittsburgh didn’t know.

The Pirates low-balling Burnett with a $8.5 million offer probably didn’t help the situation. With several other teams trying to woo Burnett, it seems a return to the Pirates is probably more of a pipe-dream now. Don’t hate Burnett; thank him for the happiness he helped bring you.

Zach Morrison is a Pirates writer at RantSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter at Zach_Morrison1, add him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google+.

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  • disqus_HqUF0Ou9nR

    AJ wasn’t the main reason the Pirates broke .500 and made the playoffs. He had a big part in the Pirates season but he wasn’t even the top two pitchers on the team. For the first half of the season, Liriano and Locke were the best pitchers on the team, and were pretty much unhittable. Locke fell off in the second half of the season, but Cole came up and was dominant in the last couple of months of the season. At seasons end,The teams best pitchers were Liriano, Cole, and Morton. I respect what AJ did for this team, and don’t get me wrong, he had a great career with the Pirates, but this team would have made it to .500 and the playoffs without him.

    • Zach Morrison

      Nice points, but I simply disagree, you do point out that Locke was awful in the second half, and Cole was lights out in September and October, but who was always there? A.J. Burnett, other than against the Cardinals for some reason. He could never do well against St. Louis. It wasn’t even all about his on-field performance. Burnett coming to Pittsburgh (via trade, of course), and embracing it made playing for the Pirates cool again.

    • Zach Morrison

      Thanks for reading, I always appreciate when readers comment!