AJ Burnett was interviewed before last night’s game about (what else) the fact that Jose Molina will be catching him instead of Jorge Posada. He denied that he requested such a move and said it was completely manager Joe Girardi’s decision. Here’s the story:
A.J. Burnett has earned the Yankees’ Game 2 assignment for the American League Division Series against the Twins on Friday, and he alone — not Jorge Posada or Jose Molina — will determine its success.
“My good games, I’m right,” Burnett said. “And my bad games, it’s not the catcher. It’s me.”
He went on to say
Both Burnett and Girardi swear that the right-hander did not request to pitch to Molina, though Burnett has been unable to dodge the perception that he and Posada do not get along.
“It’s making me out to be a bad guy again,” said Burnett, who lauded Posada as a leader both on and off the field. “If you ask people who I’ve played with, I don’t show guys up.”
My first impression is that this is preplanned spin by the Yanks, knowing that questions will be asked and making sure everyone involved has their stories straight. But thinking about it a bit more, it’s completely consistent with everything Burnett has said all year and what we know about him as a person. He has never once blamed Jorge for a bad outing, never. By all accounts he has been not just a good guy in the clubhouse, but an outstanding teammate who never blames his fielders, even when they’re completely their fault. You may recall the June 20th game facing the Florida Marlins where a Johnny Damon error cost AJ the win, and he simply placed the blame on himself, saying in the post game that he shouldn’t have given up the 1st run and praising Johnny for busting his butt out there for him.
Even Jorge Posada’s account from yesterday doesn’t contradict any of these quotes, or any of Girardi’s. When asked if this was debated at all, he simply said “manager’s decision” which is exactly what Girardi and AJ are saying. He also said “It’s not like I didn’t see this coming” but that could be referring to the fact that he hasn’t caught Burnett in over a month. Nobody’s disputing the fact that these two had trouble getting on the same page, but that doesn’t mean it was personal in any way.
Full disclosure here, I support this move. AJ has the most electric stuff on the staff and as we saw last night (and have seen for many years) Jorge has trouble blocking the plate. You don’t want a pitcher to feel like he has to hold back from throwing his best pitch for fear it will wind up in foul territory. Everyone likes to point to the August 22nd blowout in Fenway and the Ortiz HR as the clearest sign that these two weren’t on the same page, but AJ Burnett has also logged a career high in Wild Pitches this season, and I don’t think his control got worse at age 32 than it was at 24. Little things can decide playoff games, and if the Yanks weren’t facing the Twins 7th starter last night, that 2nd run allowed on Jorge’s half-hearted attempt to field a wild pitch he should have blocked could have been decisive.
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