September 20, 2011
After getting an early heave-ho from Joe Girardi before he could qualify for a dubious win, A.J. Burnett(notes) told reporters that he thought his stuff was "nasty" — in all the best senses of the word, of course — during a 6-4 win over the Minnesota Twins. The New York Yankees pitcher presumably must have also considered "sick," "filthy" or "dirty" before settling on the kids-these-days definition that the Cincinnati Reds bullpen brought mainstream 21 years ago.
But, oh man, is that rich or what? If Burnett had wanted an unclean adjective to describe his performance, he should have eliminated any attempt at interpretation and just gone with "nauseating." After striking out seven of the first nine batters in Minnesota's minor league-quality lineup, he gave up four runs on nine hits, including homers to Michael Cuddyer(notes) and Chris Parmalee. The fans at Yankee Stadium cheered when he was lifted.
But no matter. Instead of acknowledging his continued putridity — he's 2-4 with a 7.43 ERA in 12 second-half starts — Burnett instead maintained that Girardi interrupted a solid outing with a premature hook and a call for reliever Corey Wade.
"I didn't get through the fifth because I wasn't allowed to get through the fifth. It wasn't that I couldn't get through the fifth," Burnett said of Girardi lifting him with a runner on second and none out in that inning. [...]
"I thought I was nasty, to be honest with you," Burnett said. "(Girardi) left me in there in the fourth and I got out of it. Joe does what he can to get this team a win and we won ... But I felt good about myself until he took me out."
Whatever gets you to your next outing, I suppose.
It's not as if I don't recognize an athlete's need to stay stoic when his performance is crumbling around him. John Lackey(notes) was again torched on Monday night, but insisted that he had put together his best bullpen session of the year. Perhaps that's how he copes with a situation that has David Ortiz publicly campaigning for reliever Alfredo Aceves(notes) to take all or part of Lackey's rotation time this last stretch of the season.
But for Burnett to act disingenuous and pretend like he was on his way to a complete-game effort against an inferior Twins lineup still doesn't sit right with me. His performance may have indeed been "nasty," but that doesn't mean we have to agree on the way he used the word.