Big League Stew - MLB

Have faith in A.J. Burnett for Tuesday night’s Game 4? PleasePoor weather and poor planning by MLB officials have forced the New York Yankees to look further down their depth chart for a fourth starting pitcher in their would-be elimination game Tuesday night against the Detroit Tigers. Unfortunately for Yankees fans on the verge of despondency and teeth-gnashing, that pitcher is the enigmatic A.J. Burnett(notes), he of the 11-11 record and the whopping 5.15 ERA.

So how are we all feeling about this? Well, as a Yankees fan, I personally have as much faith in Carol Burnett taking the mound for the Yanks in such an important game, but I'm afraid her signature ear-tug would get her called for a balk.

A.J. Burnett, meanwhile, is caught in a storm of few believing he can get the job done.  He's not making any guarantees but believes that he has enough confidence to succeed:

"I'm going to bring everything I've got. And just let A.J. loose out there."

Hey, be careful what you unleash, A.J.!

Of course, there are many Stockholm-syndrome-suffering Yankees fans who can ignore a dozen disaster starts and claim to be putting their faith in A.J. Burnett in a critical Game 4. You can find these delusional folks on Twitter with the #iBelieveInAJ hashtag and the accompanying avatar. Spreading such ill-gotten optimism is a dangerous decision.

These poor souls are only kidding themselves. Don't get me wrong, A.J. Burnett is among the few elite athletes in the world who are capable of throwing 95 mph fastballs and striking out professional ballplayers with ease. He's probably not even that much of a headcase or an aggressive and childish malcontent as the New York tabloids make him out to be. Heck, he's a great pitcher and I will cheer for him to succeed and won't blame him if he fails Tuesday night, but faith? No, I reserve faith for people I know personally, like family and friends. Faith in a professional athlete I've never met? I'm not willing to make that bet with my heart.

Over the past two seasons, A.J. Burnett's few flashes of brilliance are nothing more than a menace to Yankees fans who dare put faith in him. He set a sad wild pitch record this season. He's whined about being pulled from games early. And over the final 13 starts of the 2011 season, Burnett gave up 14 home runs and allowed hitters to rack up a whopping .942 OPS in just 71 innings pitched.

The mere fact that he's being given a postseason start is simply a matter of inconvenience and chance. Rain ruined the idea of C.C. Sabathia(notes) making two solid starts in the series. Bartolo Colon(notes) tired down the stretch. Phil Hughes(notes) was inconsistent after his stint on the disabled list and hasn't started in a over a month. And the next best option has unfortunately thrown just one pitch over the entire season.

So to the desperate Yankees fans, hungry for a reason to believe that Tuesday night's game won't be the final one of the 2011 season, attaching their hopes to the idea that A.J. Burnett is going to meet his level of talent and shut down the Tigers, I say, "get real." If you want to have faith in one thing, know that Detroit's starting pitcher, the inexperienced Rick Porcello(notes) with a similarly super-sized ERA, is just as likely as Burnett to flop miserably.

Or even, to succeed.

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