Consistently Inconsistent… With ONE Constant.

2010 Pretty In Pinstripes Challenge Tracker: Entry #30 – 5/9/10 – Yankees @ Red Sox

Well, was anyone really surprised? 
Listen, I love AJ Burnett, so I’m not going to sit here and slaughter the man. I think he’s a great part of our rotation, and without him we would have been in trouble last year. He is, however, regularly irregular. 
I’m not one to complain, more often than not, Burnett is absolutely solid. In this game, however, he was far from it.
It didn’t help that Jon Lester was, well, Jon Lester. He’s a great pitcher, and held our boys to two runs (home runs from Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher), on four hits, and struck out seven. He pitched seven solid innings for the Red Sox. 
AJ Burnett was pretty much a disaster this game. He gave up hit after hit, and run after run, and was just horrible. I don’t understand the problem that AJ has with pitching at Fenway. Yes, Burnett seems to have “those days” where his pitching is off. He seems to be consistently inconsistent. Luckily, those “bad” days aren’t too frequent, and he is still a solid third starter in our rotation. He always seems to struggle in Boston, though. As a Yankee at least.
When he was with the Blue Jays, he won all of his starts against the Red Sox. With the Yankees, however, he has an ERA of 12.68 against Boston.
Is this a result of letting the whole “rivalry” get to him? I didn’t think players allowed that to happen. While Yankees fans are fighting with Red Sox fans, the players on the field seem to get along in a professional manner. Of course, there are the likes of Jonathan Papelbon and Curt Schilling who always seem to have a word to say about the Yankees. Generally speaking, however, the animosity is mostly between the fans.
The “rivalry” was created for us, and is fed by us, not by the players. Most of the time, it has little to do with actual baseball. Look at this year, for example. The Red Sox are far from being our main competition in the division thus far. Yes, the season is still young, and they could bounce back, but I’m not too worried about them right now. Yet, as fans, we are more passionate about winning at Fenway than we are about winning at any other opposing ballpark in the league. 
Could this be the proof we need to say that fans truly are the extra “man” on the field? In AJ’s case, this argument could hold some truth.
AJ Burnett could be influenced by the emotions of fans when it comes to pitching at Fenway. Statistically speaking, a Yankee win at Fenway is no different from a win at Tropicana Field or Camden Yards. The Red Sox, Rays, and Orioles are all in our division, and getting wins against these teams is of equal importance. Yet Burnett is able to beat the Rays, even though their lineup is tougher, and can beat the Orioles, even though they just swept the Red Sox. Boston, on the other hand, seems to have his number.
I can’t think of any other reason why AJ Burnett can’t seem to get a
solid start against the Red Sox. Yes, he’s somewhat inconsistent. He’ll have a few solid starts, then have a horrible one. It happens randomly with other teams. He’ll face the same team twice, once he’ll be great, and the next time he’ll be shaky. That’s fine, I can deal with that. Against the Red Sox, however, he’s consistently bad. It has become a constant. That makes me think that he has some sort of difficulty against the Red Sox.
What could that difficulty be? I find it hard to believe that any mechanical problems magically show up against the Red Sox. I’d buy that if he at least had a couple of good starts against Boston, and was inconsistent. He’s always been bad against the Red Sox, so it must be mental. Why do I say it’s mental? Because the Red Sox lineup isn’t exactly the toughest in baseball. In my opinion, it can’t be anything other than AJ not having the right mentality going into games against Boston.
Where did the mental problems come from? No one really knows. Since he didn’t have these mental problems as a Blue Jay, I think that he bought into the “rivalry” hype. It’s not because of the actual team he’s facing, because he faced them as a Blue Jay, and he was good. Of course, Jays fans aren’t as intense as we are. I very much doubt that Toronto is a pressure cooker like New York is. Burnett seems to be dealing with this pressure cooker fine against other teams, so what is it about Boston?
It must be the “rivalry”. For a pitcher as random as AJ Burnett, who is consistently inconsistent, the only real constant seems to be getting lit up by the Red Sox.
Let’s hope he gets this problem fixed. Soon.

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