Call it cynicism, but the first thought that came up when Joe Girardi announced A.J. Burnett would stay in the Yankees rotation was that Girardi was starting to play hardball in negotiations for a new contract with the Yankees.
He didn't exactly do much to quiet any speculation that he'd be willing to head to Wrigley Field and take over the Cubs on Friday. That's not surprising given the need to build up some leverage for eventual contract talks, although you have to wonder how scared any member of the Yankee brass would be about anyone actually choosing to leave baseball's winningest franchise for the most historically inept.
Directly threatening the chances of a 28th championship by sticking with Burnett in the face of mounting evidence that he can't do the job, though? That's the kind of negotiation tactic that they should be teaching at Harvard Business School. After all, the guy has gone 0-4 with a 7.80 ERA in August, which is shockingly only the second worst month of the season for the guy that the Yankees were counting on to be their second best pitcher this season.
We could be wrong, though. Girardi could be taking a page from George Costanza's handbook and trying to do whatever it takes to get himself removed from the Yankees payroll. You'd get further using Babe Ruth's uniform as a bib on rib night than continually handing the ball to Burnett.
Now, it isn't like Girardi has a ton of other options for the rotation. Javier Vazquez has pitched like the poor man's version of Burnett, Chad Gaudin is a destitute man's Vazquez and Sergio Mitre remains the kind of guy best mentioned last on a list of unrealistic options for openings in the starting rotation. Andy Pettitte will be back in two weeks, so it may be best to simply close your eyes and hope that Burnett does his imitation of a good pitcher a couple of times until you're forced to dump someone from the rotation.
What's more, it's not like skipping Burnett will actually result in some kind of altered approach to the job that leads to a more successful pitcher. He is what he is at this point in time because his refusal to change anything about his style makes it clear that a consistent Burnett remains as much of a pipe dream as a week without pretending the activities of Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan qualify as news.
Thankfully, there are other Yankees willing to step up in the team's time of need and keep the season from going off the rails because of injuries and ineffectiveness to the expected star players. Marcus Thames, Austin Kearns, Eduardo Nunez, Ivan Nova and Boone Logan make barely a fraction of the money paid to Burnett, but they have the benefit of being worth every penny.