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A.J. Burnett: The New York Yankees’ Problem Child

On an episode of the hit FOX television series “Glee,” highly competitive and aggressive cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester calls three of her cheerleaders into her office to express her disappointment in them for failing to sabotage McKinley High School’s Glee Club.

After giving them one of her biting lectures, she asks the girls to smell their armpits.

“That is the smell of failure,” she tells them. “And it is stinking up my office.”

A.J. Burnett may want to take Sue Sylvester’s advice and check his own body odor for the smell of failure. Because right now, the scent is following him onto the mound and into the Yankees clubhouse.

In between innings of another dismal performance on Saturday against the Tampa Bay Rays, Burnett cut his pitching hand. He concocted a story about how he fell down the stairs and ended up getting injured, an excuse he thought would work when he explained why he was doing so poorly.

It later came out that Burnett was so angry about his performance that he punched glass doors in the clubhouse.

It was the latest in a string of problems for the Yankees’ often troubled starting pitcher.

Not only did Burnett purposely hurt himself, he had the balls to lie about it to manager Joe Girardi and his teammates.

His lie was not only hurtful to his team, but to the press who reported that and the fans who heard it. As a Yankees fan, I felt insulted that Burnett would make up a story to cover up his own foolishness. It further hurt my negative opinion of him, and right now, I feel what he did is unforgivable.

Talk about bad public relations.

For being a part of an organization that prides itself on player discipline and championship excellence, Burnett is looking like a clubhouse cancer.

During the YES Network pregame show on Sunday, even commentator Jack Curry said in so many words that what Burnett did was selfish and showed a lack of maturity.

When even the television announcers are talking about how undisciplined a pitcher Burnett is in front of an audience of millions, you know he has a few screws loose.

Is this the kind of behavior you would expect out of a veteran pitcher? 

Even the Yankees’ mediocre bullpen has better composure than this when they screw up a game. Have you ever heard of Joba Chamberlain kicking and punching things when he messes up a lead?

Do you think Andy Pettitte pouted and cried about how life wasn’t fair when he got injured in Sunday’s game?

This weekend, I was having a conversation with Isaiah Clark, another baseball writer here on Bleacher Report. He was watching Saturday’s game on TV, and since I was at Yankee Stadium, he had some insight into what the FOX commentators were saying.

He said the announcers mentioned how Burnett said he will take advice and listen to others’ suggestions, but mentioned that he doesn’t have a .500 winning percentage for nothing.

Since when did .500 become something to brag about? Sorry, A.J., but you are not that great that you are above advice from others.

Rumors have it that Burnett still has an ongoing feud with veteran catcher Jorge Posada. When A.J. is starting, youngster Francisco Cervelli is behind the plate. There is no love between Burnett and Posada, but no one seems to know why.

Posada has made an effort to get along with Burnett. He has even spoke highly of the pitcher, but Burnett has none of it and still won’t work with him. He even blew off Posada in the dugout after a rough outing against Arizona.

Here’s my take on that:

Do you know how when you have a job, one where you’re not making $16 million a year to absolutely suck and still get that fat check?

And you know how there’s that one person you just can’t stand?

Guess what? You still have to work professionally with them. You don’t have to be their best friend once the workday is over, but you still have to get along and have some degree of professional respect.

Burnett needs to remember that and take it to heart.

Finally, Burnett seems to be lost on the concept of accountability, another principle of the Yankees organization and professional sports in general.

When he was struggling during pitching coach Dave Eiland’s absence, he complained it was because he missed Eiland, who he has a close relationship with, and claimed Eiland knows him better than anyone else.

I do understand the value of a strong player-coach relationship, but come on. Burnett has several years of experience. He should be able to pick himself up when Eiland can’t be around. Ultimately, he should be taking the blame for his performances and not getting upset because he can’t have his hand held 24 hours a day.  

So what do the Yankees do about this?

My first reaction is to say Burnett should be traded.

But what team is going to pick up that $16 million a year contract? Brian Cashman likely isn’t going to find any takers, especially when there is a bad attitude coming with that contract.

I also suggest that Burnett gets removed from his second spot in the rotation. But Girardi seemed to defend Burnett on his show yesterday, saying that he is not the first pitcher to act out in such a manner and won’t be the last.

Girardi has a valid point, but if he’s not going to punish Burnett, then what is really being learned here?

Burnett could also be put in the bullpen, but what pitcher do you put in the rotation in his place? Hardly anyone in the bullpen has earned the right to be a starter. David Robertson may be a possibility, but I personally have no confidence in any of the relief pitchers to move up to a starting role.

Or do we just wait it out? This could be the most painful of options. But Burnett did pitch well in the playoffs last year and seemed to have his attitude under control.

Let me know what you think. Take my poll and/or leave a comment.

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George Steinbrenner: A True New York Yankees Legend

Ironically enough, I was in the Yankees Clubhouse Store in New York City when I heard about the passing of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.

As I browsed player t-shirts while watching ESPN, I began to realize what an impact Steinbrenner had on the Yankees.

Love him or hate him, he is a legend. Period.

Steinbrenner knew what he wanted, and he was not afraid to go after it.

Setting a grooming policy for his players? Check.

Getting the free agents he wanted? Check.

Building New York into World Series champions? Check.

I realize why fans of other baseball teams couldn’t stand Steinbrenner and the Yankees. He built winning teams. This would naturally aggravate other fans, especially those of the rival Mets and Red Sox.

If I weren’t a Yankees’ fan, I’d be mad too.

But Steinbrenner shaped the team not only into winners, but into dignified men that Yankees’ fans were, and still are, proud to support.

Maybe it’s just because I’m a female, but let me be honest. I would much rather stand behind a groomed Derek Jeter, who is humble, polite, and a true leader, than Manny Ramirez, with his long dreadlocks and his massive ego.

You could say Steinbrenner bought championships. But I believe that all the money in the world can’t “buy” a title in any sport if the players don’t work well together or don’t get along with their coaches.

Besides, how come people say that only the Yankees “buy” championships? How come they haven’t accused past World Series champions, such as the Phillies and the Red Sox, of doing the same thing?

As an owner or general manager, you have to go out and sign the best players available for the best amount of money you can offer. If you have top money, you’re going to get top talent.

Likewise, if you have bottom of the barrel money, you have to get the players no one else really wants, and a long and miserable season is likely in your future.

What about everyone who thinks of Steinbrenner as a terrible person?

Sure, he was brutally honest. He was tough. He never coddled Yankees players.

But he touched many lives.

Many kids will benefit from college scholarships he helped establish. Boys and Girls Clubs are stronger because of him. Young hospital patients will benefit from top care at a pediatric wing named for him at a Tampa hospital.

When Yankees players, such as Alex Rodriguez and Andy Pettitte, were interviewed today, you could tell that Steinbrenner cared deeply for them. Despite his tough love, he changed their lives and helped shape them into the All-Star players they are today.

You know that big shiny stadium the Yankees play in? That wouldn’t have been possible without Steinbrenner.

People can criticize the stadium all they want, but I’m sure he really felt the team deserved more. Now we can see a top of the line team in a top of the line ballpark. I know I’m not complaining.

Although some of the comments about Steinbrenner have been filled with vitriol, his legacy is undeniable.

His loss is sure to be felt for a long time, but I am confident the Yankees will continue to be strong.

Steinbrenner’s children have prominent roles in Yankees management. They know what their father wanted, seeing as they were around his job and the team for almost their whole lives. The Boss would likely want his family to carry on what he so carefully put in place, and I’m sure they will do just that.

And I’m even more confident that the Yankees’ players and coaching staff respected him too much to tear apart the standards for excellence.  If anything, Steinbrenner’s passing probably fuels their desire to win a 28th World Championship.

As the Yankees prepare to return home on Friday, there will undoubtedly be an air of sadness over the field.  

With Old Timers Day this weekend, I’m sure that at some point, Steinbrenner will get the send off he deserves.

R.I.P, Boss. You will never be forgotten.

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Bob Sheppard: A Tribute To a Man I Barely Knew

This morning, I logged into Twitter and saw on the top of my news feed that legendary Yankees announcer Bob Sheppard had died at the age of 99.

Although I just started getting into baseball a year or two ago, I felt saddened by this loss.

I knew my parents and grandparents had listened to him announce games in the earlier years of Yankees baseball. Even my younger brother had been in the presence of his voice in some of the first trips he took to the old Yankee Stadium.  

I never experienced a game at Yankee Stadium called by Sheppard.

I do remember the first time I heard his voice.

I was fascinated by the spectacle that was the final game at Yankee Stadium in September 2008. I couldn’t be there. I watched the ceremonies on TV with my family. When I heard him announce the Yankees starting lineup, I was fascinated to hear him call the players’ jersey numbers, their names, and their number again.

I asked my mom why he did that. She said he had always done it that way. It was his trademark, if you will.

Between Sheppard’s unique way of announcing players and his eloquent voice, I knew he was someone different. He was a far cry from some of the PA announcers in sports today, who sound like they should be calling a monster truck show or WWE match rather than a professional sporting event.

Sheppard was there for many of the historic moments in Yankee Stadium.

Among the one that most stuck out to me (and probably one of the defining moments of my generation) was when President Bush threw out the ceremonial first pitch in Game 3 of the 2001 World Series.

In an article about the legendary stadium in Sports Illustrated, the writer, who was writing as if Yankee Stadium could talk, mentioned how many fans started chanting “U-S-A!” “U-S-A!” when Bush threw out the first pitch.

After watching that moment on the YES Network today, I got the idea that along with being able to see their Yankees, the voice of Sheppard was probably as much of a comfort to the fans, if not more.

It symbolized how special Yankees baseball still was to New Yorkers, even in the wake of the nation’s biggest tragedy. They were in a place they all held near and dear to their hearts. Sheppard was there to lead the way.

Sure, I have heard Sheppard’s voice. He does a commercial announcement on YES. I will hear his voice at Yankee Stadium this Saturday when he announces that Derek Jeter is up to bat.

I just wish I could’ve heard it in person.

If Sheppard had lived a few more months, he would’ve had his 100th birthday.

But even though he died at 99, I truly believe he lived a long and fulfilling life.

When you get to know famous names such as Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and Thurman Munson, witness several World Series victories, and call one of the greatest sports stadiums in the world your workplace, I’d say you lived a pretty darn good life.

Even better, Sheppard will live on forever.

He will always call Jeter to the plate.

There is a monument in his honor in Monument Park. New generations of fans will be able to learn about a type of person who is rare to come across these days.

I’m pretty positive that down the road, Yankeeography will do a special on him that will air time and time again.

How many of us can really say this about our own lives?

I can’t.

R.I.P, Bob Sheppard.

Those that got to experience you in person are very fortunate.

Even if we didn’t, we are grateful for the memories.

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