Why all of the noise about A.J. Burnett?

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It’s another offseason, another free agency period for the Baltimore Orioles and the fan base – or what’s left of it – is stirred up about whether the club will sign pitcher A.J. Burnett sometime soon. Apparently, he lives locally in Monkton (who knew THAT before this week?) and has made some overtures toward the team that he’d actually like to play here in his “hometown” as an Oriole.

So writers are writing about it, Baltimore fans are talking about it, the Yankees are bidding for him and in my own mind I’m saying what any self-respecting Orioles fan should be saying: “Here we go again!”

Are they really going to spend ANY money this offseason? Is anyone worth a damn REALLY going to say: “YES, I’d dying to play for the Orioles and I’ll take less money to do it?”

First, the Orioles are making millions and millions of dollars of “free money” via MASN. Whatever else that comes out of their mouths to the contrary – as usual – are lies. They are absolutely printing money via that TV network. Now, whether they’ll continue to pocket the money or spend it is entirely up to them. (Or, they’ll say it’s totally Andy McPhail’s call, but who honestly believes that?)

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So, having the money isn’t the issue. It’s whether (and where and to whom) to spend it at this point.

Are they trying to win? Are they trying to get people to care about the team again? Or are they trying to make more money? I’m never really sure what their direction is because every fall and into winter we get more lies, more “close chases” with marquee free agents with “Confederate money” and ultimately wind up with the bottom of the free agent barrel. Sometimes, as was the case with Aubrey Huff this year, it works out. Most of the time – and you can fill in any name this side of Albert Belle or Omar Daal or Marty Cordova – they wind up taking on another Sidney Ponson-like turd who steals their money and contributes nothing to the team on the field and even less off of the field.

Needless to say, the risk is heightened anytime a pitcher’s name is brought into the equation.

It’s the new Oriole Way. Losing and losers…we’re going on 12 consecutive years of it and if anyone thinks that this organization is one pitcher or one player away from being the Tampa Bay Rays they’re crazy.

Back to Burnett and the current fiasco, circa 2008…

The Orioles have never given a pitcher a huge deal, certainly nothing more than a 3-year deal. I think this is a good policy if you don’t want to waste money, but the Orioles will never get a marquee free agent by employing this Angelosian policy of frugality.

This nonsense of “he wants to play here because of his wife” and “he might take less money” all sounds good on WNST Radio and in the local fishwrap, but if the Yankees are truly offering Burnett a 5-year deal and $80 million I can’t fathom any scenario where he’ll be on the mound at Camden Yards unless it’s in pinstripes.

And you know what? That’s OK, too.

I wouldn’t give a guy whose only 200-inning season in the last four years was last year that kind of dough. He’s also 32 years old and has had a number of seasons where he’s been an “incomplete” on the scorecard. Burnett has already made $38 million in the big leagues and has won just 87 games in 10 years. Is he really good for going 18-10 and 200 innings every year over the next five years? And even if he DOES hit those numbers, is he worth $80 million to a team that’s just praying to play .500 baseball one of these years before I die?

If the price of poker is a four or five-year deal and anything over $50 million I think you have to politely pass on a risk this large. Even at $10 per year, is A.J. Burnett going to be a difference maker in Baltimore?

Even if going in you know your stadium is going to be empty and your team’s starting rotation is a mystery coming into Spring Training 2009.

The money would be better spent on Mark Teixeira, who might actually sell you a handful of tickets and make it look like you’re trying to get better rather than getting a very expensive, risky once-every-fifth day starter, who has never been a No. 1 pitcher in his career.

Word out of the Warehouse that I get is that many of the sponsors have started to tilt on the team and they’re saying the economy is an issue for them. The economy is an issue for all of us. (And we don’t wake up on Jan. 1st having millions of guaranteed dollars streaming in from the cable companies the way they do!)

I can’t imagine that signing Burnett is the tipping point for them to being successful on the field in 2009 and beyond. Monkton resident or not, I’d pass on A.J. Burnett.

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