AlliedNews.com - Grove City, Pennsylvania

Sports

September 18, 2013

EXTRA INNINGS: Burn-ett needs to Cool-ett

OPINION — ALMOST FROM Day One in a Pirates uniform, A.J. Burnett became a fan darling.

After a couple of decades of virtually no leadership, here came the big right hander, from the New York Yankees, no less. The fact that he was 14-3 on August 5, 2012 certainly helped. Because he and James McDonald were joined at the hip, Burnett seemed to get credit for guiding enigmatic James McDonald to a 10-3 record by mid-July.

Even though McDonald stumbled to a 2-5 record after that point and Burnett only went 2-7 in his last nine decisions, Burnett remained the tattooed golden boy who would lead the 2013 Pirates to the land of victory.

While the Pirates will end up with 90-plus wins, Burnett opened 3-6 and has struggled uphill all summer toward even grasping a .500 record, falling to 8-11 after Monday’s tough loss.

Through it all, the one positive has been his perceived leadership for a team that had been devoid in the past of anyone grabbing the team and almost willing it to be better.

Burnett’s visible emotions played positively with the fans and, presumably, his teammates.

But in last Wednesday’s game in Texas, Burnett displayed a lack of both professionalism and leadership when he gestured disgust at a teammate. Burnett coaxed a ground ball to where shortstop Clint Barmes normally would have been positioned. But manager Clint Hurdle had shifted the shortstop closer to second base, and the ball sneaked through the infield because Barmes was positioned closer to second base than he normally would be. Burnett didn’t like this and proceeded to yell at Barmes, recognized as one of the game’s best defensive shortstops.

The hit allowed the Rangers to load the bases, and both runners scored on Ian Kinsler’s single, cutting the Pirates 4-0 lead in half.

The fact is that everyone — including Burnett — knows the Pirates, like many 2013 teams, are in love with “The Shift” and Barmes was playing where his coaches had told him to play.

So if Burnett had a problem with that, his remarks should have been directed at Hurdle — and only in the dugout or locker room.

Even if he thought Barmes was the offender, making a scene for every tv camera to see was bush league.

Besides, Burnett had WALKED both batters to open the sixth!

While Burnett and the Pirates won 7-5, one has to wonder about the effect on “team chemistry” everyone seems to worry about.

It wasn’t the first time Burnett behaved badly on the field.

In a late July game which the Bucs lost 9-7 in Washington, after working out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth inning, Burnett walked off the mound, motioning toward the Pirates’ bullpen to sit down, after Hurdle had gotten up reinforcements in case they were needed.

Hurdle met Burnett at the top of the dugout and followed the pitcher the length of the dugout, re-identifying the roles of who does what on this team.

Following the game, both downplayed the encounter, as Barmes and Burnett did last week.

Certainly no one is going to blame Burnett’s blowup as the reason if the Pirates lose the division.

I understand that like any workplace, not everyone gets along, even in situations where they don’t spend every day for eight months together side by side, as ballplayers do.

Nor do I wish to return to days of gutless Paul Maholm or cardboard cutout John Russell.

And I’m old enough to remember how “the Fightin’ A’s” won three consecutive World Series despite lawsuits, fisticuffs, and worse in 1972-1974.

It’s just that Burnett’s public behavior was wrong and unprofessional, while—thankfully—rare.

We expect more from a leader.

TWO RUNS, ONE HIT: Trailing the lowly Seattle Mariners 1-0 in the 8th inning last Friday, St. Louis scored the tying run on a two-base error, stolen base, and ground out. They won the game in the 10th on a single, two walks, and a passed ball. Sigh!

Jim Sankey is a baseball columnist for the Allied News.

1
Text Only
Sports
  • THE CHECKERED FLAG: April should bring welcome return of local racing

    MOTHER NATURE’S last stronghold on winter may slowly be releasing her grip as the calendar changes to April and racing begins to get under way throughout the region. 
    Locally, nothing has happened yet, but that may soon be changing. Mercer had to postpone their “Chiller Thriller” to this Saturday (April 5), weather permitting, featuring the NDRL Northeast Super Late Models, NDRL E-Mods, Crate Late Models, and Stock Cars. Mercer’s regular season opener featuring their weekly divisions of “410” Sprints, “358” Modifieds, “305” Sprints, Stock Cars, Mod Lites, and Mini Stocks has now been pushed back to April 12. 

    April 6, 2014

  • Dishing off Mercer boys bow in Guerino finals

    The Hickory girls and Farrell boys captured championships on Saturday night at the 17th annual Buddy Guerino Underclassmen Basketball Tournament at Sharpsville High School.
    The Hickory girls beat Kennedy Catholic, 41-29, for the crown while the Farrell boys topped Mercer, 76-35, for the title.
    In the consolation games, Sharpsville defeated Sharon, 35-15, in girls hoops while the Sharon boys beat Hickory, 57-33.

    April 3, 2014 1 Photo

  • EXTRA INNINGS: Bonds ruined opening day for Pirates fans

    As this column begins today its 47th year, longtime readers no doubt expected to find what they have found at the beginning of every baseball season — predictions for upcoming summer.
    And as I sat down last week to start to put together some ideas for today’s entry, that is fully what I anticipated would fill this space.
    Well, I’m as surprised as you are; 2014’s season prognostications must wait until next week.
    I just can’t get past the fact that club president Frank Coonelly thought the celebration of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ first winning season in 21 years should include Barry Bonds.
    You gotta be kidding me!

    April 3, 2014

  • NCAA Football: Rock 6-1 after 17-3 win over Cal U

    Slippery Rock University rode a length-of-the-field scoring drive by its offense and a goal-line stand by its No. 1-ranked defense late in the first half of action Saturday to a 17-3 win over 14th-ranked visiting California (Pa.).

    October 19, 2011

  • steez pc.jpg NFL: Steelers top Jags as Mendenhall makes return

    Mike Tomlin isn’t ready to say the Pittsburgh Steelers are back. Not after watching his team sleepwalk through the second half against Jacksonville on Sunday.

    October 19, 2011 1 Photo

  • wheldon, dan pc.jpg IndyCar Racing: Crash takes Wheldon’s life

    Every race car driver heads onto the track understanding this race could be the last and hoping it won’t be. On Sunday, IndyCar drivers got a harsh reminder when the worst happened to one of their own.

    October 19, 2011 3 Photos

  • pens pc.jpg NHL: Sabres beat Penguins 3-2

    The Buffalo Sabres have had trouble with the Pittsburgh Penguins whether Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin play or not.

    October 19, 2011 1 Photo

  • canadiens logo pc.jpg NHL Quick glance: Montreal at Pittsburgh

    A breakdown of the National Hockey League game Thursday night between the Pittsburgh Penguins and visiting Montreal Canadiens.

    October 19, 2011 4 Photos

  • High School Highlights: Oct. 19, 2011

    A look at the last few days in local high school fall sports action.

    October 19, 2011

  • washington, ron pc.jpg Leading Off: Oct. 19, 2011

    News and notes from the local, regional and national sports scene.

    October 19, 2011 5 Photos

Featured Ads
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide