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Monday Mop-Up Duty: Parity problems? How risky is A.J? And a failing grade


SOUTH HILLS – Parity is often cited in explaining the NFL’s wild popularity. The idea that because of the salary cap, and because of the shorter length of careers, teams can quickly rise from worst to first. We’re told there’s more unknowns, more possibility, entering each season. Makes sense, right? One problem: there’s no evidence of parity in the NFL.

ESPN’s Jayson Stark on parity:

Well, it’s a good thing that The Same Teams Don’t Win Every Year in football. That would be awful. Oh, wait. Just noticed something:

The Broncos are in the Super Bowl.

Right. Of course, they are — because the Broncos, Ravens, Patriots, Steelers or Colts are always in the Super Bowl. Always.

Those five teams have now represented the AFC in the Super Bowl in 16 of the past 18 years — and 11 in a row! But in a league with as much parity as the NFL, I’m sure the Browns will be charging into the Super Bowl any century now.

Thank heaven The Same Teams Don’t Win Every Year in football. Thank heaven Anything Can Happen in the NFL. Except that … uh-oh, just noticed something else. Here are four more teams that also made an appearance in the NFL postseason this year:

Packers — who have made the playoffs in five straight years, six of the past seven, 10 of the past 13 and 16 of the past 21.

Colts — who have made the playoffs in 11 of the past 12 years.

Saints — who have made the playoffs in four of the past five years.

Bengals — who have made the playoffs three years in a row and four of the Past five. 


Meanwhile, my buddy Dave Schoenfield had a fun little tidbit along these lines himself the other day. 

The NFL playoffs, over the past five seasons, have gone their merry way without eight teams — six of which have never even had a winning record in any of those five years. That would be the Browns, Bills, Jaguars, Raiders and Rams.

Over in baseball, on the other hand, 28 of the 30 teams have had a winning season at least once in the past five years. The only exceptions? The Mets and Astros.


The NFL lacks parity because it is more dependent upon one position, quarterback, than any other sport.

What do the Packers, Colts, Saints, Steelers and Patriots possess that the Browns, Bills, Jaguars, Raiders and Rams do not? A quality quarterback. It is the quarterback, and rules that further the importance of the passing game, that has lessened parity in the NFL.

Moreover, the divide between the QB Haves and the QB Have Notes does not close quickly because quarterback is the one position on the field in the NFL where the shelf life is quite long.

There’s no doubting the NFL’s popularity. There’s no doubting baseball could improve its own level of parity.  But let’s get over the parity narrative in explaining the NFL’s popularity. That’s not the reason. The NFL is one-day-a-week deal for most fans, requiring limited investment. It’s an excellent television sport. And the quasi-gambling that is fantasy football doesn’t hurt.

If anything, baseball returning to being a young man’s game has brought further parity by reducing the efficiency of free agency. Want more examples of parity? The Yankees have played in one World Series over the last 10 years.

And with that I’ll conclude my mini rant.



9. The A.J. Burnett saga will likely (hopefully) conclude before pitchers and catchers report to Bradenton on Feb. 13. While many in the public seem to want Burnett back without question, there hasn’t been much talk of the risk associated with investing in a 37-year-old pitcher. I wrote about that risk Sunday.


8. It’s true that the aging curve for pitchers is cruel. Decline begins at 30 and accelerates in the mid 30s. But aging curves are amalgamations and there are always exceptions to the rule. Burnett certainly looks like an exception as he threw his two-seamer at an average speed of 92.9 mph in September – a season best – while also leading the NL in groundball and strikeout rates.


7. But every pitcher is headed for a performance cliff and it’s not always obvious when they are approaching the drop. As I mentioned in the article, Roy Halladay entered spring training of 2012 thought to be perhaps the best pitcher in the game. He retired in December. Burnett has a ton of mileage on his arm. He’s thrown 2,300 innings in his career, 40,000+ pitches, and his mph is down 2-3 mph from his peak. He also spent 24 days on the DL with a calf strain last season. The calf is not an elbow or shoulder but it might be a general sign of breakdown and weakening. If Burnett was a used car, you’d be leery.


6. Other concerns: only six pitchers 37 or older since 2008 have produced 3+ WAR in a season: Hiroki Kuroda (twice), Mike Mussina, Randy Johnson, Andy Pettitte, R.A. Dickey, Bartolo Colon.


That’s a short list.


5. Moreover, Baseball Prospectus’s PECOTA projections system has Burnett in line for the sixth greatest decline among starting pitchers in teams of WAR (-2.0) in 2014. Maybe projections like that are another reason the Pirates have been hesitant to commit too many resources to Burnett.


4. Look, I still think the qualifying offer made sense for Burnett. There’s much less risk in a one-year deal. And I’ve always thought the ideal outcome for the Pirates was Burnett signing elsewhere and the Pirates enjoying draft pick compensation and spending the $8-$10 million they earmarked for Burnett elsewhere (See: Drew, Stephen). Now would Burnett make the Pirates a better team in 2014? Probably. But there is risk in committing 18-20 percent of payroll to a 37-year-old elbow and shoulder.


3 In other news about aging, 30-something ballplayers, Lance Berkman retired earlier this week. Berkman was an elite, switch-hitter and is probably underrated as he is a borderline Hall of Famer, putting up a .293/.406/.537 slash line for his career. The Pirates checked in on Berkman earlier this offseason, apparently wanting to know if he’d have interest in being a platoon partner at first base. If he can walk, he can hit.

With college baseball practice starting soon across the country, here’s another Berkman stat: as a junior at Rice, he homered 41 times and drove in 134 runs in 63 games. Crazy even in that era.

Anyways, the Pirates checking in on Berkman shows you just how  barren the first baseman market was this winter. It’s the greatest question mark – not Burnett’s status – the Pirates’ tow into spring training. Shortstop is No. 2 for me. Then starting pitching depth.


2. The Mariners are apparently interested in signing Nelson Cruz. Would a Cruz signing, or retaining Kendrys Morales, open the door for a Justin Smoak trade? It was reported back in December the Pirates had called on Smoak.


1. RIP, PSH.


If you can play Capote and Art Howe, that’s quite a range.



ESPN prospect analyst Keith Law on Austin Meadows:

“Might have the best shot of anyone in the 2013 draft class to explode into an 8-WAR player”

That seems rather ambitious but my man John Hart also is also extremely high on Meadows.



Dan Brooks on Burnett’s evolving pitch mix:

“A.J. Burnett is not a guy who has shown an incredible decline in stuff, but he has been a guy who has changed the way he has pitched over the last couple of years. With declines in velocity, you can get changes in pitch usage. When pitchers change the way they are approaching hitters, that signals they realize something is different this year as opposed to last year. They are trying to compensate. (Burnett) has become much more of a two-seam (fastball) dominant pitcher where he was a four-seam dominant pitcher.”



Sports Illustrated isn’t high on the Pirates’ offseason to date , slapping the Pirates with an F in their report card

From Cliff Corcoran:

Here’s what I wrote about the Pirates in November’s Hot Stove Preview:

As they proved with the additions of Byrd, Morneau and Russell Martin, and the March 2012 extension for Andrew McCutchen, the organization is willing to expand payroll to get and remain in contention. Its fans have then rewarded those decisions with increased attendance, which has thus increased revenues. It’s a very positive cycle, but it’s now the organization’s turn to keep that wheel spinning by adding the bats necessary to keep Pittsburgh in contention in 2014.

The Pirates have very clearly failed to hold up their end of the bargain this winter.



The number of starting pitchers 37 or older who logged the innings to qualify for an ERA title since 2008.



I’ve started digging into season 2 of Homeland. Pretty darn good.


– TS



  1. MorselPix says:

    The “18-20% of payroll” argument doesn’t hold. If the Pirates signed AJ for any realistic amount, like $11-12M, that would boost
    overall payroll into the high 80’s, and then AJ’s salary would be well below 18%.

  2. Travis Sawchik says:

    For clarification, that position was based on the $14.1 million qualifying offer.

  3. Jim S. says:

    AJ is getting older. But, he looked pretty healthy in September. I don’t see how that automatically means he will start breaking down 7 months later. I get that pitchers decline rapidly at AJ’s age, but I bet a lot of them have already started showing greater declines than he has so far. If the Pirates re-sign him, I would not mind some planned “skipped starts” throughout the year, or some other plan to keep him at 180 innings, max. I would say the same thing holds true for Liriano, who seemed to be slowing down late in the year. Is Charlie ready for 200 innings? How about Cole? Can Wandy give them 100 innings? They really need a 6th starter that can give them 15 starts, and still a couple of other guys to give them a half-dozen or so each, IMO.

    I don’t think Dan Brooks has followed the Bucs much over the past few years, if he thinks AJ evolved on his own. AJ throws more 2-seamers because that is what Pirates pitchers are instructed to do now. I assume once he gave it a try, he saw that it worked. Same with several other Pirates’ pitchers.

    Austin Meadows is going to be really, really good.

  4. Travis, did you get some advance on the Pecota projections? I have a baseball prospectus subscription and I haven’t seen them posted. I have issues with some of the stats and regression projections for pitchers that age because the sample size is so small. I mean what percentage of 30 year old pitchers put up 3.0 WAR or better?

  5. Jim S. says:

    Plus, the payroll is pretty much set now. So, if they signed AJ to a high $$ deal, it would be a 1-year thing where the alternative appears to be no more pitchers signed. It would just be about whether they could afford it for this one season.

    Now, if they signed a guy to 18% of payroll for an extended period, and it kept them from doing other necessary things by tying up too much of their money, that would not be wise IMO.

  6. Nate83 says:

    Thanks Travis for this entry. It’s nice to look at the perspective of why the Pirates wouldn’t want AJ. I’ve never been convinced his level of performance would be sustainable with each passing year. He does make the team better and even 14.1 million for one year would seem reasonable because it’s only one year and hardly would handcuff them from completing future moves. It may have made it more difficult to make in season trades and take on some payroll like they did last year but that’s a gamble I personally would have been willing to take.

    My hunch is the Pirates don’t want to go much past 11-12 million because of all the statistics you mentioned. They don’t seem big on the risk/reward type signings which really is consistent with most small market teams. My guess is he gets at least 15 from somebody and possibly more. It will be interesting to see how his season plays out if he does in fact sign somewhere else. With it only being one year we can quickly evaluate if it was a good move or not.

  7. NMR says:

    “I don’t see how that automatically means he will start breaking down 7 months later.”

    Seemed like Travis went out of his way, multiple times, to make it extremely clear this wasn’t what he was suggesting. Simply stated the facts behind pitchers of his age.

    And fwiw, Wandy showed no signs of decline before his struggles, either. This is what happens to pitchers of a certain age.

  8. Nate83 says:

    Hidden you are correct the sample size is very small but that’s because most pitchers skills have diminished to the point that they are out of the game before the age of 35. Any year after that is borrowed time. Yes AJ could repeat his 2012-2013 stats but it’s not the type of risk/reward move the Pirates and many other teams make unless it’s a reasonable contract. The Orioles and perhaps some other team will probably make sure the contract isn’t reasonable in the eyes of the Pirates. I’m sure 15 or more teams have checked on AJ but I don’t think more then a few are willing to go above 15 million to get him.

  9. NMR says:

    Isn’t that a chicken and egg issue?

    The sample size is small because the chances of a pitcher putting up that kind of performance is as well. The need for regression would seem to be evident.

  10. Nate83 says:

    Well stated NMR. I thought the Holliday example by Travis was perfect. I think we are watching CC Sabathia do the same thing. There are to many examples of pitchers wearing down before AJ’s age to just ignore it and blindly throw more then 14 million his way. I would like him back but think it would be foolish to go much above what the QO would have been especially since there is no draft pick coming back now.

  11. NMR says:


    Well crafted rant on parity, especially the part on baseball’s comparison to the NFL. That needs to stop.

    The biggest difficulty in the parity argument is definition, if you ask me. What is parity, anyways? Number of teams breaking .500? Playoffs? Championships? Nobody has even defined the problem. Further, is it a league’s job to manadate parity or implement a system where each team has fair opporunity to lift itself to success?

    In my opinion, parity is like pornography; you know it when you see it.

    I can look at the NFL and see a league where every single team has a reasonably equal chance at building a championship winner. A league where a certain number of teams DO NOT have a sytematic advantage in acquiring and maintaining players of a certain quality. A league where organizational failures can be easily identified as operational in nature, such as the Bills-Lions-Browns.

    That simply cannot be said in Major League Baseball. Up to a quarter of the league’s teams are in a situation where they have to be considerably better at doing their jobs than the rest, just to have a chance at putting together a decent window of opportunty for success. I think this unquestionably turns off casual fans who don’t even make it to the baseball page of the sports section to read articles about parity. If baseball is perceived as lacking parity, it DOES lack parity. And this is a mindset baseball has to adopt.

  12. Travis Sawchik says:

    I just got my hands on the BP Annual on Saturday, so that’s where I pulled the WARP regression from

  13. I agree that Pitchers are on borrowed time as they age. I don’t think it is diminishing skills that do them in though Most pitchers arms essentially fall off. Few guys can respond to rehab and treatment to injuries to their arms well enough in their latter 30’s to get anything back. And few have the desire to even try. I don’t see AJ’s injury risks being a whole lot greater than they were last year. I guess you can say there are only so many bullets in the chamber. But it is just a guess really that this will be the year he runs out. My point is that pitchers that get to age 37 aren’t whole lot riskier than pitchers that get to 35. At that point they all could fall apart at any time.

  14. Nate83 says:

    Perfectly stated NRM. I was going to post something similar but you hit it right on the nose. Opportunity more then results is the angle I would take on this topic.

  15. NMR says:

    And I think that is also a point that Travis has tried to stress. This wasn’t written as an argument AGAINST signing Burnett.

    Simply an article that looks at the situation pragmatically. I’ve said before that if the Pirates were in the mix for an unnamed 37 year old pitcher with 2000 IP on a surgically repaired elbow, more than a few folks would be throwing up red flags.

  16. Foo says:

    Good post by Stark. Yep…if you don’t have a Franchise Qb in the NFL, you are screwed. Which makes it amazing, to me, at least, that Cowher consistently won with O’Donnell, Tommy Gun and Krying Kordell.


  17. Travis Sawchik says:

    Excellent post, NMR

    The way I see it, each sport has unique parity problem.

    For me, the NFL has a QB problem. There’s a luck element in finding an elite QB (Rodgers – late 1st round pick, Brady – 6th round, Russell – 3rd … drafting 1st overall when a once-in-a-generation talent like Luck or Manning is available) and if you don’t have a franchise QB you might as well not bother showing up for the season. No salary cap is going to fix that. See: Cleveland.

    Because baseball television dollars are largely tied to regional and not national contracts, baseball will always have resource gulf. I think one positive from this resource problem is it has fostered a lot of creativity and motivation to find hidden value. It’s given the sport great stories like the Rays and A’s and furthered understanding of the game. NFL strategy and thinking seems mostly stagnant. I mean coaches still kick FGs on 4th and 1 at the opponent’s 7. (Pete Carroll). Or punt on 4th down in opponent territory when down by five scores (John Fox). But mostly, it is a problem.

  18. Foo says:

    NMR….very well said.

  19. The sample size is small because few make it that far. The question is of the ones that do get there how likely are they to produce? I just did a check on fangraphs of SP that threw atleast 50 innings in year between 2008-2013

    Age 37+ WAR 3 or better 22.8% (8 of 35)

    Age 30-36 WAR 3 or better 22.9% (62 of 270)

  20. Nate83 says:

    It’s also why the Red Sox are not willing to extend Ortiz despite his heroics in the World Series. According to history statistically he doesn’t project to be worth what he thinks he is. Many say he will get his money because it’s a media relations nightmare to not sign him and Boston can afford it. It is not unlike the pressure NH is under currently on Burnett but not the same scale. Smaller fan base and less media pressure.

  21. MorselPix says:

    Even $14.1M, added to current payroll, would put AJ’s share around 16%. Not to be all
    number-obsessed, but NH started this. They’d have to pay him around $17M or more
    to reach the 18-20% mark.

  22. PetroSteel says:

    AJ is not coming back. The offer was in the 8M range. It’s an insult! If you look at what he has done over the last 2 years with the Bucs, offering him something in that range is an insult. Do I think he wants to come back? Yes! He would be crazy not to. He has done very well here. He is comfortable here. His teammates like him. The fans love him. It’s close to his home. It’s a pitchers park! It’s perfect for him.

    The scoop I got is that it isn’t going to happen. My question to the Pirates is this…Why even bother offering anything if that’s the offer your putting out there. Yea, I know all about negotiating deals. Start low and hope to end up in the middle. 8.5M is an insult. This guy is a professional and you throw that out there??? He didn’t have to say the Pirates or retirement but he did and the Pirates took advantage of him. Honestly, I don’t blame the Pirates for not offering the 14M. I get it. But, this is still an elite pitcher that wants to play here (when was the last time that happen before) and would take a discount to do it and the Pirates took advantage of him. Shame on the Pirates!

  23. PetroSteel says:

    Those 3 QB’s weren’t bums. They also had the best D in the NFL.

  24. Nate83 says:

    I agree that would be an insulting offer but I’ve only heard the 8.5 reported one place and it doesn’t sound like the most reliable person. I have to imagine they would be willing to go 11 or 12 on AJ seeing that it’s only a one year deal but I could be wrong. If I’m right about that number why not do the QO in the first place and save the 5 million they have already spent on Volquez if he took the offer. If he turns it down he obviously has priced himself out of what they are comfortable with and you move on with a draft pick and some answers moving forward.

    Now giving him 14 million feels like 19 million because Volquez is already signed and Taillon is coming eventually. The 14 million made a lot more sense before Volquez was signed.

  25. Jim S. says:

    I wasn’t criticizing Travis, NMR. In fact, Travis went out of his way to say he WOULD have extended the QO of $14.1 million to AJ. He said AJ also appears to be the exception to the aging rule. So, that means he is not as concerned about AJ’s age and the associated history as some other industry observers apparently are. I was merely pointing out that I didn’t understand why so many people are suddenly so worried, as though a milestone age means everything and actually looking at the health and performance of the guy from just 7 months prior doesn’t mean much. My issue wasn’t with Travis at all because he didn’t make the case that AJ was falling apart.

    So, if this “is what happens to pitchers of a certain age” what is that certain age? Wandy turned 35 last week, which means he was just over 34 when he got injured. So, do we stay away from everybody who is 34 or older? All I am saying is every case is an individual one, and I think Travis made that exact point. I realize guys get old and they start to break down. It can happen very quickly. But, maybe they should break down before we pronounce them as actually having broken down.

  26. The Gunner says:


    You are right, AJ will not be a Bucco in 2014. Since the AJ issue appears to be laid to rest, it is time for the BMTIB to address their gaping hole at 1B & get a decent platoon partner for Gaby.

    I just hope the monies saved by not signing AJ don’t somehow get reinvested at Seven Springs or Hidden Valley.

  27. Nate83 says:

    Yes we do unless it’s a one year deal or the end of their contract. Obviously AJ would be a 1 year deal. Let other large market desperate teams needing to make their fan base happy overpay for a veteran and try to squeeze a couple more years out of them.

    Empty contracts have no place on small market teams. I’m not saying AJ’s one year contract is this situation but in general you don’t see the Rays and A’s with very old rosters. With the exception of Colon I can’t think of many situations small market teams went out and counted on a veteran free agent for anymore then offering some club house leadership. I don’t think Colon go much money and wasn’t really be counted on for much more then a good consistent number 4 or 5 that could give innings and save the bullpen. You don’t see many 15 million free agent contracts being given out to over 34 year old players by most of the teams. Maybe 10 teams or so.

    I don’t know if we will ever see the Pirates sign a player in their early 30’s to much more then a 2 or 3 year contract and if they are closer to 35 it would likely be 1 year.

  28. Nate83 says:

    I agree with NMR that if AJ pitched for another team last year and put up similar stats we wouldn’t expect the Pirates to go anywhere near the amount he may end up signing for. He isn’t any more valuable just because he actually played for the Pirates last year. He still needs to be evaluated and have a price put on his value. If his price tag goes 50% over that value you can’t justify that the money couldn’t be used in better ways to sign other players.

    That being said I think the money is there to sign AJ for the QO so if not him then something else needs to be done before the season or during the season. If they put a value on him of 10 million then I fully understand not wanting to pay 14 million.

  29. Jim S. says:


    “Blindly throw more than $14 million his way?” First of all, when did I say we should pay AJ more than $14M? As for the “blindly” part, do you really think AJ is suddenly a huge risk to collapse this year because Roy Halliday, who threw way more innings than AJ every season, did? The same holds true for CC, who had a bad year last year, but still threw 211 innings. A lot of guys break down every season. Jeff Karstens is a lot younger, and he breaks down all the time now. So, it can happen to anyone. The Pirates should suddenly be afraid that AJ is about to fall apart this season? I’m not saying it can’t happen, but where’s the evidence?

    I’d say older guys who tend to break down a lot are more likely to break down in this coming season than older guys who haven’t been breaking down a lot. And, older guys who have worked a lot harder in the past are more likely to break down than ones who haven’t.

    AJ’s innings pitched, going backwards, year by year, follow. He was 22 when he started:

    191, 202, 190, 186, 207, 221, 165, 135, 209, 120, 23, 204, 173, 82, 41. Doesn’t seem to me like he has been logging huge innings. Consistently just around or below 200, for the most part, except for the 221 in ’08.

    Halliday started at 21:

    62, 156, 233, 250, 239, 246, 225, 220, 141, 133, 266, 239, 105, 67, 149, 14

    CC also started at 21:

    211, 200, 237, 237, 230, 253, 241, 192, 196, 188, 197, 210, 180

    Both of those guys have thrown 400 more innings than AJ, and both of them have thrown much larger volumes of innings per year than AJ. CC is gigantic, so maybe he was built for it. Halliday is built kind of like AJ. Maybe his arm broke down because he was throwing usually 20/30/40 more innings than AJ.

    Halliday added 38 playoff innings in his career, AJ 41 and CC 107.

  30. NMR says:

    Pirates showed last season that pitches, not innings, are what really matter to workload.

  31. Rob says:

    Are you sure his teammates like him? Do you think Barmes enjoyed being barked out for doing what he was supposed to be doing in playing the shift? Do you think Hurdle is a fan when AJ berates him in public? AJ has a history of wearing out his welcome after a few years.

    You are correct, the Park, the Fans and the situation is perfect for him. But we are not the Yankees. We cannot play based on past performance, we have to pay on what we project his worth would be to the Bucs. And in our rotation he would not be the #1, #2 and may not be the #3 starter in the rotation. Do you really want to pay your #4 starter 14.1M? Sorry not me. I would like to have AJ back, but at my price, not his.

    As of this date AJ Burnett is #3 in top earning starting pitchers still in the game, he has earned $146.5M, CC Sabathia is #1 at $173.4M and Johan Santana is #2 at $172.8M. After AJ comes Barry Zito at $128.5M

    If AJ signs with the Phillies then this is all about Money. If he signs with Baltimore or Pittsburgh, then he wants back in with a chance to win.

    But, that’s just my .02!

  32. NMR says:

    Who has pronounced that AJ has broken down?

    Lotta straw men being thrown around here, Jim.

  33. Jim S. says:

    AJ for one year. That is all anyone is saying here. Nobody has suggested it makes sense for more than 1 year, Nate. You are talking about building teams of older players. I don’t know where you got that. I never suggested that. I prefer younger teams, and I prefer organizations to build from within. I prefer to let older guys walk, especially when they are clearly on the decline. But, one older pitcher whose health and capabilities the Bucs should know more about than any other F/A pitcher, who might be able to quickly add more wins to the team than anyone else currently available for 1 year is a worthwhile risk to me. Sure, he could suddenly decline, and he could suddenly not be able to get guys out consistently. But, the evidence doesn’t say that to me. I think that is a pure guess.

  34. NMR says:

    “My question to the Pirates is this…Why even bother offering anything if that’s the offer your putting out there.”

    Because now they can tell fans “We tried”, while knowing all along they had no chance of actually getting AJ Burnett back on the team, which they clearly don’t want.

  35. Rob says:

    Hopefully when Morales signs somewhere it will shake loose a trade candidate for the Bucs.
    If he signs with Texas, Moreland suddenly becomes a possibilty, and if he signs in Seattle then Smoak is a possibility.
    Not that either of them are world-beaters, but they may well be an improvement.

    So at this time, I would say patience may be a virtue. Bucs won’t give up a draft pick, and I don’t blame them, so may as well cross your fingers with Lambo, and wait to see what happens with Morales.

  36. NMR says:

    Ah, I see what you’re saying. You’re asking why apply that regression to AJ right now, at age 37.

    If I had to guess, they haven’t applied that regression to only this season. They probably had a similar projection last season as well.

  37. Nate83 says:

    Sorry Jim, I was not commenting directly to you but just making a general comment. I guess I just assume anybody who wants them to sign him is willing to go to at least the QO amount if not more because I honestly think he will go for more then that. I generally agree with almost everything you post and if I was a Yankee fan or Dodger fan I would want them to sign AJ for 17 million if they had a need for a starting pitcher but the risk for the Pirates is a little more especially at his age.

    14 million isn’t something they throw around ever not even to mention 17. They paid 17 million for 2 years of Martin and that was the largest free agent contract ever for them. Honestly I would be OK with them giving him that much but I completely understand why they won’t and won’t hold it against them if he signs somewhere else for something above the QO.

  38. BostonsCommon says:

    Good point. If they can manage to keep Cole fresh for an entire season, having a very limited track record, I would think they can do the same with AJ.

  39. Nate83 says:

    I acknowledged AJ one year contract is not that situation. My response was to your question of if we should stay away from all players 34 years or older. It was more of a organizational philosophy post then it was an AJ post.

    I agree AJ for one year makes a lot of sense for the Pirates for 12 million. It’s a one year commitment and even going higher would be fine but it’s not my money. Going north of 14 million is a big number for any team that is in the bottom 10 of payroll consistently. I just saying I won’t be in the line of people complaining when AJ signs for more the QO with another team.

    I will be disappointed that they didn’t make the QO and get a draft pick but even that I don’t have all the facts on to judge too harshly. Maybe they honestly don’t value him more then 9 or 10 million which I would disagree with but would justify them not going 4 or 5 million over that amount. I only hope that the money is spent on something. I’m even OK with them spending it during the year.

    Payroll staying the same as last year just doesn’t hold water for a team that is competitive and increased revenue last year and has National TV money coming that may not be the reported 26 million but definitely is enough to raise payroll up to the 90-100 million range unless we are to believe they lost money last year. I’m not as concerned as much about how the money is spent because that is their job but money should be spent to put a product on the field that is as competitive as possible.

  40. NMR says:

    Thanks, gents.

    Travis, another really good point about inequality breeding inovation, although I personally tend to believe the big data revolution would’ve brought inovation in the form of sabr regardless of MLB revenue structure. Smart teams, and smart people, will always look for new angles.

    Speaking of the A’s and parity, Billy Beane and staff are widely regarded as some of the best in the game. Easily in the top five front offices. Even the A’s, one of the best run teams in the sport, went through a five year old losing streak.

    The chances of something applicable happening in football are nil. THAT is parity, to me.

  41. Jim S. says:

    There sure are.

  42. Nate83 says:

    The closest we will come to finding out is if AJ agent says something like the Pirates never really made a competitive offer. I doubt we ever hear the exact number. If 8.5 is the offer then they have been saying the wrong things to the media. Saying you would love to have AJ back and not ever offering something approaching even close to his actual worth is ignorant. Just be honest to him and the fans and say we felt like the money could be used in other ways to benefit this team more.

  43. Jim S. says:

    I got you, Nate. I don’t mean to mis-characterize your position. I was not originally even criticizing Travis. I was criticizing industry people that take a broad swath of information that says pitchers tend to lose effectiveness and decline quickly at AJ’s age and assume AJ is therefore a high risk for this season, without considering AJ’s case individually. I thought you and NMR were siding with that argument.

    I just think each case is individual, and the Bucs should know better than anyone whether AJ is up to getting the job done again this year. I have assumed that they were operating under the assumption that they might get slightly less performance from AJ this year, but that they would not expect a huge dropoff. But, maybe I have it wrong. Maybe Huntington just looked at some actuarial table and came to the conclusion that AJ could have a big falloff this year, and therefore only offered him an amount of money that he knows is lower than AJ would accept. That’s an angle I had not considered. Whatever the case, once he committed to $5 million for Volquez, it probably means he won’t increase his offer to AJ very much. Volquez, essentially, may have taken the flexibility away to offer AJ more money now.

  44. Jim S. says:

    Thank you, Hidden.

  45. Nate83 says:

    Just to clarify Jim. I’m all for signing AJ especially for 10-14 million. I just thought it was a good post by Travis to look at the risk and how it may have been factored in by the Pirates during their process. NH and his staff are big number guys and I have no issue with that.

    Signing Martin was a sign that they are willing to move outside of those numbers and dip their toes in the deep end when they feel it is appropriate for the teams needs. The reported offer for Josh Johnson is another sign of that.

    I’m not sure what value they put on AJ. My hunch is it’s less then 14 million for the reasons Travis stated (aging,% of payroll, in season flexibility). I’m hoping they are willing to go 2-3 million above that value because I think the team needs AJ and I think it’s worth the risk. However if the bidding starts going to 16 million and more I understand them wanting out and putting money elsewhere to improve the club.

  46. Jim S. says:

    Arroyo, I’m sure, is being stopped in his tracks by teams because he asked for 3 years. But, is he a risk for this coming year alone? He seems like another exception to the rule kind of guy to me, judging by his track record of durability.

  47. NMR says:

    But then that would also be a lie, considering that money hasn’t actually been put back into the team at all let alone as a benefit.

    There seems to be an ever-increasing probability that the Pirates just plain don’t want AJ, but that is something they’ll never have the guts to actually say.

  48. NMR says:

    Arroyo ABSOLUTELY is a risk for this year, alone. Just like he was a risk last year, alone.

    This is like the “100-year storm” in meteorology. You have the same chance of getting a 100-year event each year, regardless of what happened the previous year.

    In baseball, this is compounded by increasing risk each year you go up the aging curve.

  49. NMR says:

    37 year old pitchers may not be significantly riskier than 35 year old pitchers, but they BOTH are CONSIDERABLY risky player types.

    And that is the point.

  50. Nate83 says:

    Agree completely about Volquez and have said that myself. Unfortunately they had to have a plan B with AJ not deciding what he was doing. I personally would have rather them assuming the AJ ship had sailed and went and got a more expensive option the Volquez but we will see what they do with the rest of the money. Hopefully the answer isn’t nothing.

    Just out of Curiosity what amount do you feel comfortable with offering AJ. Or do you feel his value is high enough for this team in this situation to just match a 17 or 18 million offer. I would have been OK with before Volquez but can’t imagine them spending that much for a pitcher they didn’t want to hand the ball to in game 5 at the same time as spending 5 million on a guy in Volquez that now becomes long relief/slash starting pitching depth in case of injury. We already have 2 or 3 of those on the team that cost next to nothing.

  51. PetroSteel says:

    They had a chance. That’s the problem. They don’t want him for one reason or another. They dont like him or they dont want to spend 11M/12M. But, they did have a chance. Make no mistake about that!

  52. Jim S. says:

    One thing that I believe keeps some of the smaller market baseball teams competitive is that they had to become smarter in talent evaluation, development and allocation of $$ in order to have any chance to compete. So, it can be argued that some of the smallest market baseball teams are now the smartest ones, overall. I’m not sure that is the case in football, nor is it necessary for the same reasons.

  53. Nate83 says:

    As it stands right now it sadly would be a lie. Maybe you say nothing or we will cross that bridge when AJ makes his decision. I wonder how this all would have played out if AJ never mentioned the possibility of retiring to anybody? Do the Pirates make the QO? Do they try to extend him for 2 years halfway through last year at something reasonable like 10 mill per year?

  54. PetroSteel says:

    Your right Nate!
    I heard the number was in the 8M range. I think a good source.

  55. Jim S. says:

    I generally agree on the Franchise QB argument, but …

    Is Russell Wilson already considered a franchise QB? Or, is he still a “game manager?” He wasn’t exactly lighting up the scoreboard late in the year or in the playoffs.

  56. PetroSteel says:

    You know what though…I can’t question what they are doing. Playoff team last year and the number one farm system. Spent more money on the draft when they were allowed to do it. Upgrades everywhere. Spent wisely for the playoff run. I like AJ but who am I to say. I think he makes the Bucs a solid playoff team from a borderline playoff team.

  57. NMR says:

    They most certainly did, Petro.

  58. NMR says:

    The best part of the AJ-Burnett-Qualifying-Offer debate?

    We get to do it all over again in ten months, this time with Francisco Liriano.

  59. Nate83 says:

    They are such different animals. No minors, very few trades, only 7 rounds of draft despite having 22 starting positions to fill, more restructured deals, no guaranteed contracts but it still counts against the cap, shorter careers, fewer games. NFL lends itself to teams getting greedy and really messing up the cap with empty contracts.

    No minors is the biggest difference to me. A failed QB prospect and there is nothing else to turn to. I do think parity isn’t much different in the two sports but I think the NFL has teams that self inflict their continued bad play as opposed to MLB which has disadvantages built in. With the exception of the Cowboys and the Redskins until a few years ago most NFL teams function the same with an eye always on the present and the other one on future flexibility. The Cowboys and the Redskins pre Shanahan just spend, spend, spend, defer money, defer money, defer money and figure out the rest later. The Steelers have gotten themselves in trouble recently but it’s hard to fault them too much for Harrison, Woodley, Ben and Troy getting big contracts. I wasn’t a fan of Taylors contract. They would still be OK if they drafted well but they haven’t and the offensive line has been injured so much.

  60. Nate83 says:

    If he has another solid year I can’t imagine a scenario that they don’t offer it. He will be looking for a multi-year deal. The Pirates won’t be willing to give it because of the money and the prospects coming through the system. If he accepts which I don’t think he would he would be the perfect player to bridge the gap until Kingham, Glasnow and others start coming up or develop. If he declines they get a draft pick.

  61. LeeFoo says:

    They weren’t bums, but they weren’t top tier. And, yes, that defense did help.

    Still, I think Cowher did a heckuva coaching job. And, I think the same about Tomlin.

    But, let’s not turn this into a Steeler blog, okay? :) :) :)

  62. LeeFoo says:

    Last night on the Super Bowl broadcast, Aikman said that “Game Manager” is an insult to a QB and I agree.

    I think Russell W is a very good QB. Trent Dilfer was a game manager (and yes, I know I just insulted him :) :) ).

    RW is NOT a franchise QB yet, but he has a chance to be a scrambling Drew Brees.

  63. Nate83 says:

    I personally like him a lot Jim. I think it’s not fair to call him a game manager. I feel as if he is capable of a lot more but Seattle correctly doesn’t ask much of him which they shouldn’t. They have a great defense and good running game. Why mess it up throwing the ball all over the place. I think there are some intangibles about the guy that no stat will ever show. Not unlike Rich Gannon or Stan Humphries or even Big Ben. You can’t explain what makes them good. They just get it done.

    Wilson makes 2 or 3 plays a game that just make you say wow. He’s a born leader. He is the opposite of Jeff George. He’s a much better version of Tim Tebow.

  64. LeeFoo says:

    I have a question about AJ and NH…

    if AJ wanted more money why wouldn’t he just tell NH that he is marketing his services? Why would he let a ‘source’ say it? Hasn’t NH been in continual contact with him (and stated that he couldn’t confirm these rumors-which to me says that AJ was mum or denied it)?

    And, on the off chance AJ is lying to NH, I wouldn’t sign him with a 10 foot pole!

    But…if AJ wants to leave, go for it. Good luck in the AL East (Balt) or a bandbox (Phil). If he wants to come back for $8.5 mil, we’ll think about it?

    Personally, I think AJ is retiring….as Noll once said, “If you’re thinking of retiring, then do it”

    Retired Foo

  65. NMR says:

    If Huntington was naive enough to believe at any point that AJ was not marketing his services elsewhere he has a loooot of learning left to do.

  66. Nate83 says:

    I am at the point where I won’t believe anything I hear until he officially signs. AJ has said very little and very well might want to pitch for the Pirates and is just trying to get the number up a little.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if he signed for 12 million with Pirates anymore then I would be surprise if he signed for 2 years and 35 million with the Dodgers. Everything is rumors and not even his agent has said or leaked anything besides that he is coming back. I don’t even think he said AJ was opening himself up to the market. I think that was guessing by reporters. 15 teams may have contacted him and all 15 may have been told AJ is trying to work something out with the Pirates because that is his first choice and the agent would let them know if and when AJ can’t work something out.

  67. LeeFoo says:

    Nate83…I agree with you.

    There is absolutely nothing concrete out there.

    NMR….I’m not with your slant at all. I view the world with less cynicism. I’m a naive little Foo. :) :) :)

  68. Jim S. says:

    I agree with you, Nate. They don’t want to go very high on AJ. It could be that no one else wants to go very high, either. I hope they somehow get him cheap. I still think he could be the difference between playoffs and no playoffs this year.

    Maybe right now their philosophy of paying $8.5M is sort of their high water mark on just about anyone except for Cutch in a few years. It’s somewhere between 10-15% of payroll. That is how much they also are paying Martin, right? Catchers age very quickly also. Rod Barajas is a perfect example of that. I think the Pirates are not interested in extending Martin past this year, and I would say he might be as big of a risk paying for one more year next year as AJ is for this year. So, we could be looking at the same scenario next year at a different position if Martin has a second successful season.

  69. Jim S. says:

    Or, certain ones are. Maybe not all of them. That is the distinction for me. Depends on the guy.

    I would also say an age 37 pitcher is probably a good bit more risky than a 35 year old one, all things being equal. But, AJ at 37 may not be all that much more risky than AJ after 190+ innings at age 36.

  70. NMR says:

    Then tell us what makes one guy different than another, Jim.

    As in, how can you tell that AJ is any less of a risk than another 37 yo pitcher?

  71. Andrew says:

    A couple of thoughts: I do not fully understand the risk discussion, this is not a long term investment. Jeff Zimmerman does starting pitcher DL projections at Fangraphs. It is simplistic, a DL trip could be 3 starts or the season with the median time being 50 days, but the average starter has a 40% chance of landing on the DL in a given season, Burnett’s risk last year was 46%, for 2014 52%. So Burnett’s risk of a DL visit is above average, he had one last year, now if we are trying to quantify the risk of a catastrophic injury good luck.

    Aging is not a cliff, unless there is serious shoulder injury, which brings us back to trying to predict catastrophic injury. If a one year contract is risky I think we are overvaluing the impact of the player in question. In the abstract it is usually better to diversify, but for $12-16 million and no longer term commitment there is not a better way to improve a team then by adding Burnett.

  72. Jim S. says:

    I don’t think they were going to offer $14.1 regardless of what AJ stated his intentions as or not. NH has said that was considered too big of a chunk of the total payroll.

    Questions now are, 1) Will they come up from whatever their offer currently is? I’m presuming that is $8.5 – $10M; and b) Would they allow public pressure to force their hand to increase it to closer to what the QO would have been? I’d say there is a slight chance on #1, and almost no chance on #2.

  73. Jim S. says:

    I like RW as well. But, can he put a team w/o a very good defense on his back (and arm), and beat elite teams in the playoffs? I don’t think we know that yet.

  74. Jim S. says:

    +1, Nate.

  75. NMR says:

    I won’t speak for Travis, but it was my interpretation that he was simply providing information on the risk invlolved in signing AJ Burnett. And this is something that I feel has been sorely missing from coverage this winter.

    Again, only my impression, but reading the coverage of this guy so far this winter would lead one to believe there is little risk, and I believe Travis has done a fine job demonstrating the folly in that logic.

    For you to say there is little risk involved, you MUST be viewing this whole situation as merely a contract. There is a whole crap ton of real world baseball risk involved, even if there is little contractual risk.

  76. Jim S. says:

    I think our argument is more about degree of risk and what is an acceptable risk than just agreeing that older guys are more risky. I don’t think there is any debate that, on average, older guys are more risky than young guys.

    I might happen to think guys who have been rolling along, relatively injury free, through their 34-35-36 seasons are less risky than you and Nate do, NMR. Is that a better way of saying it?

  77. NMR says:

    Now for matters that matter, the heroin mix that took the life of Phillip Seymor Hoffman is the same brand responsible for killing over 20 Western Pennsylvanians.

    If you have any family or friends that you even suspect may be using, please, please reach out to them.

  78. NMR says:

    Sure, that seems to be a pretty accurate way of saying it.

    The way I see it, injury is inevitable and ubiquitous. The fact that a guy like Arroyo has been healthy for so long does nothing to change my opinion of his injury risk moving forward. If anything, his time is running out.

  79. Andrew says:

    Nate I agree with the structure of the NFL and MLB are so different I find comparisons are somewhat empty. You hinted at the development issue, another factor guaranteed contracts. These issues combine to make time frames longer in the MLB, if you draft and develop well it will take time to convert that in success at the major league level. If you sign a few bad contracts it might set a franchise back for several years, or cost teams a lot to get out from under them. And we have not discussed the structure of playoffs and season length.

    Many people like to cite NFL model as the ideal, but think it is far from proven that model would work in baseball. I just think the models are different, however I still think that MLB could make marginal improvements, like abolishing free agent compensation.

  80. Andrew says:

    I have nothing wrong with Travis article, he discussed this from a different angle and I agree that much of the commentary on Burnett suffers from loss aversion and usually devolves into discussion of payroll, revenue and Nutting.

    I look at it this way is there a better way to improve Pirates with a $12-16 million dollar investment, I do not think there is, we can discuss the injury risk but only in vague terms. What is the cost of the injury? At worst a good starting pitcher for the rest of the season.

    I entertain the possibly that the Pirates believe in their system, (rightly or wrongly) of shifting, pitch framing, and offense suppressing park enough that they do not want to pay an individual pitcher greater than say, $12 million. At this point I almost do not care, I think Burnett would help in 2014, but he is not the different between contention and failure, anyone who thinks so is placing a little too much faith in the ability to predict the future.

  81. Travis Sawchik says:

    The Pirates have to be quite confident in their system after rehabbing Burnett and Liriano in back-to-back seasons. Maybe the Edinson Volquez signing really shut the door on Burnett. Maybe Ray Searage will be headed to the Hall of Fame. Of course, Volquez could be Jonathan Sanchez, too.

    In a vacuum there is little risk with one-year contracts. But the Pirates are not in a vacuum, of course, and with Burnett’s risk of attrition, injury-related or otherwise, increasing each year how much of their available dollars do the Pirates want to pour into a 37-year-old body for 2014?

    If you believe the Pirates have allotted $8.5 million for Burnett, then they had a $15.5 million budget for free agent shopping this offseason (assuming they had the arbitration dollars pegged accurately).

  82. LeeFoo says:

    Addiction is serious and often baffling to the non-addicted.

  83. NMR says:

    I don’t disagree with you at all in your opinion that Burnett is the best use of the funds thrown around as being worthy of his acquisition, Andrew.

  84. Thundercrack says:

    I really wonder what discussions NH and AJ had since the end of the season.
    Did AJ tell NH the same thing he told everyone else: I’m going to retire or come back to the Bucs for one more year.
    Obviously NH did not want to pay AJ $14 million.

    And I really wonder what the market is for Burnett right now. I think there are only a few teams interested – or have a spot for him. And my guess is none of them want to pay him more than $14 million.

    I called in to MLB XM today and asked Jim Duquette about this situation. He said that he thought NH did the correct thing. He seemed to agree that you can’t give that much (%) of your payroll to a 37 year old pitcher, especially when you don’t really know what the market for Burnett is. I was surprised that he didn’t say that the Pirates should be increasing their payroll….so that argument about the % doesn’t play.

  85. PetroSteel says:

    Good stuff! Thx!

  86. Jim S. says:

    AJ has not had a serious injury in a long time. He has thrown close to 400 very successful innings for the Pirates the last 2 years – in fact, 2 of the better years of his career. Why would the Pirates not think he would be able to give them another year close to what he gave them last year? Did some timer go off that automatically means he has nothing left? Isn’t each guy a little different from everyone else? If a guy has been healthy, still throws hard, still got people out well last year, I see no reason to think he would fall off a cliff this year just because he is now 37 when the season starts.

  87. 21sthebest says:

    I think NH could still pay him $14M but I’m thinking that’s not where NH wanted to start the bidding.

  88. Jim S. says:

    Those 3 QBs were all mediocre, at best.

  89. Jim S. says:

    You are right, Nate. If Liriano has another solid year, the Bucs will make the QO because they know there is somewhere around 0% chance he would accept 1 year. That will be his opportunity to get a longer deal.

    Then, again, a few pitchers thought that this off-season that are still looking for those longer deals in early Feb.

    Speaking of non-pitchers that did not accept the QO – what do you think Kendrys Morales thinks of his decision to not accept $14.1M for this season? Whoops.

  90. Jim S. says:

    I think what the Edinson Volquez signing did is lessen the flexibility of the Pirates regarding an offer to AJ. I’m not saying they were ever going to increase their initial offer to AJ. Only they can answer that. But, once $5 million was committed to Volquez, that was $5 million less to even possibly ever be used as a closing tool with AJ.

  91. NMR says:

    Don’t forget they’ve told us that they had money left for James Loney and AJB, even after signing Edinson.

  92. Jim S. says:


    I think the # of teams that have a chance at AJ is very small now, and that is being dictated by him. A lot of teams are interested in having him for one year. I think we now know why Tampa was said to be interested last week, with Hellickson having surgery. AJ and his agent might be trying to make it look like he is interested in a lot of destinations, but he sort of let the cat out of the bag last year on his intentions in that regard.

    Maybe he is changing his mind about that, but I don’t think so. I don’t think he’d go anywhere but Baltimore, Pittsburgh or Washington – and, I don’t think Washington is interested. As some are speculating here, maybe the Bucs are not all that interested, either. Baltimore is likely very interested, but they don’t want to be too eager if they are the only realistic destination now.

    In the end, AJ may still retire if Baltimore doesn’t come up with a big offer.

  93. Jim S. says:

    But, does NH still have $14M to offer after the Volquez signing and a possible 1b addition, 21? Or, should I say, is NH willing to add $14M more to this payroll for AJ? I believe the money is there.

  94. Nate83 says:

    NMR that is correct but now we are finding out that they meant they have enough in Pirate money which isn’t that much different then monopoly money. For example they think 8 million in Pirate money will get them Burnett when he is actually worth something like 15 million.

    It’s not their fault they have been dealing with Pirate money for a long time now so it’s easy to understand the miscalculation. They only got to play with real money when they signed Martin.

  95. The Gunner says:

    I hope this thing with AJ comes to closure rather quickly. It is probably holding up other issues the BMTIB needs to address.

  96. Steelkings says:

    You always want the best athletes you can get. Often times the best athletes are the biggest a-holes as well. Most of the time those guys play with a huge chip on their shoulder. They have a lot of drive and a lot of push. They push the players around them. Most of the time they push them forward, yet sometimes back. The best athletes who have that chip are born leaders. Whether the players and coaches around them like it or not. And if that leader doesn’t like where the Shortstop is standing, he has no problem telling them so. And if a guy comes to the plate running his yap, that pitcher digs down deep. He competes! He prevails and has no problem telling that guy to STFD!
    And with the series on the line. WITH THE SERIES ON THE LINE. He sure as hell wants the ball. And if he’s skipped for someone else, you can be damn sure he’s gonna be pissed about it. No question.

    That’s the guy I want on my team.

  97. NMR says:

    At which point they’d be admitting they just plain didn’t want AJ.

    If they can’t afford to offer AJ $14M, they can’t afford to offer Frankie the same.

  98. Nate83 says:

    Steelking I agree I want the guy who wants the ball I also want the guy who is a bulldog and doesn’t back down to the player at the plate yapping. You can be that guy and not show up your shortstop and tell the bullpen to sit down which is showing up your manager. Those actions would not be tolerated in any other work environment including other sports. QB’s never blame a receiver for running the wrong route or publicly yell at a lineman when they get sacked. They may do it in the locker room but never out on the field or in the media. If they do it on the field it never ends up good for that player.

    I think this has zero effect on if he gets resigned or how much they are willing to offer him. I think it all has to do with the payroll and how much they value him based on his age and if they view him as their number 2,3 or 4 starter. I’m guessing they view him as their #3. The Pirates are not the type of team to spend that much on a #3 starter. I personally think they should make an exception (within reason 12-15 million) because it’s only one year and they are competitive and 2 or 3 wins could make a difference.

  99. NMR says:

    Come on, buddy. Pitchers get pissed about being taken out of the game all the time. Don’t give me this stuff about it not being tolerated.

    These guys are adults, not Little Leaguers.

    Couldn’t agree with you more, Steelkings.

  100. 21sthebest says:

    Yeah, I think the money is there as well.

  101. Nate83 says:

    Yes and No in my opinion. They have some money freeing up after this year. Martin, Wandy and Volquez will be coming off the books. I know there is some added money for Tabata, Cutch and Morton’s contracts as well as arbitration but there is a little more flexibility. They very well could value the two exactly the same but just didn’t think the money was there this year. They also may have more answers after this year. They will know what they have or at least have a better idea on Mercer, Polanco, Taillon, Kingman, Stolmy and Lambo.

    However I agree it would point to them seeing more value in Frankie then AJ. If Frankie has a good year I can understand that completely. He’s younger then AJ and more likely to repeat his level of play from the previous two years.

  102. Nate83 says:

    Players get in yelling matches with their managers in the dugout all the time? I must have missed that. It seems like it may happen 2 or 3 times a year. Especially a manager like Hurdle who goes out of his way to praise his players and take blame when they lose to keep the players insulated from the media.

    I don’t mind him being pissed (I actually like it) but showing up your manager and teammates is not appropriate. Take it back into the tunnel or wait until after the game. There is no need to make anything public. Barking at Barmes does absolutely nothing. He is doing what he is told to do and what he was told to do is credited with being one of the reasons the Pirates won so many games last year.

  103. NMR says:

    Ball players can’t always be choir boys, Nate. And go ahead and show me these shouting matches in the dugout. Is that something you actually watched, or something you read on the internet?

  104. The Gunner says:

    I love that fact that AJ doesn’t take any crap. But, if you have a beef with the manager or one of your teammates, a man of his age and experience needs to handle things a lot differently than he did last year. Where I work, we would call this a lack of business maturity.

    AJ sure can pitch but, he’s way too disruptive for the very conservative Bob Nutting.

  105. Nate83 says:

    I don’t remember exact details but I did see it. It was when AJ told the bullpen to sit back down. It’s possible it was only Hurdle doing the yelling but I’m sure AJ had some words as well.

    I told you I don’t think it has any effect on the amount they value him. However I don’t agree with a player acting like that and if he was younger and they were considering giving him a 3 or 4 year deal it would definitely be something they would consider. It doesn’t make me not want him back on the team in this situation for just 1 year. Ask Carlos Zambrano if it matters.

  106. NMR says:

    There is zero comparison between AJ Burnett and Carlos Zambrano, and if you think there is, your skin is thin as tissue paper.

  107. Andrew says:

    @ Travis: Discussing the Pirates system I would add Melancon and Gomez to list, possibly Locke the Pirates got value out of a pitcher would was 2nd in the majors in walk rate.

    The $8.5 million is comparable to the AAV that would have been necessary to sign Loney, but as NMR pointed out the Pirates said they had the flexibility to add both Loney and Burnett, but you know more than us.

    @Jim I agree, but then again $5 million is not going to force Nutting to sell Seven Springs. And if you look at the long game the Pirates needed more rotation and depth and could not wait on Burnett, if I remember correctly there were a series of Volquez like pitchers who signed around the time he signed.

  108. 21sthebest says:

    Gunner, that’s under the premise that A.J. receives crap.

  109. Steelkings says:

    @Nate and Gunner

    So few people get to be major league baseball pitchers. The insane competitor it must take to get on top of that hill. There are no successful gentleman here. Pitchers especially. Cy Young, Rodger Clemons, Nolan Ryan. Guys like that have no problem putting one in your ear hole. You have to have guys on a team that wont put up with crap. A team has to have some edge. Like the Braves when the Brewer admired his homer and ran his yap. He heard it from the first baseman, Then the shortstop, and McCann met him between home and 3rd. That team plays with an edge.

    The Pirates have one guy that has that edge to him. Thats AJ. Without him all they do is get softer. Poor poor Clint Barmes for having AJ Burnett yell at him in front of everyone. Perhaps if Barmes had an edge to him, he wouldn’t let Mercer take his job.
    And perhaps Hurdles feelings wouldn’t be hurt if he would have started AJ in game 6. He only threw 70 pitches in game two and would have had a full 3 days rest. Could have put the Cardinals away right there. AJ was 4-3 against the Cardinals. All you hear about was how bad he was against them in Saint Louis. Not so fast. All three of his losses were in Saint Louis. But he beat them once there too. But no one would talk about how he owned them at home. 3 starts, 21 total innings and 2 earned runs. Forget the earned runs. How about 2 runs period. Beat them 5-0, then 2-1 and again 7-1.

  110. Nate83 says:

    I didn’t compare them as being equals I was just giving an example of a player that wasn’t able to control their emotions on the field and it how it does matter. Sports are a business and their is a way you are supposed to act while at the workplace. It does have an effect on the work environment and people do get disciplined for not acting appropriately. Showing up your teammates and your coach would fall under not acting appropriately in my opinion and should be a concern.

  111. Nate83 says:

    It’s no harder to be a starting pitcher in MLB then it is to become a shortstop. It’s actually easier. One has 30 such starting positions and the other 150. You must not know much about Barmes if you are questioning his passion. How would Barmes use his “edge” to keep his job from Mercer? Beat him up, hit him in the knee with a crowbar. Barmes works as hard as anyone on the team. There are stories about how hard he worked and how badly he wanted to help his team with the bat in 2012 when he was struggling.

    Hurdles feeling hurt??? He’s a big boy I’m sure his feeling weren’t hurt. He is AJ’s boss and if he sees him disrespecting another employee it’s his job to step in and put AJ back in his place. Let’s not build AJ up to be some staff ace that was snubbed by not getting the game 5 start. Cole pitched great and I’m confident a majority of people thought it was the correct move.

  112. The Gunner says:

    You make sense, Steel. But, AJ’s Bucco days are done for all the reasons that have been discussed on this blog many times. Let’s hope I am wrong about all of this.

  113. The Gunner says:

    Cole was definitely the right move for Game 5. Sorry, AJ!

  114. NMR says:

    For the BILLIONTH time, AJ Burnett was not “showing up” Clint Barmes.

    Never, ever, ever, happened.

  115. Nate83 says:

    That’s fine. He showing up the coaches (which is worse) who put Barmes in that location. It’s just unsightly and drama that isn’t needed and so is waiving the bullpen to sit back down. Maybe Martin should yell at AJ next time he shakes off a few signs and see how that goes over.

  116. Andrew says:

    Steelkings surely you jest, you have make some good points, but this post is just inane. Leadership could be important, I am agnostic, because there is no way to quantify or measure it and is a most often discussed in post hoc narrative about why a club failed or succeed.

    Where was Burnett, when James MacDonald and Jeff Locke fell apart? We all laughed at the idea that Inge was worth 10 wins like some former coach claimed. If this front office is trying to value player like Don Cherry, taking into account softness and who has a chip on their shoulder, lord help us.

  117. NMR says:

    Was Burnett supposed to throw for them?

    There isn’t any doubt in my mind that Burnett brought a different attitude to the clubhouse. None, what so ever. Many veterans have talked about what it’s like to be in a clubhouse full of young guys just happy to make the big leagues. This is a real thing.

    You cannot just hit the buttons, sit back, and let the simulation play in the real world.

  118. Steelkings says:

    Game 6….Not game 5

  119. Steelkings says:

    Best post you have ever written NMR

  120. Nate83 says:

    No it was game 5. The series was tied 2-2. The Pirates where up 2-1 and lost game 4 at home. The first series after the play-in game is only 5 games. There is no game 6. Burnett pitched game 1 and then, Cole, Liriano, Morton and Cole again.

  121. Steelkings says:

    This is what you give up…Attitude

  122. NMR says:

    Why are you so offended by AJ Burnett?

  123. Steelkings says:

    Sorry…Mortons game 4

  124. Steelkings says:

    Game 4 , 3 days rest and in Pittsburgh where AJ had given up 2 runs in 21 innings of work

  125. Nate83 says:

    How did that attitude help in 2012 when they collapsed? It didn’t because his attitude (negative or positive) is very low on the list of reasons the Pirates win or lose or of things the Pirates consider when setting his value. This is all overrated including what effect any of his outburst had on the team. Hurdle who is responsible for the attitude more then anybody put him back in line and it’s water under the bridge. Unless you have a Bobby Valentine situation where nobody respected anybody it’s a lot of talk about nothing in my opinion.

    If it’s one or two instances from one player it’s not a big deal but if it becomes a habit then it starts to become a problem. Or if it becomes multiple players it can become a problem. It is trending towards it becoming a habit for AJ and that has to at least be considered a little bit (but not much) when committing that much money to a player.

  126. Nate83 says:

    You lost me. Morton pitched great in that game. I think he gave up 2 earned runs and the the reliever gave up the second one when he inherited a runner on second I think. Morton was a better pitcher the last two months of the year then AJ. I can’t imagine not starting him in the series and using AJ on short rest after the same line up just lit him up no matter which park they are playing in.

  127. Steelkings says:

    Just a question and not a judgement. Have you ever coached or played at a high level, Nate?

  128. NMR says:

    Missing the point, Nate.

    If there were 24 other players in the clubhouse with that attitude, there’s no way in hell they would’ve collapsed like they did.

    You can’t tell me those teams played to their talent level in the second half.

  129. Steelkings says:

    In AJ’s last 7 starts in 2012 he pitched 47 inning and gave up 14 runs. Of course he was 1-6 over that stretch because the Pirates simply would not score any runs for him. So I’m gonna assume attitude had a lot to do with it. Attitude good or bad is almost always driven by pride.

  130. Andrew says:

    I cannot disprove Burnett’s leadership or intangible difference, but neither can you prove it, this is the realm of the unknowable. This discussion had devolved into a composition of fallacies and is almost a religious debate.

    How much leadership does a team need, is there a critical level?
    Was Rod Barajas a leader, Russell Martin, if so how do we separates Burnett’s leadership from theirs?
    Can a player provide leadership when performing poorly, at what point is performance more valuable than leadership?

    I think we are going to have to disagree on this, because we are not discussing something that is observable.

  131. Nate83 says:

    No I haven’t. Just a fan of baseball. Played 4 sports in high school and was on a football team that had a coach that controlled his players and went 9-1. If you didn’t do what you were supposed to or went of on a player in practice or game you sat the bench. The coach demanded respect for him and the teammates.

    Same athletes in the same year played basketball and ran whatever they wanted, yelled at each other on the court and at halftime. Played cards before the game instead of looking over the game plan. The coach did nothing about it and the team went 4-17. The same guys that respected the football coach did not respect this coach. Same team went 13-4 as Sophomores on junior varsity with a coach that demanded respect and benched the players that didn’t run the plays.

    I realize High School sports is not professional sports but every worklplace starts with respect for co-workers and authority. I’m not saying AJ lacks respect completely but he has slipped up a few times in the last year.

  132. Nate83 says:

    I like AJ. I’m a huge fan of his passion and pride but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t praise him for his passion and say it makes a large positive difference in the team and at the same time say his negative passion towards a teammates and or coach has little or no effect.

    You also can’t say just because he wears his passion on his sleeve he has more passion then Barmes or Morton or any other Pirate. We know about Morton’s drive and hard work but he keeps his emotions in check on the field. Great his passion/pride gave up 14 runs in 47 innings during a collapse. What did it do in 2 innings in game 1 against the Cards.

  133. Nate83 says:

    Did I miss the part where we started talking about somebody other then AJ Burnett? The guy didn’t play to his talent level for 4 years while collecting 16 million a year from the Yankees. Maybe they weren’t in playoff contention during those 4 years? I just checked and they always are in contention.

    I don’t know how I’m missing the point or how the other 24 players not being like AJ Burnett was the reason for the collapse.

  134. Steelkings says:

    Liriano Gave up 10 in 2.1 innings to Colorado. 2 weeks later gave up 7 in 3 innings. Pirates stayed with him. Its not like AJ was pitching against an offense like…the Pirates offense. Last I heard that Cardinal team was the best offensive team to play in 2013 against right handers.

  135. Nate83 says:

    That’s fine. You seem to be a huge Burnett fan. I’m very happy he played for us for two years and hope he plays this year as well. He definitely adds value to the team but I’m perfectly fine with them not using him on short rest in game 4 and not pitching him in game 5. It’s just my opinion but I think both moves were the correct move at the time.

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