8/10: A.J. Burnett and the U.S. Economy

By John Sparks

Unless you’ve been under a rock or on another planet, you know that despite folks saying that our economy couldn’t get any worse, it has.  Standard & Poors has removed the United States from its list of risk-free borrowers, and following the action, the stock market plummeted, demonstrating a lack of confidence in our country’s ability to deal with the national debt.

If you’re a die-hard New York Yankee fan, you know that the Bronx Bombers finally defeated the Boston Red Sox on Saturday.  They owned a short-lived one game lead atop the American League East and haven’t won since.

So in summary, that’s the good news and the bad.

But for those of us who constantly find ourselves consumed with the fortunes of the Pinstripers, there is the lingering problem of what to do about A.J. Burnett.

Burnett was acquired in 2008 from the Toronto Blue Jays, and at the time, many considered him to be the icing on the cake for the starting rotation.  His first season was respectable — 13 wins, 9 losses.  He had moments of brilliance, and he appeared to be one of the ingredients in bringing some levity to the clubhouse with his propensity to slam shaving cream pies into the faces of the game heroes following walk-off victories.

But then things changed, and quicker than you can say Chuck Knoblauch, he has become the big question mark in the starting rotation.  Thursday night he could not maintain a 13-1 lead, and Joe Girardi had no choice but to yank him before he completed the 5 innings necessary for him to secure the win.  A.J. didn’t win in July.  He didn’t win a single game in July and August of last season.

Let me suggest that his mechanics are good.  He has the ability to execute.  However, one can look into his eyes and see the self-doubt.  Chuck Knoblauch had the same look when he could no longer make a routine throw from second base to first to get the out.  Knoblauch was moved to the outfield.  What do you do with A.J?  The bullpen is crowded with great performances.  The starting rotation is overflowing with good arms.  What to do?

I’m wondering if a good hypnotist might do some magic and help Burnett convince himself that he can win again.

And, I’m hoping the same thing for the United States of America.  We need to reclaim the self-confidence that has made our nation great.

My father’s generation experienced the Great Depression.  Then the leader of the free world stepped up to the plate and told us that “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  The message rings true for today.

Let us hope and pray that we don’t enter a war to help us find ourselves again.  The stakes are much more deadly today.

Yet, it’s not so simple as moving to left field or engaging a hypnotist.  But we do need sacrifice.  We need to become a manufacturing giant again.  We can no longer live in a world of smoke and mirrors in which we rationalize that the age of technology changes everything.  Truth is, we have become a nation of consumers, and that must change.  In order to have jobs, we need to be making something.  In order to make things, we need to depend on our natural resources.  And to compete with the world, we must bite the bullet and go to work for considerably less than the wages we expect to make.  When shirt makers in Hong Kong and China go to work for the lowest of wages, we need to take a hard long look and make the decision that in a global economy in order to compete, we must make sacrifices.  We must feel the pain.  In short we can’t have it all.  We must either work for considerably less or make a personal statement by buying only U.S. products.  Since one can rarely find the label “Made in USA,” that’s going to be no mean trick.

Regardless, instead of thinking about number one, we must think of the team.  The team is the United States of America.  All of us need to be team players.

Relief pitcher Rafael Soriano told Joe Girardi that he didn’t care where Girardi pitched him — he was there to make his contribution.  Jorge Posada didn’t like it when he was dropped in the lineup earlier this season.  For a brief 24-hour period his ego got the best of him, and rather uncharacteristically, he thought of himself and not his team.  It didn’t take him long to remember to practice what he had preached to others.

It’s teamwork and sacrifice that will get the job done for the Yankees and for our country’s economy.  But each of us must participate — lawmakers, businessmen, labor, even baseball players.  We must come up with solutions, and that includes doing with less, rolling our sleeves up, getting to work, and making sacrifices — together as a team.

Above all, we must take pride in our team.  We must regain our self-confidence.  By the way — I’m convinced that A.J. Burnett can do the same.