By Jon Lane
A.J. Burnett now owns two World Series rings, though there’s no doubt No. 2 is sweeter. He was a member of the Marlins team that won it all in 2003, but was out most of the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
November 4, 2009 was Burnett’s finest moment. Well, almost.
“I have two kids and I’ve got a beautiful wife,” Burnett said, “but besides that they ain’t nothing that beats this right here.”
Some days he drove you crazy. Others he was an adrenaline surge. All put together, Burnett had a fine first season in the Bronx, the first of a five-year pact that will pay him $82 million. Burnett is so, so talented, you always want more from him, but a 13-9 record with a 4.04 ERA isn’t too shabby. There were times Burnett was electric enough to make citizens stop and stare in awe: 7 2/3 shutout innings August 7 against the Red Sox and one run allowed with nine strikeouts in seven frames in Game 2 of the World Series.
Burnett had a bad Game 5, really bad, but his Game 2 saved the Yankees from being in deep trouble and a city from near-total panic.
“Nobody can take that away from me,” Burnett said of his 3-1, Game 2 win, his World Series debut. “I had a rough one my last time out, but I had 24 guys in there telling me, ‘You know what, if it wasn’t for you, we’d be coming to Philly in a big hole. I’m glad I could help out and be a part of something this special.”
Burnett was always an interesting interview. He was soft-spoken, sometimes blunt, always honest and had good insight on the most standard of cliches. On July 22, Burnett defeated the Baltimore Orioles to put them alone in first place. At the time, though, the AL East was long from being decided, especially with Boston due in town for that big early August series. The Yankees were 0-8 against the Red Sox and the questions were accumulating. Burnett was asked why it’ll be different and whipped out one of sports’ oldest cliches, albeit with a different spin.
“We’re going one game at a time right now,” Burnett said. “That’s the big difference as opposed to looking ahead and worrying about who’s coming into town or where we’re going. It’s just one at a time.”
While drenched in champagne, I asked him how and why that philosophy worked so well.
“Nothing mattered to us,” Burnett said. “We knew we had another game. No. 2 [Derek Jeter] over there would always come in and say, ‘Oh, we got another game today.’ And that was it. We’re a humble team that no matter what happened the day before, we had another game. That’s all that mattered, one at a time.”
Ticker-tape parade Friday at 11 a.m. beginning at Broadway and Battery Place, and ending with a ceremony at City Hall where Mayor Mike Bloomberg will present the team with keys to the city. It’s open to the public, but details are forthcoming about a limited number of tickets that will be made available for those wanting to get inside City Hall Plaza. Fans who can’t get a ticket can watch the ceremony on a giant TV screen that will be set up near City Hall Park.