Joe Girardi and the Yankees' brain trust surprised this observer when they announced the starting rotation for the division series with the Twins. The surprise was that Burnett is in the bullpen and Hughes has been named one of the three starters. This speaks well of the decision making by the Yankees. They are ignoring payroll and history by going with the three guys they think give them the best chance to win (Sabathia, Pettitte and Hughes). What was even more pleasantly surprising was A. J. Burnett's reaction to the decision.
Burnett fully understood the situation and said that Hughes should start. He also reiterated that Joe Girardi is the best manager he's ever played for. Look, this writer has taken his fair share of pot shots at Burnett for his performance, but this reaction is impressive and the perfect attitude for handling this situation. He could have sulked. He could have jobbed his manager. He could have done things most spoiled and pampered athletes do when benched by the man in charge of the team. But Burnett showed class and understanding and went out of his way to praise his manager. Well done, Mr. Burnett. Well done indeed.
And who knows, Burnett could provide the kind of dominant relief outings that Hughes provided in last year's post season. With Burnett's repertoire, he could very well dominate for an inning here or there. The only troubling aspect for the Fan about this decision is worry for Hughes. The young pitcher is in uncharted waters for innings pitched and stressful innings. Now the Yankees are going to add post season work loads on the young man. If Hughes gets hurt either in the playoffs or early next season, there will be a lot of questions asked about what happened to limiting Hughes and his innings. They did limit his innings somewhat, but Hughes throws so many pitches that he was often in 85 to 95 pitches deep by the fifth and sixth innings. We'll just have to see how it all shakes out.
The other impressive thing about this story is Joe Girardi. Burnett is the second high priced player that has come out publicly to state that Girardi was the best manager they ever played for. Teixeira stated the same thing last year. From what these players are saying, Girardi has a gigantic heart for his players and makes it clear that he cares about them. That's impressive and shows a true leader. Remember that Teixeira played for Bobby Cox, Mike Scioscia and Buck Showalter. Those three guys are top of the line managers are they not? Girardi apparently has the guts to make the roster moves he has to make, the rotation decisions he has to make while not losing his players' hearts. That is a rare trick. Contrast that to published stories from the fired Macha who said that Ryan Braun does his own thing and doesn't listen to his manager or his coaches and that Braun and Fielder wouldn't communicate with him.
The bottom line here is that the Fan is super impressed with both Burnett and Girardi who seem to be men full of grace and maturity in a game that rarely exhibits either trait.