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Happy Birthday A.J. Burnett

Toronto Blue Jays v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

A.J. Burnett turns 47 today.

A.J. had a nice career, 17 seasons, a 164-157 record, 3.99 ERA in 435 games, 430 starts. He started his career with the Marlins, played there for seven seasons, and had a 49-50 record with a 3.73 ERA. Then, in the winter before the 2005 season, J.P. Ricciardi signed A.J. to a 5-year, $55 million contract, including a rather famous opt-out cause that came up after the third season.

Burnett was good with us (when he wasn’t injured), making a nice 1-2 top of the rotation with Roy Halladay. He went 38-26 with a 3.94 ERA in 80 starts. His best season, working out very nicely for him, was the 3rd year of the contract, when he went 18-10 with a 4.07 ERA in 34 starts, going 221 innings. We’d love to have a pitcher who could go 221 innings now.

Surprising no one, Burnett chose to opt-out. Some writers thought he shouldn’t want to be a number 1 starter somewhere else. That should be happier in Toronto being the number 2 guy to Doc. I’ll admit, I likely wrote more on this subject back in the day than it deserved. But I always wanted to ask one of those writers, “Hey, if you were offered a 50% raise, with the bonus of a couple of extra years, wouldn’t you take it?’ They seemed very insulting, without taking a moment to think of what they would do if offered a lot more money. A baseball career is short. Piling up some cash for retirement isn’t a bad idea.

He signed a five-year, $82.5 million contract with the Yankees. I couldn’t blame him in the least for taking more money. But, I will admit, I very much enjoyed when the Jays, behind Doc’s pitching, beat the Yankees 5-1 on May 12, 2009. Halladay pitched a complete game, allowing just 5 hits. Burnett wasn’t terrible, 7.2, 7 hits, 5 earned, 4 walks and 7 strikeouts (he also had a win and a no-decision against us that year).

I’ll admit, I loved every time we beat him (but then I love every time we beat the Yankees, no matter who is pitching). I even remember us laying a beating on him in spring training the year I went to Dunedin, and I very much enjoyed that.

In all, against the Jays, he was 3-5 with a 5.94 ERA in 11 starts.

Burnett didn’t have a great time with the Yankees, going 34-35 with a 4.70 ERA. The Yankees traded him to the Pirates after his 3rd season (and his second consecutive with an ERA north of 5). They didn’t get much for him (and the pile of cash they sent along with him). They just wanted to be rid of him. He got a World Series ring with the Yankees, but it turned out to be a good thing that he left us for New York. With the Pirates, he reestablished himself as one of the better pitchers in baseball, going 16-10 with a 3.51 ERA in 31 starts in 2012. In 3 seasons as a Pirate (with one bad season with Philadelphia mixed in, breaking up the three seasons), he was 35-28 with a 3.34 ERA.

Burnett won his way back into my good books by saying nice things about Doc after his death.

Happy Birthday, A.J. I hope it is a good one.

It is also Luis Sojo’s birthday. He turns 59 today.

He spent two seasons of a 13-year career with the Jays, not getting much playing time, hitting .205/.255/.268 in 52 games. Most of his career was with the Yankees.

And Gary Lavelle turns 75 today.

Gary spent 2 of his 13 years with the Blue Jays. He came over in a trade with the Giants in January of 1985. With the Jays, Gary had one good year in 1985, when he had a 3.10 ERA, with 8 saves in 72.2 innings. He missed all of 1986 with arm injuries and then had a poor 1987 with a 5.53 ERA and 1 save in 27.2 innings before getting his release in August. That was it for his career (other than 4 innings with the A’s). But he had a pretty good one. He was a very serviceable lefty reliever, spending most of it with the Giants, often pitching 70 games or more and over 100 innings in a season. I don’t remember much about his time with the Jays.