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Phillies Exit Interview: A.J. Burnett

Everyone's favorite pater familias joins The Good Phight to discuss, among other things, his family, his son's post-secondary educational aspirations, and fidelitas.

Get out of my way! I'm going home to Trick-or-Treat with my kids.
Get out of my way! I'm going home to Trick-or-Treat with my kids.
Norm Hall

Having retired from professional baseball at the conclusion of a successful season and unsuccessful playoff appearance with the Pittsburgh Pirates, A.J. Burnett was justifiably not discussed as a free agent target for the Phillies, or any other team, for that matter. When the Phillies signed Burnett, it was likely in the hope that he could replicate the success he found pitching in front of Pittsburgh's skilled and shift-happy defense. Long story made short: he was unable to repeat that success, providing the Phillies with between 0.1 and 1 win above replacement level, depending on your personal WAR preferences. His ERA+ of 81 was the worst of his career, worse, even, than his horrendous 2010 and 2011 seasons with the Yankees.

Despite posting an ERA 19% worse than league average, what did Burnett do well? For one, he did one of the more underrated things a starting pitcher can do: he pitched a ton of innings. Despite pitching through a hernia from mid-April until the end of the season, Burnett logged the second highest season inning total (213.2) of his career (he pitched 221.1 innings for Toronto in 2008. 197.2 of those innings were pitched after suffering a hernia.

Those 200+ innings of quasi-replacement-level production are not nothing, especially considering the other options available to the Phillies. It's unlikely that whoever Jerome Williams 2.0 would have been would have been as successful as his first generation model. Those 213.2 innings of not train-wreck starting pitching are a huge upgrade over 213.2 innings of Sean O'Sullivan or whoever.

Anyway, you're not here to read me extol the virtues of Allan James Burnett; you want to hear is from the (work) horse's mouth. A.J. has kindly taken a break from tossing the ol' pigskin in the backyard with his sons while simultaneously cooking dinner and doing the laundry to answer a couple of questions for us about his 2014 and his uncertain future with the team.

If I had traded you midseason, would the team have done better or worse?

Considering you had exactly 0 other pitchers in the organization capable of even pitching a single competent inning as a major league starter, you would have done worse without me. That said, Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs WARs give me a value between 0 and 1 wins for the entire season. That understates my value to the Phillies. Do you really think you could have found a pitcher capable of even replacement level performance in my stead? I left my family for an entire year to pitch for you people and now you're suggesting I could have been traded midseason. What kind of loyalty is that? I thought we were on the same page.

All my options are open for next year. Should I trade you, release you, or keep you?

Why would you even ask this after my last answer!?!?!?! I want to be with my family. That's all that matters. I don't care about this damn baseball thing, I don't even care about the $12.75 million you owe me if I pitch next year. What I do care about is my family, or, more importantly, letting everyone know I care about my family, even if it comes at the cost of a small dent in our retirement savings plan and the kids' college fund. Omnia vincit amor!

Actually, on further thought, I want to be back next year. Ashton just told me he wants to go to Williams and not UMBC's Honors College.

Do you think you will be part of the next great Phillies team?

Whatever it takes to show I love my family. But actually, off the record, no. I'm 37 years old and will be at least 40 by the time the Phillies are good again. Who do you think I am? Jamie Moyer?

Overall, explain to me how your time with the Philadelphia Phillies has been the highlight of your life.

My time with the Phillies has allowed me to be close to my family and to fund Ashton's goal to attend one of the most over-rated and over-priced liberal arts colleges in the country. The wins don't matter. What matters is I provide for those I love. The Phillies, stupidly, have allowed me to do that for more than one season.

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the worst, how do you rate on the "it's my fault we're in this freaking mess and finished in last place" scale?"

Don't know, don't care. I honestly wasn't even paying attention to the results of games last year because I was so completely devoted to the well-being of my family. I didn't know we didn't make the playoffs until I saw Cole packing up his locker contents after the game against the Braves on September 28th.

Looking back on it though, I'd honestly put myself somewhere between a 5 and a 6 on this scale. I was far from the only player on this team who performed below expectations. Y'all didn't pay me $15 million to perform like Kyle Fucking Kendrick. For that I am sorry. I may have brought shame upon my family. Would that I had never left them.