A.J. addresses another self-inflicted distraction
Less than a week after yelling at Clint Barmes during a game in Texas and then creating a scene in the Pirates' clubhouse the next day when approached to discuss the incident, A.J. Burnett once again found himself at the center of unwanted attention this afternoon. The reason this time was a tweet he sent out following last night's game in which he appeared to criticize Pirates' fans for not coming out to support the team ("Lots of empty seats. Lots!"). Many fans were upset by A.J.'s tweet and it quickly became the topic of the day on Pittsburgh sports radio and in published media.
This afternoon Burnett, to his credit, was in the clubhouse and willing to talk to reporters about his tweet and the response it received. Here are his comments:
Were you surprised by the response your tweet received?
Aww man, everybody's entitled to their opinion. That's what Twitter's for. The thing I got out of it was that a lot of people cared, whether they liked it or didn't like it. The last thing that needs to be said is that nobody is pointing fingers at fans. We're on the field, we're competing. We didn't play a couple of good games. At no point whatsoever am I saying that's their fault. It can't be their fault, they're not on the field performing. I just know that when this place is packed it's electric. I just know how important it is to this city and this team and I made an observation. It's just my opinion. I love the response, whether it's good or bad, it shows they care.
If it didn't mean a lot to me I wouldn't have tweeted it. I would have gone home last night, gone to bed, not cared. But I do care, you know. And I know what it means to this city to win. And I know what it means to this group in here to win. So, it's over with, let's go win a ballgame.
Later during his afternoon meeting with the media, Clint Hurdle was asked whether he was surprised by the attendance the last two nights. Hurdle, clearly not thrilled with the question, said the following:
I love every fan that's here. I'm appreciative of every fan that shows up. It costs money to show up at these games. Love playing in front of our fan base. I bet we'll see some more people here before it's all said and done. Day game tomorrow, Reds in for three. Probably going to have the second highest all-time attendance in Pirate history. It's good stuff.
This was always a silly and unimportant topic, and A.J and Hurdle said all the right things today to put it to rest. However, perhaps what is not so silly and unimportant is that one of the team's leaders for the second time in one week brought unnecessary controversy inside a clubhouse that is battling for a division title.
Russell Martin getting some rest
John Buck will get the start behind the plate tonight. Russell Martin is getting the night off because he's blocked an average of "eight to 12 balls a night every night he has been behind the plate from Opening Day until now," Hurdle said. "We'll see how it goes tomorrow," Hurdle added: "In a perfect world, I want him ready for Cincinnati."
A new Pirates' plan?
The Pirates' in-house analytics team has received deserved positive press this season. Today Hurdle playfully suggested that the team's researchers are still hard at work developing new ways to analyze the game:
Actual blocking of balls per game is between seven and 12. I could go grab a hard number, I got them working on it now because we're (pause) (looks around) (lowers voice), believe it or not, we're building another plan. We're building another system analysis plan: How many nineties (bases) can a catcher recover by blocking a ball. How many nineties are saved? Because he has just been so far out front of anything I've seen ... We're going to bottle it up and sell it.