Dear A.J. Burnett:
It has become a tradition dating all the way back to the start of the Pirates' 19th consecutive losing season for The Morning File to write a letter to the opening day starting pitcher wishing him well.
But there was some tantalizing mid-summer excitement in 2011 and 2012, and I guess I'm one of those "better to have been in love and in first place and lost a lot in a crushing blow to my spirits, than never to have been in love and first place at all" kind of guys. So here we go again. Count me in for 2013.
I'm ecstatic that you're the man with the ball in his hand for the first pitch this year. And I say that while not even being a tattoo guy. I have a daughter with skin illustrations covering about 1/20 the amount of flesh that yours do, and no matter how many times I've told her to "wash those off before sitting down to dinner," she refuses. I hope you've made some peace with your mother or father by now on the matter.
I don't need to tell you that you had me and everyone else in Pittsburgh "at hello" last year, pitching from the get-go better than anything we expected and doing so with an inspirational fire that helped the rest of the club get to 16 games above first place. Though it didn't end well -- akin to when the Confederacy had a clear lead in 1862 but stumbled down the stretch, due to Gen. Braxton Bragg's mismanagement of his bullpen -- I like your attitude that that's yesterday's news.
"I'm done talking about last year," you told the reporters in Florida Thursday. "The more you talk about negative things ... the more you re-embark on them."
No re-embarking here either. It's like all that money I contributed last year to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl to help him gear up for this year's re-election campaign. In retrospect, not the wisest investment, so thanks in advance for not asking about it.
That reminds me that you've probably been away from Pittsburgh since October and missed most of our local news, so let me bring you up to date: the police department is in a shambles; there are more people running for mayor than there are Miami Marlins fans this year; another Orie (don't worry, not Kevin) got convicted; the Steelers are in a shambles; Minutello's, Benkovitz Seafoods, the Tambellini restaurant Downtown and just about every other local eatery my parents ever patronized shut down.
Oh, and most noteworthy of all, Pittsburgh could maybe host the 2024 Summer Olympics. (Just like I could maybe become the Pirates' long-awaited slugging right-fielder if Travis Snider's not up to snuff.)
You may have also heard that Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early spring this year. I hope that didn't lead you to leave your sweaters at home. It should be in the low 40s, damp with a chilly wind when you take the mound Monday afternoon. That's relatively balmy by Pittsburgh's spring of 2013 standards, but if you see ski masks in the stands don't let it throw you off your game -- it's not terrorists, but just my family in section 320.
If we're not in our seats, it's because we're wandering around the ballpark searching for the new Brunch Burger. Maybe you get these in the clubhouse, too, though I wouldn't tell Pedro Alvarez about it. It's a patty that's a combination of ground beef and bacon, topped with cheddar cheese and a fried egg, held together by a glazed donut that's been cut in half and toasted. I know -- ummm.
The only thing my kids want at the ballpark other than a couple of those is an A.J. Burnett Camo Jersey Bobblehead Doll, which is being given away May 18. (It'd better have all your tattoos authentically depicted, especially the Bruce Lee one, or the marketing department will have hell to pay from one writer's daughter.)
Oh, and my son is also asking for a winning season. After all, this would be a 21st consecutive losing season if you're below .500 again, and there's something wrong about using No. 21 in that context with the Pirates, isn't there?
All the best to you, A.J.
Gary Rotstein: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1255. First Published March 31, 2013 4:00 AM