"I want to win a ring, and I want to win it with Pittsburgh."
See, that used to be a real hoot around here, spouting stuff like that. Because the 'ring' in this statement is a World Series ring. And 'Pittsburgh' points to the Pirates, the franchise that was Major League Baseball's perpetual laughingstock. At least until A.J. Burnett arrived in 2012.
Which is precisely why it isn't funny anymore.
Especially when the man himself is saying it.
“It’s about winning," Burnett was telling us reporter types in a conference call this evening, minutes after he and the Pirates signed his one-year, $8.5 million, miles-below-market-value contract to return to the place he said made him the happiest. "It's about being in a place where I know I can win it all. It’s about how many years I’ve got left. It’s about my family and my heart. To be able to get out where I want, I’m so lucky to have that opportunity. There’s nowhere I’d rather finish my career than in that city, with that organization and those people in that locker room."
Anyone else flings out phrases like that, especially in a no-nonsense town like ours, and they'll get called on it. Not this guy. Not the way he always makes it feel so real. Not after all he'd already done to win over Pittsburgh in his initial stint, and most certainly not after all he did to open a second -- and yes, closing -- chapter.
Let's start there: Burnett will turn 38 and, as he made abundantly clear several times in the call, he'll pitch one more season and call it quits. He'd hinted as such before but never this bluntly.