Now that CC Sabathia has signed, the competition for AJ Burnett is heating up. Burnett has said previously that he wants to be within driving distance of his house near Baltimore. This week we’ve learned that the Red Sox had extensive talks with the hurler and his agent, that the Braves remain in hot pursuit (and have reportedly offered in the neighborhood of 5 years, $80MM), and that the Yankees are making a concerted push as well (Thursday update: reportedly offering $85MM, five years). Ken Rosenthal has named the Cardinals as another interested team, and the Phillies are rumored to be in the mix too (Thursday update: via MLBTR, the AJC says Larry “Chipper” Jones talked to Burnett and the only NL team he would be interested in is Atlanta). The Jays have not been officially eliminated, but they are not expected to meet AJ’s asking price. (Um, ultimate update: Burnett signed with New York. He is condemned to one of the worst commutes ever!)
Our question for this afternoon: how far would AJ’s commute be from these six teams? Let’s look in the order of his likelihood of signing with each team, as we know it today:
Atlanta: 11 hours, 4 minutes
Atlanta is rumored to be pushing extremely hard for Burnett. But at first blush, that 11-hour drive is a doozy. Fortunately, this drive is (or can be) reasonably scenic. Though Google Maps wants to route AJ through Richmond on The Dread 95, it’s not that much longer just to take scenic state highway 29 through Virginia (through Danville and Charlottesville, skirting the Shenandoah Valley and the Monongahela National Forest). G-Maps puts that route just 19 minutes longer at 11 hours, 23 minutes. In fact, the scenic route may even be the quicker route if there’s nasty traffic on 95. And if AJ’s really got some extra time, there’s always the gorgeous Blue Ridge Parkway.
Score: 6 out of 10. What this route lacks in brevity, it makes up for in beauty. And if you take 29, you don’t have to worry about traffic. Plus, there almost no tolls at all — maybe one when you get to DC.
New York: 3 hours, 18 minutes
New York’s goal heading into the offseason was to score two of the these three free agent starting pitchers: Sabathia (check), Burnett, and Derek Lowe. They’re also supposedly kicking the tires on Manny Ramirez. (Clearly, there are no financial restrictions after an embarrassing season in which they failed to make the playoffs.) Anyway, in terms of commuting distance, NY-to-Baltimore is one of AJ’s shorter options. However, I’m hard-pressed to think of a more depressing drive than this. First, this drive takes you through the rusty heart of New Jersey — a dreary drive even on the cheeriest of days. Driving through New Jersey not only presents you with a bleak landscape to look at, you’re not even allowed to pump your own gas at the rest stops on the turnpike. And traffic? The whole state is a giant traffic jam. Throw in the getting-out-of-New York traffic, the getting-past-Philadelphia-traffic, and another nice little jam outside of Baltimore, and you’re looking at soul-sucking gridlock almost the entire way. Oh, and tolls. Lots and lots of tolls. Especially in Delaware. Ugh.
And I’m not even going to mention New Jersey State Troopers.
Score: 3 out of 10. This drive may look short as the crow flies, but what you save in miles you will pay dearly in soul.
Boston: 7 hours, 0 minutes
This is essentially the same drive as above, only with all the mind-numbing hours of Connecticut thrown in. Again, G-Maps wants AJ to take 95, but again, it makes more sense not to. If AJ sticks to the parkways (Route 15, essentially), he can skip a lot of traffic and construction, avoid having to deal with any trucks and buses, and enjoy some leafy scenery and beautiful 1930s bridges to boot. But he’ll have to deal with even more tolls in MA and CT.
Score: 2 of 7. A seven-hour drive in the best of circs, and AJ still has to tackle the soul-sucking NY-to-Baltimore leg of the journey.
Philadelphia: 1 hour, 53 minutes
Jackpot! This isn’t even a two-hour drive. Though the Phillies are rumored to be more interested in Derek Lowe, if they do make a run at Burnett, they can use this quick cruise as a selling point. Though G-Maps again wants Burnett to put up with the Delaware tolls, he can easily circumvent them by taking Route 1 through bucolic suburban Pennsylvania instead. Yes, it will increase his drive time by about half an hour (assuming he doesn’t run into traffic on The Dread 95, which is not an assumption I would ever make), but when you’re only talking about a 2 hour 20 minute drive, max, what difference does it make?
Score: 9 of 10. Hop, skip, and a jump.
St. Louis: 13 hours, 14 minutes
Deadly. While the St. Louis-to-Indianapolis stretch is hardly the decaying sprawl that is the New Jersey turnpike, it’s not even close to the rural beauty of Virginia. Plainly put, this is a boring drive. And because of the length involved — this is, by a couple of hours, AJ’s longest commute — you don’t really want to start taking scenic detours here or there. Now, once he gets into Pennsylvania he can choose between reasonably scenic I-68/Route 40 or not unpleasant I-70/I-76. But of course, by then, he’ll be totally fried. In my experience, once you hit that 12-hour mark, the drive stops being a fun adventure and just becomes a slog. This is basically your old-fashioned put-the-pedal-down-and-make-some-time ass-haul. Also, Columbus is ugly.
Score: 1 out of 10.
Toronto: 8 hours, 19 minutes
The Jays are not expected to be able to re-sign Burnett, but let’s consider the commute AJ has now, just for the sake of completeness. Though facing this drive is likely one of the reasons that AJ has stated his preference for a team closer to home, this is actually one of the pleasanter options on the table right now. Shorter than the commutes from Atlanta and St. Louis according to G-Maps, this is likely even shorter than the drive from Boston, for the simple reason that you don’t have to find a way around New York City. Indeed, after Buffalo, the only major city you pass through is Harrisburg. Certainly, Harrisburg is a depressing husk of post-industrial American urbana, but no one would hold a gun to AJ’s head and make him pull off the highway there. And the rest of the trip really isn’t too shabby — in fact, I would imagine this is a pretty interesting drive. (I’ve been through NY and PA pretty extensively, but I’ve never gone the North-South route, come to think of it….maybe I’ll try this drive!)
Score: 5 of 10. Not great, but not terrible either.
Now, assuming he’s going to get a pile of money no matter where he signs…