Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander AJ Burnett has received some flak from fans and radio talk-show hosts this week for a tweet posted after Tuesday's game at PNC Park that seemingly called out fans for not showing up to the stadium:
Lots of empty seats. Lots!— AJ Burnett (@wudeydo34) September 18, 2013
The tweet was sent out following a 5-2 loss to the San Diego Padres, which 22,250 fans attended. (Can you really begrudge fans for not wanting to see the Padres?)
While that attendance is definitely in the lower third of tickets sold in Pittsburgh this season, Burnett's tweet may have been more apropos after Monday night's game (20,633) or any of the 20 other games at PNC this year that drew a smaller crowd. He also may just be barking up the wrong tree altogether, as fellow playoff contender the Indians, A's and Rays have all drawn smaller crowds in the last week.
The response to Burnett's comment wasn't exactly at angry mob level -- in fact, several of the Twitter replies were in support of the pitcher -- but Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes that the tweet produced several "angry callers" to local morning radio shows, and at least one radio host immediately took exception to it:
Know what #Pirates need right now in the middle of a pennant race? Distractions. And one brought upon by "the leader of the clubhouse."— Colin Dunlap (@colin_dunlap) September 18, 2013
If nothing else, the negative backlash was enough for Burnett to respond on two separate occasions. He has emphasized that his tweet was not meant to lay any sort of blame on fans, and that he actually enjoys seeing the passionate responses, both positive and negative, per Biertempfel:
"I know how important this is to this city and this team. I made an observation, and I love the responses, whether they're good or bad. It shows people care. If it didn't mean a lot to me, I wouldn't have tweeted it."
The Bucs drew a much bigger crowd (27,640) for the rubber match of their series against the Friars on Wednesday, but fell to the last-place Padres for the third straight night. The Pirates are pretty much a shoo-in for a postseason spot at this point, but will have to turn things around in the final week of the season if they want to avoid a play-in game.