Trying to derail his personal campaign to become the Top Bust Of 2006, Toronto’s A.J. Burnett hurled 5 innings of no-hit ball last night in Syracuse’s 9-3 defeat of Columbus. The Syracuse Post-Standard’s Matt Michael reports that Burnett took his teammates to the Outback Steakhouse after the game. Before you make any snide remarks about Burnett’s restaurant choice, keep in mind, it was Syracuse.

The former Marlin’s next stop is a rehab stint for the Eastern League’s New Hampshire Fisher Cats this Saturday.  I’m pretty sure they have an Olive Garden in Nashua, so that’s Burnett’s next act of big league largesse worked out.

That Randy Johnson has struggled this season is hardly news, but I believe the Bergen Record’s Bob Klapisch is the first columnist to seriously propose the Yankees eat the Unit’s salary.

the Big Unit has pitched poorly in eight of his last 10 starts, which represents more than just a slump or a trend. It’s a body of evidence that suggests Johnson no longer has the means to reverse this downward spiral — not when his ERA keeps inching closer to 6.00.

One senior executive bluntly said, “If he were a rookie, he wouldn’t even be on the team right now.” Instead, the Yankees are stuck with Johnson’s contract through 2007, and it looks like his arsenal has aged before our eyes.

More and more, it looks like Johnson has turned into a five-inning, four-run starter, which is like saying he’s poison to the bullpen.

One American League scout says Johnson has “lost his fastball and he doesn’t have anything that makes what he has look faster. That’s the problem.”

That means no change-up, no effective two-seamer and no trust in the splitter. For the most part, Johnson is still trying to re-create his National League power effect, which is to bury hitters with his fastball and slider. He’s been able to reach 95 or 96 mph on the radar gun, but not consistently. Nor does the slider break down and in to righties often enough.

It’s entirely possible — and even probable — that Johnson will never regain that nuclear repertoire, that what the Yankees are seeing is what they’ll get on a going-forward basis. Skipping Johnson once through the rotation might help, since nothing else has worked, but the Yankees seem unwilling to publicly embarrass the future Hall of Famer like that.

Then again, the embarrassment was system-wide Monday morning. Getting swept by Oakland was a corporate shock the likes of which the Yankees hadn’t experienced this season. It taught them that the laws of probability don’t exist in baseball, which is something Cashman should remember if he ever tries to shop Johnson.

Put it this way: If the Mets were able to dump Kaz Matsui on the Rockies, is anything else truly impossible?