COMMENTARY | It's a done deal, folks. A.J. Pierzynski's tenure as the Chicago White Sox catcher is history. Pierzynski, who played his last eight years on the South Side, reportedly inked a one-year deal with the Texas Rangers on Thursday.
There are a few ways to look at it. I know this means nothing, but as a journalist, I won't miss the guy. He wasn't always the easiest to deal with, in good times or in bad. He was always available to fans, taking pictures with babies, old people, and just about anyone with a camera. And when we got him on camera one on one, he was as engaging and knowledgeable as they come. The problem was getting him to agree to an interview was like pulling teeth. I won't miss that.
Of course the most important question is, did the White Sox make a prudent move? If you just go by last year's stats, the answer is a resounding no. 27 home runs, 77 RBIs and a .278 batting average isn't too shabby for a catcher--or any position player, for that matter. In the American League, Pierzynski led all catchers in round-trippers, and was second in average and RBIs. Don't start talking to me about his porous defense. The man was done in a lot of times by a pitching staff who had trouble holding guys on first and second. Even with that, Pierzynski threw out 26% of the runners trying to steal in 2012.
So the Sox could have re-signed the guy, but I say it was time to move on. Tyler Flowers is primed for his chance behind the plate. I agree that his offense needs some fine-tuning, but with just 246 at-bats over the past two seasons, it's hard to know what kind of player he'll be with a bat in his hand. You also have to figure that Pierzynski is going to be 36 years old on December 30. Yes, Pierzynski has averaged over 133 games the past eleven years. But that's the problem, when will he break down? He may never. But I subscribe to the Branch Rickey adage that it's better to get rid of a guy a year too early than a year too late.
Hold off on the thought that the Sox should have signed Pierzynski and made him Flowers' backup. I've dealt with him for eight years, and I have to say that would have never worked--never. And after last year's great season, it shouldn't have been an option. Pierzynski is still a starter catcher, just not with the Sox. And Flowers is going to be under enough pressure replacing the guy. Just the thought of Flowers having to look over his shoulder and see A.J. would have been a recipe for disaster.
It was a great run for Pierzynski in a Sox uniform. I remember when he was acquired by the Sox from the San Francisco Giants. There were rumors of teammates hating him and lackluster play. I never saw that in the Sox clubhouse. Pierzynski help guide the Sox staff to a World Series victory in 2005. His work with Bobby Jenks in that World Series against the Houston Astros was nothing short of extraordinary. Over the past few years he coddled guys who were ready for the big-time, and some who weren't. But like players before him and players to come, it was time to move on.
My biggest wonder is why Pierzynski only secured a one-year deal. I compare him to former New York Yankees catcher Russell Martin, who recently signed a two-year deal with the Pirates. Pierzynski plays circles around Martin in every category offensively and defensively. The only difference I can see is that Russell bats from the right side, Pierzynski from the left. I am not saying Russell isn't a grinder, but I can promise you no one gets under the skin of the other team more than the old #12 of the White Sox. Plus, from what I saw, Pierzynski is one of baseball's best clutch hitters. So one is left to wonder why no other team jumped in to grab that guy.
Anyway, enjoy Texas, Pierzynski, The South Side thanks you for all your efforts.
Bill Mahoney is a freelance sports producer who has worked with the Chicago White Sox for the past 10 years.
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