The Red Sox designated Pierzynski for assignment Wednesday, removing him from the 40-man roster after he batted .254 with a .286 on-base percentage and .348 slugging percentage — all career lows — in 274 plate appearances. Boston has 10 days to trade, release or demote Pierzynski to the minors. Release is most likely.
The Red Sox certainly won't get anyone to take him in a trade with the way they talked about him anonymously to Bradford. They called Pierzynski a negative influence, indifferent to the club's collective struggle and generally not in tune with the team's goals. After winning the World Series in 2013, Boston currently has a 40-51 record, good enough for last place in the AL East. Bradford's sources don't say it's all Pierzynski's fault — but you get the feeling they'd like to:
A microcosm of Pierzynski's approach was mentioned by more than one of the backstop's former teammates, who revealed his propensity to spend a significant amount of time looking at his phone while at his locker during games. In one instance, after a particularly rough outing in which the starting pitcher had been pulled early in the game, Pierzynski could be found staring at his phone while the pitcher gave off the appearance of being an emotional wreck just a few feet away. That incident paved the way for at least one complaint to management from a teammate.
So the Red Sox were infected by Pierzynski, bound to become a team of 25 guys with 25 different mobile phone usage plans, so they cut him before it spread. (24 guys, 24 cabs was so '80s.)
The Red Sox have a reputation for being a place where some players get bad-mouthed after they leave. It should be noted that many of the previous situations — Manny Ramirez, Bobby Valentine, Terry Francona, Carl Crawford, et all — involved salvos from the front office. There was the time in 2009 that Jonathan Papelbon ripped Manny — but that's also Papelbon, who sometimes talks with two feet in his mouth. At least he went on the record.
The A.J. criticisms come from anonymous players, not the front office. That doesn't make them fair, or even relevant.
As Bradford notes, that was Pierzynski's reputation (fair or not) before the Red Sox signed him in free agency before the season. Pierzynski's nature didn't seem to be a problem with the Minnesota Twins or Chicago White Sox when he was there, and the Texas Rangers were mum about Pierzynski's influence in 2013. It's possible that the Rangers ascribed to the axiom, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything." Or maybe the Rangers realized that Pierzynski's hitting production (which dropped for them, too, just not as much) had more to do with why he wasn't helping than time spent on his phone.
Most of the anti-A.J. stuff comes from his one season with the Giants in 2004, when Brett Tomko and few others didn't like him. Pierzynski, relatively speaking, has been well-behaved since then.
At 37, it's possible Pierzynski has become too old to help a major league team. But blaming face time with his phone is silly. Complaining about him after the fact, and conjuring reasons why bringing Pierzynski to Boston was a mistake, only makes the Red Sox look bad.
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