Going by the clock, the Chicago White Sox decided that catcher A.J. Pierzynski wasn’t worth keeping around for a ninth season. The feisty catcher went off and joined the Texas Rangers instead and is hitting .310.
His is a bat that the White Sox could use this season, especially since Chicago is going nowhere in the standings and the biggest guns in the batting order have turned out to be pop guns or firing blanks. That includes the venerable Paul Konerko, who just can’t get anything going this year.
The White Sox were adhering to the law of averages rather than the law of A.J., or the evidence that Pierzynski had shown no sign of slippage behind the plate and particularly at-bat. Yes, Pierzynski is a 36-year-old catcher, but at 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds he is still a stone wall blocking the plate when needed. And he is still smacking the ball around the yard.
Texas is playing well enough that it will be one of the favorites to win the American League pennant at the end of the season. Pierzynski is being used judiciously so that he doesn’t add too much wear and tear to his veteran backstop’s body. He has appeared in 44 games and is lucky enough to play in the designated hitter league so he can sometimes get a game full of swings without straining his knees.
So far Pierzynski has clouted four home runs and driven in 17 runs in addition to that glittering .310 average, an average that has improved this week with some big showings. That’s very respectable for a catcher of A.J.’s age and one who is in his 16th year in the big leagues.
Pierzynski has always been a stamina catcher, ready to do the job behind the plate just about every day. He was probably at the apex of his abilities as a hitter, fielder and leader during the 2005 season when the White Sox won the World Series.
During his career Pierzynski has been a two-time All-Star, once with the Minnesota Twins, and once with the White Sox. He also earned a reputation as an instigator, as a player who could irritate opponents, provoke them into anger and into sometimes making ill-advised plays. It’s not clear if A.J. has mellowed or just isn’t as cocky and doesn’t get into as much trouble because he is older.
If you google Pierzynski’s name one of the hits that comes up is “most hated man in baseball.” That seems outdated and exaggerated at the moment, but does support the notion that at his peak Pierzynski could definitely get on foes’ nerves.
Ozzie Guillen was the White Sox manager when the club won that World Series and for most of Piersynzki’s tenure in Chicago. Guillen’s candor was always refreshing and he usually found a cute way to describe something. In the case of A.J. he said, “If you play against him, you hate him. If you play with him, you hate him a little less.”
That may or may not have been a compliment, but surely Pierzynski smiled when he heard that comment. At the last Pierzynski’s rep for being outspoken earned him a shot at national TV work during the playoffs and he has been entertaining in those limited post-season gigs.
However, the way they are playing and the way he is playing for Texas, the White Sox probably wish they still had A.J. Pierzynski on their roster in 2013.