Were the Red Sox right to jettison A. J. Pierzynski (.254/.286/.348) yesterday? Absolutely.
Has the 37-year old catcher long been recognized as an “acquired taste?” (Pierzynski’s skipper with the White Sox, Ozzie Guillen, said: “If you play against him, you hate him. If you play with him, you hate him a little less.”) Most definitely.
Still, Boston signed Pierzynski to a one-year deal during the offseason with the expectation that he would handle backstop duties until the club’s highly-rated prospect, Christian Vazquez, was promoted to the bigs.
This is not the way a classy organization bids adieu to a 17-year veteran:
According to multiple sources within the Red Sox clubhouse, Pierzynski had become such a negative influence on the team that players approached both the Sox coaches and front office to address the problem. The common theme expressed was the catcher’s seeming indifference toward his teammates and the common goals of the same organization that had relied on an all-for-one approach when winning the 2013 World Series.
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.
The frustrations with Pierzynski among the Red Sox grew with the catcher’s indifference toward the perceived needs of the club. While it was understood that former Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia had some flaws in his game, it was noted in multiple corners of the clubhouse that the difference between the current Marlins backstop and Pierzynski was that Saltalamacchia was invested in his pitchers’ successes and failures, whereas Pierzynski had limited interest in branching out beyond himself. . . .
It became obvious to those in the clubhouse fairly early on that this might be an oil-and-water situation. Pierzynski’s personality wasn’t conducive to the Red Sox’ way of doing things, saying what he wanted when he wanted without much regard for the greater good. From the dugout, he would yell across the field at the opposition, or ridicule umpires during replay challenges. It made many cringe. This wasn’t the Red Sox way, the one that a World Series run had been built on.
As a friend points out, “You know who else rudely stares at their phone these days? Everyone!”
I get it: Looking for scapegoats is a New England tradition that’s as old as the Salem witch trials. The Red Sox front office and its media enablers would like fans to believe that Boston’s suckitude in 2014 is about staring at one’s communications device just as the meltdown three years ago was a consequence of too much beer and fried chicken in the clubhouse or the manager’s use of prescription medication.
Craig Calcaterra of NBC Hardball Talk sums up the situation quite well:
Such a shocker here. I mean, it’d be one thing if Pierzynski had a nearly two-decade track record of being a low OBP guy with some pop, some fairly “meh” catching abilities and a prickly personality, but . . . oh, wait.
I just don’t understand why this always happens with the Red Sox. Every other team in baseball manages to cut players when necessary and not have it be a big deal. In Boston, there are always knives out when people walk out the door. How the story of him being DFA’d isn’t “Pierzynski wasn’t cutting it, we aren’t winning, we have this young catcher named Vazquez who we think can really be the future of the club and we want to get him up now” is beyond me.