Thursday, March 10, 2005


A.J. Pierzynski Rant #1

Here it is, as promised, the first of many mindless ravings about how former Giants catcher A.J. Pierzynski got a bum rap with the Giants last season. If you're averse to reading long diatribes that defend immature behavior and childish actions on the baseball field that would make little league coaches cringe, my advice is to just stop reading now.

Wait. Dont stop reading now. Please?

Let's start at the beginning. I've followed the Twins fairly closely since 2000, and was just overjoyed when I heard they traded for Pierzynski. A full account of my jubilation at the trade can be found here. Of course, the Pierzynski deal now looks like one of the worst in SF Giants history, and will certainly rank right at the top if Francisco Liriano or Boof Bonser turn into anything. Pierzynski got off to a horrible start and got called out by some of his pitchers in May as being a cancer, then started to hit well in summer before crapping out with a horrid final month of the season. Meanwhile, Joe Nathan became Minnesota's closer and put up a 44 save, 1.62 ERA season. D'OH! What really burns about that, of course, is that the Giants had to deal with a season full of the Herges/Hermansen minefield act and all they had to show for giving away an All-Star reliever was a malcontent catcher and a buttload of double play balls.

I can't tell you how disappointing a season it was for me, much less the SF fandom who thought they were getting young, All-Star caliber catcher to fill out the lineup. I've been a big A.J. guy because he's one of those hard-nosed dudes that do anything to win, even if it means acting like a boorish maniac on the field. He would talk trash during the game and do things, like inexplicably bumping batters for no reason, to get into the other team's head. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. It sure as hell worked in the 2002 playoffs against the A's, when he managed to make the hit list of Terrence Long and Billy Koch after his antics in that year's ALDS. After that series, Ray Fosse would have made you think Pierzynski was Bin Laden or something. In short, tightly wound guys who act like asses tend to be faves of mine, guys like Jeff Kent or the Wally Backman of yore.

So when A.J. became the scourge of the 2004 Giants, it was a tragedy. I still hope to wake up some night with Frank the Bunny standing before me, telling me that that whole season was just a bizarre parallel universe that was never supposed to happen, and I'll travel back in time and things will be better. A.J. will be productive and the players and fans will love his volatile but intensely competitive personality. The Giants will finish in first and Wayne Franklin will be a foreign term. But, alas, I have to deal with the horrible disappointment that was A.J.'s season, and also the realization that the Giants' purported catching solution in lieu of A.J. is Mike Matheny. Just toss boiling calamari in my face and get it over with.

Admittedly, I also think Pierzynski got a bit of a bum rap. Keep in mind, I'm not here to make excuses for treating your trainer's groin like a soccer ball or any of Pierzynski's other rumored childish transgressions. I do think, though, that once he got labeled in the Oakland Tribune as a clubhouse menace, anything he did subsequently wasn't going to matter. If he hit .300 he was still just going to be the same old unlikeable redass in a majority of fans' eyes. After the May incident, Pierzynski essentially hit like he always has, and he was still one one the best hitting catchers in the NL. But image can often overshadow performance, and Pierzynski was pretty much a lame duck for the rest of the season. I've been and will remain a big Pierzynski fan, and I would have liked to see him come back at a reasonable price. I may be in the minority on that, but I think his rocky time in SF was for the most part blown out of proportion by the media and I'd take another year of him, even if everybody hates him, as our regular catcher than 3 years of Mike Matheny at 10 mil any damn day of the week.

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