He’s been called the “Most Hated Player in Baseball.” And now Boston Red Sox starting catcher A.J. Pierzynski is starting to irritate Red Sox Nation. Sox fans, on social media in particular, have not been shy in suggesting David Ross, who homered on Patriots’ Day, handle the bulk of the catching duties. Or, that Pierzynski absolutely stinks. When the 37-year old veteran grounded out in the eighth inning of a tied Sox-Orioles game on Easter evening, social media was not shy in expressing its disdain.
— Patrick Phillips (@CaptPat48) April 21, 2014
@BoSoxInjection His approach is awful, defense below average. He wouldn’t be here if they matched the sensible deal Salty got from Miami.
— Jason Chalifour (@JChalifour) April 21, 2014
— Killer Freddy (@specialone76) April 21, 2014
Pierzynski’s signing in December clearly represented a bridge from Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the free swinging backstop of the 2013 champs who likely hit his ceiling last year, to the next generation of Red Sox catchers: minor leaguers Blake Swihart and Christian Vasquez – ceiling undiscovered. Backed by Ross, Pierzynski presumably gives the Sox a steady veteran hand while not blocking the path to Boston for the kids.
Only, Red Sox Nation is ready to throw him overboard. A 1-for-4 showing Tuesday against the Yankees leaves him at .236/.283/.309. But it’s also April 23rd. Consider first the track record, then the alternatives.
For a guy voted “most hated,” Pierzynski has won over fans wherever he’s played. White Sox fans (for whom he won a World Series championship in 2005) gave him a nice ovation last week. And that wasn’t his first time back to U.S. Cellular Field — he returned last year with the Rangers.
He boasts a .283 career average and projects to around 15 home runs. To put that in perspective, only one Red Sox backstop in the last ten years, Victor Martinez, has been able to do both.
Pierzynski was actually hitting over .300 until just last week, when he spiraled into a 2-for-20 slump. Slumps happen to everybody, even darlings Grady Sizemore and Jackie Bradley. Further, Pierzynski has been lauded for his ability to jump in and handle the pitching staff thus far.
There is a reason David Ross, over 13 Major League seasons, has cracked 200 at-bats just twice, just as there is a reason the Red Sox let Saltalamacchia collect an unimposing three-year, $21 million deal with the Marlins. Perhaps you don’t remember Salty’s twin seasons (2011 and ’12) with a .288 OBP in a Boston uniform?
And when two of your top ten organizational prospects are catchers, you don’t sign a 30-year old backstop whose playing time has diminished the last three seasons (McCann) to a five-year deal.
Pierzynski might be challenged to beat Edgar Renteria in a popularity contest in Boston, but mark my words: he will hit and do his job behind the plate. And then, he will turn it over to Swihart and Vasquez. Isn’t that what we asked him to do?
The Fox Hole features information @sylverfox25 learned on Twitter in a given day.