White Sox fans put ‘Pier’ pressure on Rick Hahn, Tyler Flowers
It won’t be the same without A.J. Pierzynski, but the White Sox will move on.
The fan base still hasn’t gotten over it, but it will. Let the grieving process run its course.
Tears are still flowing. The first question from a fan to general manager Rick Hahn at SoxFest was, “How could you not shell out $7 million to re-sign Pierzynski?’’
The fans in the Red Lacquer Room at the Palmer House Hilton applauded as if to chime in with, “Yeah, how could you?”
Hahn probably wanted to say, “Go ahead, sir, just let it out. You’ll feel better after a good cry.’’
Hahn could’ve said that Tyler Flowers will be an upgrade defensively, that he’ll throw better, call as good a game, prepare to call a game with every available pregame minute at his disposal, set up lower —and inside — better and block balls better than Pierzynski. And that pitchers won’t think twice about burying a slider in the dirt with two strikes with Flowers behind the plate.
Hahn also could’ve mentioned that nobody else was beating the door down to sign Pierzynski, 36, even though he was coming off a career year. There was no sense in bringing attention to Pierzynski’s flaws, not when he brought so much to the table. Not when he was a key component in bringing a World Series title to the South Side in 2005.
He will be missed, but in which ways?
“His fight,’’ executive vice president Ken Williams said, citing an intangible.
“His left-handed bat,’’ pitcher Jake Peavy said, adding a tangible.
Peavy had his dustups with Pierzynski — they went nose-to-nose for all to see in 2011 over a pitch-call disagreement and something Pierzynski chirped as Peavy was being taken out of a game against the Cubs — but as an equally competitive guy and pitcher, he appreciated Pierzynski’s “fight.’’ And he’ll miss his offense.
“Losing A.J. is going to be felt,’’ Peavy said. “The biggest thing baseball-wise is we’re losing a very, very good left-handed bat that obviously hasn’t been replaced. That’s tough because of all the right-handed starters — [Kansas City] adding James Shields, Anibal [Sanchez] signing back with Detroit with those right-handed starters. Left-handers create more of a problem for right-handers; there’s not any other way around it. Having only [Alejandro] De Aza and [Adam] Dunn really as your left-handed guys and stacking seven right-handers, that hurts.’’
Hahn answered the A.J. question as he has all along. That Peavy’s contract and the pitching staff trumped Pierzynski’s value. If Flowers is the future behind the plate, it’s time to let him show it. He’s 27.
“We’re going to give Tyler his shot,’’ Hahn said. “We’re not going to make any rash decisions in spring training based on 50 or 60 at-bats in the Cactus League. Now’s his opportunity, his chance to fulfill a lot of the promise that we saw with the bat when we acquired him and to continue with a lot of the dramatic improvement we’ve seen from a catching and throwing standpoint. We’re not going to bring in someone to push it or enforce it.
“This is his opportunity, one he has been working hard for and he deserves.’’
At SoxFest on Saturday, an impassioned Peavy asked the fans to cut Flowers some slack if and when he goes through a slump.
“If he gets booed, that’s only going to make it tougher on him,’’ Peavy said.
The audience answered with applause.
Maybe they’re coming around to the Flowers era, after all.
They have no choice.