All-Star snub means A.J. Pierzynski’s irking is working
BY RICK MORRISSEY firstname.lastname@example.org July 2, 2012 9:54PM
In a Men’s Journal survey, 34 percent of players responding said A.J. Pierzynski was the most hated player in the game. No big shock, then, that he was left off the All-Star roster.
Updated: August 4, 2012 6:30AM
I’m a huge fan of The Who. I could probably find a way to work them into just about any column, but continued employment and kids’ college costs demand that I don’t.
Humor me this one time. The following anecdote has to do with self-worth, uniqueness and, in a roundabout way, a White Sox catcher who is feeling a bit down these days.
Keith Moon, the band’s late, great madman, was not considered a superior technical drummer and at times felt underappreciated. During one recording session, he was having trouble getting down a track, much to his and the producer’s frustration.
‘‘I’m the best Keith Moon-style drummer in the world!’’ Moon screamed.
Pete Townshend, the band’s leader, told him to listen to himself. You’re unique, he said, and people try to emulate your style. Your value is to us and our fans, not to the drumming cognoscenti. You’re Keith Moon, and the other drummers aren’t. There’s only one of you.
Which leads us to baseball, the All-Star Game and the ability to drum up votes.
There’s only one A.J. Pierzynski, and he’s the best A.J. Pierzynski-style catcher/agitator there is.
It’s easy to understand why he’s bothered by his recent All-Star exclusion. At 35, he’s having one of his best seasons (.285, 14 home runs and 45 RBI), and his team is in first place. Fans voted the Texas Rangers’ Mike Napoli (.235, 12 home runs, 30 RBI) as the starting catcher. The players selected Baltimore Orioles catcher Matt Wieters (.249, 11, 38). Rangers manager Ron Washington, who will be leading the American League squad, also chose Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer (.324, four, 36).
Does anyone else think a Superfund cleanup site would have gotten more votes than Pierzynski?
That’s the way it is for a guy who regularly shows up near the top of magazine surveys titled, ‘‘Guys You Wouldn’t Want To Be Teammates With’’ or ‘‘Least-Liked Players in the Big Leagues.’’
Numbers don’t get at the essence of what Pierzynski is or what he brings to a team. He’s the sliver that just won’t come out. Opposing players want to slug him. At least one, former Cubs catcher Michael Barrett, has. Most teammates love having him on their side.
Watch Pierzynski after he has made an out at The Cell. He’ll run hard toward his dugout, sometimes over the edge of the mound. Is he trying to get in the opposing pitcher’s head? I don’t know. I just know that pitchers must love that.
A grating personality is why he will not be playing in the All-Star Game on July 10. And he should embrace the rejection. He should wrap his arms around the idea that he has had such an effect on the voting public — fans and players alike — that he didn’t get selected, not even by Washington, who tried to apologize but struck out.
That’s success. That’s affirmation Pierzynski is doing something right.
He plays for a club whose fan base hasn’t been especially supportive at the gate this season, which helps explain why his vote total was low.
He knew the score before the rosters were finalized Sunday.
‘‘It’s the ultimate personal reward as a player to be voted as an All-Star, to go there and enjoy the game,’’ he told the Sun-Times on Saturday. ‘‘At the same time, I know how it works. It’s a popularity contest, and I know I’m probably not going to win it and I’m not going to go.’’
That’s the problem. He can’t have it both ways. He can’t expect to be the baseball equivalent of soap in the eyes and then hope to feel the love. You don’t make enemies the way he has without ramifications.
His tombstone should read: ‘‘Didn’t Win Popularity Contest. Won World Series.’’
The very fire that makes him so good for the White Sox doesn’t make others feel warm and fuzzy.
If I’m Pierzynski, I smile knowing that I won, especially against fellow major-leaguers. The All-Star snub means he has gotten under people’s skin so much that they’re preoccupied with him. And if they’re preoccupied with him, it’s probably affecting them when they play against the Sox.
The Rangers and their manager come to town for a three-game series starting Tuesday. Pierzynski can try to exact some payback then. There probably will be some friction. How do I know?
Got a feeling inside. Can’t explain.