Pierzynski might be ‘most hated player,’ but he’s a winner, too
BY JOE COWLEY firstname.lastname@example.org June 13, 2012 9:20PM
White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, left, suits up before the game at U.S. Cellular Field Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011, in Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times
BASEBALL’S BEST AND WORST
The results are from a Men’s Journal poll of 100 major-league players.
The most hated player
A.J. Pierzynski, Sox 34%
Alex Rodriguez, Yankees 10%
Nick Swisher, Yankees 9%
The player you would
most want on your team
Albert Pujols, Angels 19%
Derek Jeter, Yankees 14%
Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox 10%
The biggest trash-talker
Orlando Hudson, Sox 31%
Nyjer Morgan, Brewers 17%
Chris Carpenter, Cardinals 14%
The city with the most obnoxious fans
San Francisco 22%
New York 12%
The least respected
Ozzie Guillen, Marlins 36%
Bobby Valentine, Red Sox 14%
Manny Acta, Indians 5%
Updated: July 15, 2012 3:32PM
Boone Logan didn’t like A.J. Pierzynski. Hated him, as a matter of fact.
The former White Sox reliever spent three seasons on the South Side caught somewhere between promise and mediocrity.
At last check in 2011, Logan still had a deep disdain for what Pierzynski put him through.
Here’s what Logan didn’t know, however: There was a clubhouse full of Sox veterans lined up to give ‘‘Big-League Boone’’ — that’s what his teammates called him — a kick in his big-league ego. Pierzynski was just the one that had no problem carrying it out.
The Sox were playoff contenders in two of the three seasons Logan was on the team, and the concern was he didn’t understand team was bigger than individual. It was Pierzynski’s mission to teach him that, and Logan was a bad student.
So go ahead and assume Logan had no problem with the voting in a Men’s Journal survey that named Pierzynski the ‘‘most hated player’’ in baseball. Again.
The magazine surveyed 100 major-leaguers, with Pierzynski steamrolling the field by capturing 34 percent of the vote. Two New York Yankees — Alex Rodriguez
(10 percent) and Nick Swisher
(9 percent) — were second and third.
As usual, there were anonymous quotes from players about Pierzynski, such as, ‘‘I’ve heard he’s a bad teammate,’’ “He’s been a [jerk] to guys on his own pitching staff’’ and ‘‘Basically, if you haven’t got five years in the big leagues, he treats you like you’re a peasant.’’
Anonymous is easy.
What Pierzynski is guilty of is winning, sometimes by any means necessary. The kid with the off-the-charts SAT scores out of high school wakes up in the morning with one intention: to beat the opposing team on that given night.
If that means catching a third strike and firing it down to third base in front of the hitter’s face, so be it. If that means letting the opposing pitcher know he’s gutless for throwing him a breaking ball, too bad.
In Pierzynski’s world, if you spend one moment of the game focusing on his antics, that’s one moment taken away from focusing on the game. Pierzynski 1, You 0.
‘‘I just look at it like I go out and try to win,’’ Pierzynski said when asked about the poll. ‘‘I play as hard as I can, and I’m not going to back down. If that upsets people, there’s nothing I can do about that.’’
There’s nothing he should do about it.
‘‘When I played on other teams, yeah, most players hated A.J. because of the antics he pulls on the field,’’ former teammate Jermaine Dye said. ‘‘When I played with him, I learned that A.J. tries to be a jokester. He knows a lot of people don’t like him, so he feeds it. But between the lines, I’ll take A.J. on my team all day.
‘‘Yes, I don’t agree with some of the stuff he does, but he means well. What you do get from him is 100 percent every day.’’
As far as Pierzynski is concerned, that’s the ultimate compliment.
‘‘I’ll go to dinner with people and say hi to people I know when the game’s not on the line,’’ he said. ‘‘But when the game is going, I want to win. For those three hours, guys on the other team are trying to take money out of my pocket, and I’m trying to take money out of theirs. That’s really all there is to it.
‘‘I don’t go out of my way to hurt people or show people up. I just try to do my job the best I can for the White Sox, and I think I’ve had a pretty good career and a pretty good run.’’
That’s an understatement. Mark Pierzynski down as one of the best catchers the Sox have had. And if they have any sense in them, he’s the one free agent-to-be they had better make a priority after this season.
‘‘After 15 or 20 of these [votes] every year, it just becomes the easy answer,’’ Pierzynski said. ‘‘I just add it to my mantel.’’
Somewhere between Logan’s ego and the 2005 World Series ring would be a nice fit.