With news that the Boston Red Sox did not tender a contract to arbitration-eligible catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia before the midnight deadline on Monday, the 2013 World Series champions made their first major move in retooling the team for 2014. With Saltalamacchia reportedly seeking a three-year contract – and with Boston essentially looking for a short-term plug-in until one of their top catching prospects, Christian Vazquez or Blake Swihart, is ready – the move really isn’t a major surprise.
But A.J. Pierzynski?
The Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham is reporting the Red Sox have reached an agreement with Pierzynski on a one-year, $8.25 million deal. The free-agent catcher hit .272 with 17 home runs and 70 RBIs for the Texas Rangers last season after spending the previous seven years with the Chicago White Sox.
His numbers are solid, but Pierzynski just might be the most polarizing player in the majors. His strong personality has bristled more than a few opponents – and teammates – in his 16-year major league career. The Red Sox, however, apparently believe that reputation is overstated. Maybe Pierzynski has turned the corner. On Monday, he was named the recipient of the 2013 Harold McKinney Good Guy Award by the Dallas-Fort Worth chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.
Of course, this is the same guy who, while playing for the San Francisco Giants in 2002, reportedly kneed the team trainer between his legs when asked how he felt after being hit in the groin by a pitch.
In recent informal polls, major leaguers have named Pierzynski the player they would most like to see beaned (2006) and baseball’s meanest player (2011). In 2012, 34 percent of players in a Men’s Journal poll voted Pierzynski the most hated player in the game. Alex Rodriguez was second with 10 percent.
Yep, sounds like a peach.
There’s no disputing that Pierzynski is a solid defensive catcher with a well earned reputation of deftly handling a team’s pitching staff. But, let’s not sugarcoat it: the guy is an asshole.
On the bright side, pitcher John Lackey – who filed for divorce from his wife while she battled breast cancer and who deemed “retarded” the whole chicken-and-beer blowout in 2012 – may no longer be the most detestable human being in the Red Sox locker room.