A.J. Pierzynski was never a great fit here and, presumably, the Red Sox knew it. That is why the Red Sox tried to sign other catchers first, from Carlos Ruiz to Jarrod Saltalamacchia, before they ultimately settled on a 37-year-old catcher with little plate discipline and a sandpaper personality.
And so what have the Red Sox and their fans been doing for much of this season so far? Blaming Pierzynski, of course. Because that’s the easiest way out.
Quite frankly, it’s all getting a little embarrassing.
Pierzynski knows all of this, naturally, and nobody ever said he was stupid. Quite the contrary. Following a pair of one-run losses to the mediocre Cleveland Indians over the weekend, Pierzynski traded short barbs with the media not once, but twice.
On Sunday, when asked about throwing his bat following a walk, an annoyed Pierzynski suggested the media start turning its attention elsewhere. That came a day after he sarcastically took the blame for defeat when discussing the effort of starter Jake Peavy.
“I thought some of them were good pitches,” Pierzynski said, “but I guess I didn’t frame them good enough.”
Translation: You pinheads blame me for everything else with this team, so I might as well just take the bullet now.
Look, many of us thought Pierzynski was a mistake, for an assortment of reasons. The Sox could have had Ruiz or Saltalamacchia on a three-year deal worth anywhere from $7-$9 million annually, which is chump change for a team with a current payroll of about $175 million. Those salaries are also tradeable. (The Miami Marlins, after all, signed Saltalamacchia for $7 million per over three years.) But the Red Sox decided long ago that 2014 would be a bridge year – with regard to the catching position and beyond – so they signed Pierzynski to keep the seat warm while Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart developed in the minors. (All of this makes the decision to bring back Stephen Drew all the more curious, but that’s a story for another day.)
So what happened when things started to go wrong? The Sox started blaming Pierzynski. Jon Lester would rather have David Ross behind the plate, which is fine. But when John Tomase of the Herald wrote this column on Pierzynski earlier this season, one couldn’t help but wonder if Red Sox players and staff were lining up to slam Pierzynski at every turn.
Fine, so teammates don’t necessarily like him. There’s a shock. But how is Pierzynski possibly to blame for the fact that David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia really haven’t hit, that Peavy was bad against American League teams last year, that Lester has failed more than once to step up in a key moment or that Shane Victorino can’t stay on the field after showing up at camp looking rather pudgy?
Answer: he’s not. It’s the oldest trick in the book. Deny. Deflect. Accuse.
Should the Red Sox trade Pierzynski before the July 31 deadline if they remain out of contention? Assuming there are any takers, of course. They should do the same with Peavy, Jonny Gomes, maybe even Koji Uehara and an assortment of others. In the interim, Red Sox officials should take responsibility for the decisions they made (or did not make) over the winter – they signed no one to a deal of greater than two years – and Red Sox players should take a long, hard look in the mirror.
At this stage, after all, they’ve all spent far too much time looking at Pierzynski, who has taken more than his share of the blame.