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Eric Wilbur's Sports Blog

Don't Blame A.J. Pierzynski

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Let’s just say this; Yes, signing A.J. Pierzynski was a misguided move from Day One. The catcher’s approach at the plate is the antithesis of what the Red Sox try to accomplish, and his attitude and reputation as one of the worst teammates to have in the major leagues did him no favors as the S.S. Farrell took on water.

“He never really fit in” was the refrain from the baseball media Wednesday, when the Red Sox finally cut bait with their catcher, whose .633 OPS was the lowest of his 17-year career, designating Pierzynski for assignment prior to Boston’s thrilling come-from-behind win over the White Sox. I don’t understand. Like, he was supposed to conform? Like anyone expected him to?

To be honest, it seemed like even fewer of Pierzynski’s new teammates wanted to give him a shot in Boston than the fans who are still scratching their heads over why this was Ben Cherington’s first move in an offseason aimed at putting the pieces together to defend a crown. The Red Sox just won the World Series and you go out and sign Jake Parkman? Weird then. Weird now.

So, fine. He didn’t “fit in” in Boston. Just so we’re clear that the same teammates who didn’t want to mesh with Pierzynski are the same ones who clamored so ferociously for the Red Sox to sign Stephen Drew.

When do the Red Sox admit that was a mistake as well? Combine Drew’s ineptness with Pierzynski’s struggles, and there’s $18 million wasted. Completely, absolutely, wasted. Bad time to remind you that Nelson Cruz (28 home runs) is playing for $8 million with the Orioles this season?

Sure doesn’t seem like Drew is “fitting in” either. When is his date in court so that either Xander Bogaerts can re-claim shortstop, or the Red Sox can promote Deven Marrero and get this youth movement in full gear?

Oh, wait. Never mind. Drew is cool in the clubhouse, even as he’s been an epic failure at the plate.

This ending was about as predictable as an episode of " Family Ties." Less hugging though.

The first, real sign that there was trouble concerning Pierzynski came in late May, when he caught Jon Lester in a start, rather than David Ross - who had delivered the lefty better numbers prior to that point in the season - primarily because of his superior numbers against opposing pitcher Mark Buehrle. Lester was hammered in that game for seven runs and 10 hits in 6 1/3 innings against the Blue Jays, his worst start of 2014 by far.

After the game, blame for the poor performance went to Pierzynski, not Lester.

“I’m not answering that question anymore,” Pierzynski said when asked if he was the difference that day. “It doesn’t matter. You guys keep bringing that up but Jon and I had the first, Opening Day, we did well together. And then [Thursday] was just one of those days things didn’t work out. It had nothing to do with me catching. You guys can say that all you want but I had nothing to do with that.”

It was clear from that day forward that Pierzynski never really had a shot at making it in Boston. He was a pariah at Fenway, already made to be a scapegoat by his own teammates and a media that can sometimes breathlessly report what they’re fed with all the work it takes keeping up with cliques fit for Sweet Valley High.

As anyone could have expected, the smear campaign regarding Pierzynski has already started in earnest, reminiscent of the Adrian Gonzalez-led cell phone mutiny of Bobby Valentine. As Rob Bradford wrote on WEEI.com:

A microcosm of Pierzynski's approach was mentioned by more than one of the backstop's former teammates, who revealed his propensity to spend a significant amount of time looking at his phone while at his locker during games. In one instance, after a particularly rough outing in which the starting pitcher had been pulled early in the game, Pierzynski could be found staring at his phone while the pitcher gave off the appearance of being an emotional wreck just a few feet away. That incident paved the way to at least one complaint to management from a teammate.

What is this, "Mean Girls?" My wife yells at me for looking at my phone all the time. When do I get released?

“The offense wasn’t there, and I’m not trying to be critical of him, it wasn’t a lack of effort on his part - it just wasn’t there,” Cherington said. “When you sign A.J. Pierzynski, that’s what you’re hoping you’re getting: left-handed offense at a premium position. We thought that that was important to the team, that if we got that, it would complement the team. … That left-handed offense just wasn’t there."

And so, we ask again; When does Drew get the same treatment?

Whatever. Pierzynski is out the door and the Red Sox are 1-0 in his absence, clearly a sign if you want to conveniently blame the catcher for all that ails this team. If he were still here, the assumption can only be that while Red Sox players were celebrating Brock Holt's game-winning RBI in the ninth inning Wednesday that Pierzynski would have been somewhere in the clubhouse, on his phone, downloading anything but country music for the postgame celebration. That would have been the final straw with half his teammates anyway.

Then again, the man likes Creed. Maybe he was a bigger problem than anyone could have imagined after all.

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