When I hear people discuss the possibility of the Rangers signing veteran catcher A.J. Pierzynski, I cringe.
Though Pierzynski is coming off arguably the best season of his 15-year career, he is known as one of the villains of the MLB.
First we need to separate the MLB bad boys into two categories: those hated by opponents’ players and fans and those hated by opponents’ and his own players and fans.
Last season, according to “USA Today,” Pierzynski was voted the “most hated player” in baseball in a Men’s Journal survey of 100 MLB players.
Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez and free agent outfielder/first baseman (possibly future-Ranger) Nick Swisher – who finished second and third in the poll, respectively – fall into the prior category. Their opponents may love to hate them, but they’re good clubhouse guys and good team players.
Pierzynski belongs to the category of those who are just flat out disliked by everyone, except maybe his hometown fans. He received 34 percent of the votes in the survey and had a tiff with Rangers manager Ron Washington and free agent catcher Mike Napoli last season.
When Washington was selecting his 2012 All-Star roster, he selected the Twins’ Joe Mauer and the players selected Oriole backstop Matt Wieters to fill the catching spots after Napoli was selected by fans.
Albeit, Napoli did not deserve the All-Star nod – he was batting a less-than-spectacular .238 at the time -, but Pierzynski seemed to take a special displeasure towards it.
According to a tweet by CBS Sports writer Jon Heyman, Heyman was consoling Pierzynski about the All-Star snub and mentioned that Napoli was a good hitter.
Pierzynski responded with, “yeah, if you consider .230 good,” according to the tweet.
It didn’t end there. Washington told reporters that he felt bad for snubbing Pierzynski.
To that, Pierzynski said, “If he felt that bad he would have put me on the team. He had an opportunity to and he didn’t do it. Obviously, he can feel as bad as he wants, but he didn’t feel that bad.”
All that aside, Pierzynski is coming off an excellent season. He batted .278, had a WAR of 3.4 and posted career highs in home runs (27), runs (68), RBI (77), SLG (.501) and wRC+ (118). But I don’t think those numbers will repeat in 2013. Personally, I think Pierzynski was just trying harder to produce because he knew he was in a contract season.
Signing Napoli and working out a deal with Geovany Soto would be the Rangers’ best option. If they can’t get Napoli, it would be wise for them to pursue a catcher from the trade market – whether that be Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Ryan Lavarnway of the Red Sox or J.P. Arencibia, John Buck or 23-year-old prospect Travis d’Arnaud of the Blue Jays – rather than pursue Pierzynski.
The Rangers’ clubhouse is regarded by many as one of the best in the Majors, and there is no reason to risk ruining that on a bad clubhouse guy like Pierzynski.