At some point, being this divisive has to be considered a talent. A.J. doesn't just inspire the loyalty of his teammates while pushing opponents to the brink of assault & battery, he divides baseball fans along lines of statheads and suckers for intangibles, and White Sox fans between those who value keeping the championship core together and the dissatisfied bunch that points to only one playoff appearance in the past five seasons, and call for a new direction.
In these turbulent times, where politics of the nation are as divided as ever, and there's a menagerie of opinions of how to pull the country out of the economic crisis, is not A.J. Pierzynski--starting debates over whether the Sox should rely on grizzled veterans or young prospects, or whether baseball players should be dazzling athletes or lovable drunken goofballs, an immovable rogue struggling through a down period that no one is sure what to do with--the most American baseball player in the game today?
Stat line: .270 BA, .300 OBP, .388 SLG, .688 OPS, 43 R, 29 2B, 9 HR, 56 RBI, 15 BB, 39 SO, 3 SB (42%), .299 wOBA, FanGraphs' Generic Substitute for UZR with Catchers - 2.0, 1.8 WAR
What did we expect?: A.J. had a pretty good offensive year for himself in 2009, staying in the top-10 of the A.L. batting race until a late-season swoon, and spraying flares across the outfield without much pop on them like a chunky, white Juan Pierre, with no discernible signs of slowing down. I admit that a Pierzynski-centered puff piece on ESPN late in 2009 prompted a "Am I undervaluing A.J.??" crisis of conscience that failed to factor in things like "ESPN is a 24-hour network with oodles of broadcast time that they have find some way to fill everyday."
"The short-comings are obvious; warning-track power,
allergic to RBIs the past two seasons, swings at everything, will never
have an OBP over .345 ever in life, fat (Part of the reason I can
rationalize dropping nearly $400 on White Sox tickets is that I will
have a fair share of moments where I stare and think 'Wow, what an
athlete! It's amazing to watch him in person.' A.J. will provide none
of these moments). What he can provide consistently is good contact
hitting, a batting average that stays above .290, opportunistic
baserunning, and the impossible to prove quality that's often to
attributed to him of 'calling a good game behind the plate'. On second
thought, I don't buy that s*** for a second, he gets no credit for that.