Late Tuesday night, the Boston Globe released a lengthy piece detailing pretty much every off-the-field shortcoming of the 2011 Boston Red Sox, and proposing them all as possible causes of their incredible season-ending slide.
Among many other things, The Globe's Bob Hohler made note of the of the practice of the Red Sox starting pitchers drinking beers, eating fried chicken, and playing video games during their off days as a source of contention and disunity in the clubhouse.
Perhaps Pierzynski didn't quite grasp the tone of the article, because he gave his calm and playful confirmation that, yeah, that goes on...and not just on off days.
“Yes, absolutely I have before,” Pierzynski told "The Dan Patrick Show." ”Sometimes you’re just really struggling and you just say, ‘Hey, you know what, I need something to calm me down and let’s have a beer.’ A couple of us will do it together, and sometimes it works out.
"It's just, sometimes you just need a rally beer. If you’re in extra innings and you’re in about the 15th inning and you really need to get going again, that sometimes works for you."
He also said that he and other Sox players drank shots before one of the 2008 Division Series playoff games in Tampa.
There's something to be said for the placebo effect. There's also something to be said for imbibing a depressant while playing a sport centered around fast-twitch muscles, precise vision and reaction times...
A.J. Pierzynski in the 2008 playoffs: .385/.500/.462
...which is just a ridiculously small sample size, it's not even worth...
A.J. Pierzynski in extra-innings in 2011: .400/.500/.800
... regarding. Besides, correlation in no way implies...
A.J. Pierzynski in extra-innings for his career: .288/.361/.466
...alright, what the hell.
This raises two possibilities, Pierzynski went 5 for 13 in the ALDS with a lot of singles, and also experienced a severe case of the bump in production that comes when facing the dregs of the bullpen in extras (including 9 intentional walks). OR, Pierzynski is a demonstrably better hitter while slightly buzzed and/or in the process of "rallying". Which...could make sense.
It's a commonly held axiom that a bit of the drink lowers ones standards, and Pierzynski already relies on elite contact skills while demonstrating the pitch-selectivity of a recently liberated POW...so, how much is really getting altered here except some gooood vibes?
Yet, operating under the assumption that most view getting inhibited during a highly-competitive motor skill-oriented job a bad thing, it's easy to see how this is a fairly awful PR decision for Pierzynski, even if he's absolutely coated in Teflon as far as White Sox fans are concerned.
The average USCF attendee already resents Major League players enough for how fun and well-compensated their job is without hearing that they get room to experiment with concepts like "Would a drink or two make me less awful at bunting?"
And after a year where a veteran Sox team nonchalantly slumped and slogged its way to the most disappointing season in recent memory, images of players drinking the clubhouse probably aren't much more welcome than they are in Boston. Which is to say, not at all.
New manager Robin Ventura, currently making the media rounds and dishing out important answers like "Yes, we will focus on being fundamentally sound", and "Yes, I will have control of the clubhouse", can now expect to be queried for his opinion on in-game imbibing. As a manager who's frequently reiterated that players will "know where he stands", he may wind up having to give a decided stance on a policy that might otherwise have stayed comfortably unwritten.
Because just as interesting as the information on clubhouse drinking was how it was delivered. It wasn't the beer that concerned the Red Sox brass, it was the indifference it indicated. Similarly, A.J.'s revelation was offered freely and playfully, suggesting that any thoughts of athletes spending 162 straight games in sober contemplation, or that even the case of the Red Sox is beyond the pale, are woefully naive.
There's a reason why this image isn't wildly promoted, because it sounds awful and would be actually detrimental if the activities A.J. described were in any way regular, but probably is a lot more prevalent than we realize. As Kevin Goldstein suggested in his tweet (linked above), a thorough expose on drinking in clubhouses is probably going to turn up a lot of mirrors to the White Sox situation.
So, no, this is not the explanation for why Rios and Dunn were so uniquely awful.