This may come as a surprise, but people are still asking about A.J. Pierzynski. And not just because his Lincoln Park home is under contract for $1.75 million.
No, this time it was Doug Padilla inquiring about the possibility of Pierzynski getting the statue treatment at U.S. Cellular Field at some point in the future.
A high-ranking White Sox official, who was contacted about Pierzynski’s chances of possibly receiving a statue, didn’t say one is in the works at the moment, but didn’t deny that it could eventually happen either.
In fact, Pierzynski, Mark Buehrle and Paul Konerko all stand a solid chance of receiving the honor that was last given to Frank Thomas in 2011. Another future candidate, especially since he has recently returned, is manager Robin Ventura. And don't count out the chances of Ozzie Guillen getting one too at some point in the future.
Before we talk about Pierzynski (and Ventura, and Guillen) specifically, we should probably figure out what the group of statues is supposed to represent. Here's the current lineup:
- Frank Thomas
- Minnie Minoso
- Nellie Fox and Luis Aparicio
- Charles Comiskey
- Billy Pierce
- Harold Baines
- Carlton Fisk
There are no questions through the first four displays listed, because of the five figures involved, three are in the Hall of Fame, and the other two should join them. Nobody gets fired up by the Comiskey statue, but he kinda started the whole thing.
After that, the mission starts getting fuzzy, because it's no longer about honoring the franchise's best players/icons ... at least in any discernible order.
Pierce is the Sox's best pitcher after World War II, but Ed Walsh made a far bigger impact on the course of the franchise, for better and then for worse. Ted Lyons and Red Faber are Hall of Famers, and the only two pitchers with more than 200 career wins in a White Sox uniform.
Baines is somewhat in the same position as Pierce, except Billy had a more defined peak. Baines' career was built on sustained above-averageness, which allowed him to climb franchise leaderboards that lacked stars. Meanwhile, Luke Appling, one of the franchise's top two players ever, doesn't have a statue, and maybe he never will, which is a shame.
(As for Fisk, his argument is like Baines', at least for his Sox career. He might be a Hall of Famer, but he's wearing a Red Sox cap.)
At this point, the statues aren't intended to honor the best of the best, because otherwise Appling, Faber, Walsh, Lyons and Eddie Collins would be in bronze already. Back when the Fox and Aparicio statues were unveiled, Jerry Reinsdorf left an opening for it:
"The Roman [Comiskey] had to be first, and Minnie spans all the ages. Fisk is the most recent of the heroes, so now we can go back in time a little bit."
... but they haven't gone any further back in time with their three subsequent choices. As it stands, the group of players shares two common threads:
- They were good enough to get their numbers retired.
- They were around to see their statues.
The exception for the latter is Fox, but at least Aparicio could uncover his statue, while Fox's widow and daughter represented Nellie.
At the heart of it, it seems like the statues are a way to plan a day around a living legend. As cool as it would be for Appling to get a statue -- and it would be really, really, really cool* -- the ceremonial aspects of the presentation would be lacking due to a dearth of modern-day ties.
(*No, seriously, I want a miniature Appling statue. Or an Appling bobblehead. Something!)
If we have to accept these terms for immortalization, it makes future Konerko and Buehrle statues (and/or retired numbers) easier to rationalize. They probably aren't Hall of Famers, but they have the markers of big-time White Sox careers: leaderboard cred, signature moments, and rings
But with the other guys Padilla mentioned? Questions abound. Ventura had a nice White Sox career, but he also made just one All-Star team (Baines made two), and the unknown still outweighs the known when it comes to his managing. Any Guillen consideration should start well after the Sox are done reaping the rewards of being free from his baggage.
And that leaves Pierzynski, who might be the slipperiest slope of them all. Yes, he's firmly etched himself in the memories of Sox fans for playing a way nobody else did. But in terms of his production for the franchise, he's pretty much Jon Garland. I understand why Pierzynski has such a pull, but when it comes to the statue package, but it seems like that opens the door to confusing omissions/inductions down the road.
Then again, if the base of his statue is Aaron Boone's back ...