After the Atlanta Braves game Saturday night, Dave O’Brien, the beat reporter from the Atlanta Journal Constitution assumed A.J. Pierzynski was retiring and tweeted as such, saying, "Pierzynski hugging all teammates, passed out cigars. He’s retiring, apparently right now."
That conclusion became cloudier over the next half hour. Pierzynski played coy, offering vague answers and saying the cigars were from Julio Teheran celebrating the birth of his son -- except, O’Brien notes, he was born more than a month ago. A Braves official told O’Brien the team had nothing to announce that it knew of, yet the team was the one that requested authentication for Pierzynski’s 10th-inning single.
Throw in the celebratory ice-water shower depicted above, the circumstantial evidence is quite strong. The last word on the matter for now:
#Braves Pierzynski: "I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know what tomorrow’s going to bring, but if that’s it, then it was fun."— David O'Brien (@DOBrienAJC) September 11, 2016
That the story took off like it did is probably a sign that Pierzynski should retire. He’s hitting .217/.239/.303 in 80 games this year, good for a whopping 46 OPS+ and a -1.5 WAR according to Baseball Prospectus. He’s already on a last-place team, and one that has a starting catcher (Tyler Flowers, still hitting surprisingly well), so there’s really nowhere else to go from here.
If he is calling it a career, it’s a singular one. If you only look at performance, he’s one of 10 catchers in MLB history with 2,000 hits. If you add in all the extracurricular stories and style points he accumulated, he’s one of a kind. He would’ve done enough in Chicago if he retired after Game 2 of the 2005 ALCS.
The only drawback is the timing, as the White Sox are likely to part ways with Robin Ventura at the end of the year. White Sox fans who project managerial aptitude based on field smarts and forget that Ventura was praised for the same kind of baseball IQ may stump for the Sox to make the same mistake fans have spent the last three years complaining about (based on my Twitter mentions, it’s already starting).
Fortunately, it doesn’t seem like a genuine threat, even with Jerry Reinsdorf’s world-famous loyalty. Managers are usually hired as a reaction to the previous manager — see Jerry Manuel to Ozzie Guillen to Ventura -- and Ventura’s inexperience and lack of a hiring process is the key flaw the Sox need to get away from.
Pierzynski may make a strong manager at some point, although based on the way young White Sox pitchers threw at him the first time they got the chance, his interpersonal skills probably need refining. More than that, I just have a difficult time imagining him taking responsibility for a 25-man roster. It'd be fascinating to watch him lead a team in the minors for a year, just to see how he held up, but I think any foray into management would be a waste of a very good analyst.