Kevin Aherne (@KAherne17)
He ranks third on his team in RBI, has a World Series ring, caught a perfect game and a no-hitter, and in 17 major league seasons has failed to bat below .260 just once (2005), but if you want to hand out blame for the Sox' lackluster performance this spring, start with veteran catcher AJ Pierzynski.
The veteran Pierzynski--brought in to compensate for the loss of Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who signed a multi-year deal in Miami this past off-season--has been touted as one of the top offensive backstops of the last ten years.
But more importantly, he is touted as a Grade-A jerk.
Don't believe me?
Go "Google" Most-hated player in baseball, and see who's name comes up most often.
And this status was not based on the opinions of fans, in 2011, Sports Illustrated conducted a poll of active MLB players, inquiring who is the least likable player in the game? Pierzynski took the top spot.
in 2012, Men's Journal surveyed fans to determine the most hated player in the game, their top pick: Pierzynski. In other lists, he has been named "Meanest Player in the Game" and “Player You Would Most Like To See Beaned."
If fans, players, and media do not like this man; then what about his teammates?
The 2013 Red Sox far exceeded expectations when they ran through the regular season, plowed through the Playoffs, and took down the Cardinals to win their third World Series in a decade. With a modestly talented squad, a new manager, and subsequent to their worst season in 49 years; team chemistry and lack of ego can be largely credited for putting the Sox over the top.
Not only have the 2014 Red Sox failed so far to capture that same "magic," but the team seems to have reverted to their 2012 identity. Herein, the Bobby Valentine folly.
So, what changed?
When asked in a post game interview whether there is the possibility that he and Lester had not yet developed the chemistry they would need to succeed, Pierzynski responded, “Nope. I’m not answering that question anymore,” Pierzynski said. “It doesn’t matter. You guys keep bringing that up, but I mean, Jon and I, Opening Day we did well together. Today’s just one of those days. Things didn’t work out. It had nothing to do with me catching him. You can say that all you want, but it had nothing to do with it.”
Now, should Pierzynski have taken the lion's share of the blame for the poor performance? No.
Should he admit--especially publicly--that the catcher is always, in part, responsible for a pitcher's successes and failures. Yup!
Regardless of his response, it is difficult to argue against the chemistry issue. Lester is 4-2 with a 1.92 ERA when backup David Ross is behind the plate; and 0-4 with a near 6.00 ERA when Pierzynski catches the ace.
Not Pierzynski's fault
While Pierzynski's presence is a contributing factor to the Sox' woes, he is not to blame. The Red Sox front office offered the veteran a one-year $8.25 million contract, and the opportunity to start for the defending champion, and perennial contender. Of course he took it.
So, the real root of problem with Boston's backstop situation begins with GM Ben Cherington. His decision to let the 28 year old catcher walk away to take a 3 year deal worth $21 million in favor of a 37 year old with a long history of personality issues was nothing other than stupid.
Was Jarrod Saltalamacchia the next Jason Varitek? Of course not.
But the AJ Pierzynski signing is Ben Cherington's Carl Everett.
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