The Red Sox let A.J. Pierzynski go yesterday, barely halfway through his one-year, $8.25 million deal. It is the second least-surprising thing in the world that he reportedly rubbed teammates the wrong way by being a loner, ignoring his pitchers, and generally being a prick. (The first least-surprising thing in the world is that the Red Sox rushed to shit on a player on his way out of town.)
It's WEEI's Rob Bradford doing the dirty work this morning, after a joyous come-from-behind, walkoff win over the White Sox that saw Shane Victorino on the top step of the dugout, leading the cheers. A team transformed! As if by magic, or at least by the excision of one particular malignant presence.
According to multiple sources within the Red Sox clubhouse, Pierzynski had become such a negative influence on the team that players approached both the Sox coaches and front office to address the problem. The common theme expressed was the catcher's seeming indifference toward his teammates and the common goals of the same organization that had relied on an all-for-one approach when winning the 2013 World Series.
A microcosm of Pierzynski's approach was mentioned by more than one of the backstop's former teammates, who revealed his propensity to spend a significant amount of time looking at his phone while at his locker during games. In one instance, after a particularly rough outing in which the starting pitcher had been pulled early in the game, Pierzynski could be found staring at his phone while the pitcher gave off the appearance of being an emotional wreck just a few feet away. That incident paved the way to at least one complaint to management from a teammate.
It should be noted that one player didn't define this as the downfall of this Red Sox team to date, but it was tough to ignore the voices throughout the home clubhouse in the aftermath of the team's 5-4 walkoff victory over the White Sox which described an entirely different dugout environment than there had been up through Tuesday. Within the length and patience of a baseball season, there are few times such proclamations are made, but this was unmistakably one of those rarities.
The Red Sox might rattle off 10 straight losses, leading to many of the same players who were celebrating Wednesday's win being shipped out of town. But the facts are the facts, and the facts are that this one player was identified by multiple members of what is perceived as one of baseball's most tight-knit groups as the dark cloud that has just been lifted.
I don't doubt for a second that the Red Sox are thrilled to have Pierzynski gone, nor that they lined up to shit-talk him last night. But this is a pattern that extends back longer than all but two of these players have been here. It seems like no one can leave this team without getting dumped on after they're gone—not even if they, unlike Pierzynski, left on pretty good terms.
This is an indictment of the media who always act exactly as management wants them to. Look at the comments on Bradford's story. Even Sox fans, who couldn't be happier to be free of Pierzynski, are openly wondering why this very real story about clubhouse chemistry wasn't published any time over the last three months.
I get that fans are morally torn here; I am too. If the Red Sox were concerned about adding to their track record of ex post facto smearing, their fears were probably allayed by the knowledge that this particular target isn't going to garner much sympathy. But that's the whole point. You sign A.J. freaking Pierzynski, act surprised when he's a dick, and make sure to tell everyone he was a dick within 12 hours of cutting him? Who could possibly have seen any of this coming?