Bruce Bochy, A.J. Hinch, Joe Torre, Joe Girardi, Ned Yost, and Mike Scioscia. What do all these names have in common? They were all catchers, the field generals of their playing days. They were all hard nosed catchers, leaders at their respective position. It’s no wonder that catchers seem to make the best MLB managers.
Catching isn’t for the lily-livered, it’s a tough position. A catcher must be willing to sacrifice their bodies, while also be willing to put in the extra time to sharpen their minds. A sharp mind, is a catcher’s greatest asset. The catcher is responsible for calling every pitch, adjusting the defense with every at bat, and hell you’re the last line of defense in a scoring situation. Putting on that mask is like Mick Foley putting on the Mankind mask, you become another person. A catcher has to be a student, a general, a regular Stone Cold Steve Austin, ready to catch a relay throw, plant his feet, lower his body, block the plate and brace for a head on collision. Gimme a HELL YEAH!
A catcher has to be a natural born leader. When a pitcher is getting shelled, they often become fragile. The catcher is the one who comes out and reminds the little delicate snowflake that everything will be okay. Then tells him what to pitch and where. A catcher also has to know the situations of every play. Know which hitters are coming up for certain scenarios, what pitches they saw in previous at bats, know how many outs there are, know how many are on base and their speeds/baserunning habits. Basically, every pitch, the catcher has to be, “on his toes,” and not take a play off. Catcher also needs to be able to frame for a pitcher, to get those borderline calls, all while keeping the umpire happy. An unhappy umpire doesn’t bode well for your hot headed pitcher.
Why am I going on about catchers and raising hell? Because the White Sox have one of those former catchers right in their backyard. AJ Pierzynski, a true genius of the game. He has caught 2,059 games, member of the 2000 hit club, a career .280 hitter, and made one of the biggest plays in White Sox history, using only his baseball intelligence. I am referring to the drop third call in game 2 of the ALCS against the Angels. Maybe a couple others would’ve had the knowledge to pull that off. Without that play, I’m not sure they win that game and possibly that series. Could’ve been down 0-2 if not for that play.
So why not AJ? Jerry is loyal to his former employees, especially the players who have excelled. We saw that with Ozzie Guillen, Joey Cora, Robin Ventura. I feel AJ knows the game more than these three and he has the same experience as Ventura did (none). Give the fans a familiar face, someone they recognize, a coach that the fans can trust to deliver a winning message to the baby White Sox.
The White Sox don’t have to give AJ the big job yet. Hell, Renteria is signed through 2020 anyways. But I think it would be beneficial to bring in someone with that much knowledge, and help mold our young team. Even if we gave Pierzynski a bench coach role, the team would benefit. In a few years, the Sox could reevaluate the Renteria situation and decide to extend him again or move on. Which could open the door for A.J as manager and have Omar Vizquel (Currently managing AA Birmingham) as a bench coach. 2021 White Sox could feature the swagger of AJ, while retaining a Spanish speaking coach in Vizquel.
Passion, knowledge, and a fan favorite could be great for this organization. I’m not sure if the White Sox have reached out to AJ already or if he isn’t quite ready to make that kind of a commitment, but it couldn’t hurt to extend an olive branch. The Sox are continuing to rebuild, so they have nothing to lose. Offer him a job on the bench. This is a good time to get AJ’s, “feet wet,” in the clubhouse. If not, at least an ambassadorship, he will always have a home here at 35th and Shields.
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