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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

3 Cheers for Red Derrieres!
by Hal Vickery

Last week the Sox addressed a glaring need by signing A.J. Pierzynski to a one-year, $2.25-million contract. Pierzynski brings to the catcher’s role a skill sorely missing from the Sox since the retirement of Carlton Fisk over a decade ago, a solid bat.

Unfortunately he also brings with him a lot of baggage, and the tag “Clubhouse Cancer” was hung on him last May by an anonymous Giants teammate in the Oakland Tribune. It is a role that he feels is not totally deserved. The rap on Pierzynski is centered on his game preparation and his personality, one that is has been characterized as being as irritating to his own teammates as it is to his opponents.

Pierzynski addressed those issues last week in a conference call with reporters.

“I know there’s a lot of negative stuff out there about me,” Pierzynski admitted, “and all I can say is I’m going to do my best to change that. It’s taken an effect on my career and I don’t know where some of the things have come from. Kenny and I have talked about it, and I’m going to do whatever it takes to fix it. I will talk to the pitchers, and I will talk to the other players on the team and try to get it handled right away and get it out of the way and move on.

“What happened in San Francisco is a shame, but I’m looking forward to a new start in Chicago and getting that out of the way and getting that out of the picture and see if we can focus on playing baseball and on trying to win games for the White Sox. San Francisco’s gone, and I’m happy to be here and part of the White Sox.”

Later he added, “I hope people just understand that I want to win….People don’t understand that it doesn’t matter to me if I get any hits or not. If we win games, then I’m the happiest guy in the world. If the pitcher pitches well I’m happy….One thing that’s been written and said is that I’m just very into what’s going on with me and I think that’s where I’ve gone wrong….

“That’s what I tell people is that I’m one of the most competitive people that I know, and I’ll fight and do anything I can to help my team with the game. I can’t say anything else but that I’m going to do my best to change and get that reputation gone so we can focus on winning games and get that off my back.”

While he was with the Twins, Pierzynski was what Hawk Harrelson refers to as a “carmine derriere.” He was competitive almost to the extreme. He wanted to win and would do whatever it took to do so. This is an attitude that was sorely lacking on the White Sox for years under the leadership of General Disarray, and a quality that current skipper Ozzie Guillen referred to when he spoke last year of the Twins playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played.

A lot of people interpreted that as Guillen saying that he was condoning a play at the plate last July that resulted in former Sox catcher Jamie Burke (who was designated for assignment following the Pierzynski signing) was injured by the Twins Torii Hunter. What Guillen did say is, “That’s how we should play.”

And he was right. The Twins do whatever it takes to win, especially against the White Sox. The Sox have been lying down and taking it from the Twins for years. Guillen was aware of that, and he was saying quite simply that if the Sox don’t like it, they need to do something about it. The signing of Pierzynski is a sign that Sox management, particularly Kenny Williams, is on the same page as Guillen and is now ready to do something about it other than taking whatever the Twins dish out lying down.

A.J. Pierzynski will be a breath of fresh air for fans who have wanted to see the kind of fight from the Sox that they haven’t shown since early in the 2000 season when they took on the Detroit Tigers in one of the classic brawls of all time. We’re not saying the Sox need to brawl. We are saying that the Sox need to have an attitude, and that attitude must be, “If you want to win the AL Central, you’re going to have to take it from us.”

A.J. Pierzynski is a “carmine derriere” in the tradition of Nellie Fox, Carlton Fisk, and, yes, Ozzie Guillen. He is exactly what the White Sox need after the era of Jerry Manuel. Guillen wasn’t able to instill this attitude on his own from his manager’s seat on the bench, but now he has a similar type in Pierzynski, who will exhibit this attitude day in and day out on the field.

It’s about time!

Editor's Note: Hal Vickery has been a White Sox fan since 1955 when he was five years old. For much of that time he also had a secondary rooting interest in the Cubs, which he has shown the good sense to abandon. When not cheering for or writing about the Sox, Hal teachers chemistry and physics at North Boone High School, in Poplar Grove, IL. Hal commutes there daily from Joliet, where he lives with his wife Lee, and their dog, Buster T. Beagle. Hal's opinions are not necessarily those of North Boone High School, his wife, or Buster T. Beagle. You can write Hal at

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