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A lot has been written already about A.J. Pierzynski's childish (but justified in some sad quarters) reaction to not being named to the All-Star team, but I'm not sure the utter stupidity and wrongheadedness of A.J.'s oft-quoted statement about AL manager Ron Washington has really been made clear - especially here in Hawkeroo Homerville.
Let's take a look.
"Texas Rangers and American League All-Star manager Ron Washington said the one player that he was disappointed about the most that he couldn't get on the All-Star roster was A.J. Pierznyski of the Chicago White Sox," ESPN, among many others, reported.
"I feel bad for Pierzynski," Washington said. "The guy's having an outstanding year. He's been working with a very good pitching staff over there with those Chicago White Sox for many years. I consider him a winning player because he beats you any kind of way he can. He beats you mentally, he beats you physically. So I feel really bad for Pierzynski."
Well, that's a nice - and classy - thing to say, isn't it?
Not if you're noted humanitarian A.J. Pierzynski.
"If he felt that bad, he would have put me on the team," Pierzynski responded. "He had an opportunity to do it and he didn't do it. Obviously he can feel as bad as he wants, but he didn't feel that bad."
And then just to solidify the 5-year-old-ishness to his complaint, he added: "I'm not surprised. I know how it goes, how it works. I knew this was going to happen."
A.J. Pierzynski, everybody! The man has less class than a CPS senior.
Second, it's embarrassingly churlish and illogical. The depth of how bad Washington may (or may not) have felt has no effect upon the size of the roster. A slot doesn't open up because Wash feels bad. In fact, maybe he would feel worse about who would get left out if he picked Pierzynski. But that doesn't mean he couldn't feel bad, as A.J. implies.
Imagine a parent saying to a child, "I feel bad we can't stay at the beach longer but we have to go home."
And the child responding, "If you really felt bad, we'd stay."
Therefore, the parent doesn't sincerely feel bad.
Dear A.J.: You are the child in this scenario.
In any case, Washington reacted to A.J.'s reaction by with this: "I said what I had to say about A.J., and it came from my heart."
Too bad A.J. was speaking from his liver.
But it doesn't end there; there's the reaction of our small-minded, small-town media.
Take A.J. apologist and CSN/WGN-AM sports honcho David Kaplan. On Chicago Tribune Live, Kaplan said over and over again that he could not for the life of him see anything wrong with what Pierzynski said. "He's right!" Kaplan shouted on the show last week. "I can't imagine anyone being offended!"
But Kaplan reacted quite differently to Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto's complaint about being left off the NL team by Tony LaRussa.
"I see that I have great numbers," Cueto said. "I thought the way I pitched this year, I'd have a chance to go to the All-Star Game. I don't know what happened. I don't know if the manager of All-Star Game is pissed at me because I went out with one of his girlfriends. I don't know if they base their selection on the  brawl [between the Reds and Cardinals]. That's not the way it should be . . . They should pick and choose players by their numbers."
Kaplan retweeted this from Jason Goch (I couldn't get rid of the one attached to it at the top):
@JasonGoch Johnny Cueto showed his lack of class in his comment about LaRussa.— David Kaplan (@thekapman) July 3, 2012
And then this from Jon Heyman:
cueto needs to accept the snub gracefully, as others have. if it's la russa's retribution, so be it. cbsprt.co/N7xR3O— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) July 3, 2012
Now, retweets aren't always endorsements, but these clearly are. I sent Kaplan a tweet asking if Pierzynski shouldn't also accept his fate gracefully. He didn't respond.
Rick Morrissey wrote in the Sun-Times that "If I'm Pierzynski, I smile knowing that I won, especially against fellow major-leaguers. The All-Star snub means he has gotten under people's skin so much that they're preoccupied with him. And if they're preoccupied with him, it's probably affecting them when they play against the Sox."
Phil Rogers out-and-out lost his mind in the Tribune, writing that "I want to scream is this: No A.J., no justice! No A.J., no justice! No A.J., no justice!"
"Honestly, I want to start a movement. That's how strongly I feel about what Rangers manager Ron Washington just did to one of the toughest guys in the major leagues, one of the truest professionals, and in case you haven't noticed - and maybe Washington hasn't - one of the two best catchers in the AL."
Maybe. But neither the fans nor - more importantly - the players saw it that way.
"You can argue the Orioles' Matt Wieters is better than Pierzynski, and you can argue Pierzynski is better than Wieters. But you cannot argue that the Rangers' Mike Napoli and, at this point, the Twins' Joe Mauer are better than Wieters and Pierzynski.
"Fans elected Napoli, based largely on the popularity he built for himself during a tremendous 2011 season in Texas. That's fine. But with players and coaches electing the switch-hitting Wieters over Pierzynski, it should have been a no-brainer to put Pierzynski on the team instead of the fading wonder boy, Mauer."
Um, that fading wonder boy just might win the American League batting title this year - again. He's tied for fourth in the AL with a .326 average and is - by far - the leader in that category among catchers (A.J. is 24th). More impressive, he has a league-leading OBP of .416. (Pierzynski ranks 34th with a mediocre .338, which is also behind Napoli and Twins backup Ryan Doumit). Sure, Pierzynski has 49 RBIs. But Mauer has 44 - on one of the worst teams in the majors. And even though Pierzynski is throwing out more runners attempting to steal this season than in past years, Mauer is still the superior defensive player.
Still, Pierzynski has had an All-Star caliber half-season. So was he snubbed?
JJ Stankevitz of CSN Chicago did what Morrissey and Rogers didn't and took a look at the cards Washington was dealt.
"Rangers catcher Mike Napoli won the fan vote and will start, while Wieters was voted in by fellow players and Mauer was selected by Washington," Stankevitz wrote.
"Washington needed to select someone from Minnesota, with Mauer and Josh Willingham being prime candidates. But all of the AL outfield reserves - Adam Jones, Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout - deserved their spot on the team. Willingham could've DH'd, but Kansas City needed a representative, and that went to Billy Butler. Adam Dunn earned the other DH spot.
"What it came down to was that someone from the White Sox was going to be snubbed. Had Willingham made the roster, it would've been Dunn. But with Mauer making it, it was Pierzynski."
So if A.J. wants to find someone to blame, he should start with the fans, move on to the players, stop by MLB HQ because of the size of their All-Star rosters, and then look in the mirror not only for being the most hated player in the game, but for trying to find someone to blame in the first place.
On the other side of town, there's the curious situation of Bryan LaHair, an All-Star who has lost his job to a prospect and has essentially been a platoon player. Most interesting, and noted too infrequently, is that LaHair got to the All-Star Game via the players' vote. And he seems to be back on track after a June slump.
Still, the first Cub who should have made it was nowhere near in the running, and that's Ryan Dempster, ERA 1.99, best in the NL and second-best overall. Dempster is Exhibit A for sabermetricians who have argued for years that Wins is a fairly meaningless stat.
Sure, Dempster has spent time on the DL this season, but he's still notched 86 innings - and for a team so bad that even an earned run average can be affected by bad play beyond his control.
Lastly, there is the annual debate over whether every team should be represented at the game. It doesn't seem right; the players chosen should be the best players, period. But if you're going to do that, you can't have the fans voting. On the other hand, a lot of the players don't really have a clue, let's face it. And even more importantly, everyone seems to act like if you got rid of the "every team" clause, those one or two "snubs" would be taken care of and that would be that. But in reality, more than one team would have no players at the game. And as a corollary, you might find just a few teams represented in some years. And how much fun would that be?
The debate about who makes the team and who gets left off is part of the game itself. We don't have to - and shouldn't - act like getting an All-Star nod is like getting picked by some Mount Baseball. We know otherwise. Humans do the picking, and imperfection results, just like with the Oscars and Pulitzers. It's just one reminder of how credentialism is overrated - in baseball just as in life.
1. From Joe Snipp:
I don't often send e-mails like this, but SR's essay on AJ was brilliant. The only thing that I didn't like was that it wasn't longer.
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