A weird scene unfolded in Atlanta on Saturday night. A.J. Pierzynski, the Braves’ 39-year-old catcher, hit a single in the 10th inning of the their win over the Mets, putting what would be the winning run on third base. Afterward, he hugged his teammates, passed out cigars, got the Gatorade shower treatment and had the ball he hit authenticated by the MLB authentication folks. He also happened to have his family, who he flew up from Florida, in attendance to watch a rare start from the now-third string Braves catcher.
Did A.J. Pierzynski retire?
Not technically. Not yet anyway. As Mark Bowman of MLB.com reports, the Braves placed him on the disabled list yesterday. As Bowman further notes, doing so when the rosters are expanded in September is rather pointless. And that’s before you acknowledge that Pierzynski didn’t obviously injure himself or anything.
It’s a good bet that Pierzynski is going to retire after the season, but my gut feeling is that this is a bit of roster manipulation, however benign, that allows Pierzynski to finish out the season while still collecting a paycheck but while likewise still being able to be away from the team and back home with his family — who live close to the Braves’ training facility in Orlando where a DL’d player would go — without it being a problem. And while avoiding the ignominy of a release.
If that’s what is going on it’s a pretty nice gesture from the Braves who, despite Pierzynski’s reputation as a somewhat difficult guy and somewhat disruptive force over the years, has been a welcome part of the club for the past two years. He hit quite well last year, and has been a good clubhouse presence, a mentor and much-needed source of levity for the Braves over two difficult seasons when leadership and levity has been hard to find in Atlanta.
It’s not too sad if this is it for him as a player, though. He’s been fantastic as a TV analyst in the postseason the past couple of years. I suspect that the stuff that made him a difficult presence in the earlier part of his career — talking frankly and at times critically to ballplayers who are used to all manner of courtesy and complicated rituals of respect — is what makes him a good analyst. Not sugarcoating things and talking about players less-than-diplomatically may make it harder to be a good teammate, but it’s good stuff for TV. He should have a successful broadcasting career ahead of him if he wants it.
Happy trails, A.J.