A.J. Pierzynski sorta kinda retired but not really

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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.

Brian Cashman signs 4-year contract to remain Yankees GM

Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports
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SAN DIEGO — Brian Cashman has signed a four-year contract to remain the New York Yankees Senior Vice President and General Manager. The announcement was made during the first day of baseball’s Winter Meetings.

Cashman, New York’s GM since 1998, had been working on a handshake agreement since early November, when his five-year contract expired.

The Yankees were swept by four games in the AL Championship Series and haven’t reached the World Series since winning in 2009. It is the franchise’s longest title drought since an 18-year gap between 1978-96.

Cashman’s main goal during the offseason is trying to re-sign AL MVP Aaron Judge.

Judge hit an American League-record 62 homers this season with a .311 batting average and 131 RBIs. He turned down the Yankees’ offer on the eve of opening day of a seven-year contract that would have paid $213.5 million from 2023-29.

While Judge remains on the market, Cashman was able to re-sign Anthony Rizzo on Nov. 15 to a two-year contract worth $40 million after turning down a $16 million player option.

Cashman has been the Yankees general manager since 1998. He has been with the organization since 1986, when he was a 19-year old intern in the scouting department. In his 25 seasons as GM, the Yankees have reached the postseason 21 times, including four World Series championships and six American League titles.