It appears that A.J. Pierzynski has played his last game in the big leagues. Pierzynski went 1-for-3 on Saturday night in a 4-3 Atlanta Braves victory over the New York Mets. He was seen hugging his son and fellow teammates on the field at the conclusion of the game. What is even more intriguing is the fact that Atlanta Journal-Constitution writer, David O’Brien, reported that Pierzynski “passed out cigars” to teammates following the game.
#Braves Pierzynski hugging all teammates, passed out cigars. He's retiring, apparently right now.
— David O'Brien (@DOBrienAJC) September 11, 2016
O’Brien would later report that Pierzynski insisted Julio Teheran brought the cigars, but it was broadly circulated that Pierzynski was unwilling to give a straight answer to questions about his retirement. Potentially more telling than any other reports is the fact that the Braves collected the bat and ball from Pierzynski’s 10th inning at bat and had them authenticated.
A.J. Pierzynski Has Played His Last Game
Saturday’s game between the Braves and Mets came close to providing Pierzynski with a storybook ending. The game was tied 3-3 in the top of the eighth inning when Pierzynski was involved in a collision at home plate with Wilmer Flores. Nick Markakis made a strong throw to home that Pierzynski turned into a nice catch-and-tag play to keep the game tied.
Fast forward to the tenth inning that saw Pierzynski at the plate with no outs and Dansby Swanson on second base with the winning run. Pierzynski lined a sharp single through the left side of the infield. He immediately began celebrating on his way to first, believing his hit had won the game. Unfortunately, Swanson was forced to freeze on the play in order to make sure the ball found its way out of the infield. Swanson would score the winning run on an Adonis Garcia single, but Pierzynski was visibly distraught that his hit could not win the game.
Not every player gets the fairy tale ending. In fact, Saturday’s conclusion is indicative of Pierzynski’s season as a whole. Pierzynski had a sort of revival in 2015 when he posted a .769 OPS while appearing in 113 games in his first season with the Braves. That success was short lived as he has posted a triple-slash line of .219/.243/.304 in just 81 games in 2016. Pierzynski was put on the 15-day disabled list following Saturday night’s victory, furthering the speculation that his playing days were over. It appears that Pierzynski will remain on the DL until the end of the season and then retire.
Pierzynski has had a very productive career. He has played in 19 seasons for seven different teams in both leagues. Pierzynski’s prime years came between 2005 and 2012 while playing for the Chicago White Sox. He helped Chicago to a World Series Championship in ’05 and was named an All-Star in ’06. Pierzynski’s colorful and polarizing personality certainly left an impact wherever he went. Ozzie Guillen, manager of the White Sox during most of Pierzynski’s time there, described his persona by saying “If you play against him, you hate him. If you play with him, you hate him a little less.”
The truth is that Pierzynski was one of the more consistent catchers during his time in the league. You can love him, hate him, or maybe even a little of both, but there is no denying the longevity that Pierzynski achieved with a strong work ethic. Pierzynski appeared in 100+ games in 15 different season. In that time, he posted a triple-slash line of .280/.319/.420. Pierzynski added 188home runs, 407 doubles, 2,043 hits, and over 900 RB. He was twice an All-Star, won a Silver Slugger award, and captured one World Series title. And though he was never considered a strong defensive catcher, Pierzynski was the catcher of record for a no-hitter and a perfect game.
It is safe to say that there will never be another A.J. Pierzynski. Here’s to remembering a successful career.