Sox Drawer: The dangers of being 'All-In'

Sox Drawer: The dangers of being 'All-In'
January 30, 2012, 8:53 pm
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The Detroit Tigers won the American League Central by 15 games last season. They have the reigning MVP and Cy Young Award winner in Justin Verlander. Now they've added Prince Fielder for nine-years, 214 million, the largest contract in franchise history, in the hopes of getting 82-year-old owner Mike Ilitch a World Series ring.

But Detroit, before you crown your Tigers World Series Champions, or even division champions, be aware of the dangers of going "All-In" like you appear to be.

"If they're using that slogan, then I like our chances because the Red Sox had that slogan, we had that slogan and it didn't work out for either one of us," said A.J. Pierzynski in an interview with Comcast SportsNet.

A.J. knows from experience.

Last season, Jerry Reinsdorf and Kenny Williams bet heavy on free agents Pierzynski, Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko, and Jesse Crain with the hopes of bringing another title to Chicago. What did they get for it? 79 wins and a whole lot of heartache.

Pierzynski was also the featured star in an "All-In" commercial that seemed to run on a loop everyday from April through October.

"I'm glad it's over to say the least," Pierzynski said about the 2011 season. "Frustrating, confusing, everything. Every word you can use to describe craziness is about how it went last year. It wasn't good. It wasn't fun. It wasn't the way it was supposed to be. Things just didn't work out."

Go ahead and point the finger at Dunn, Alex Rios, and Gordon Beckham. Everyone else is. But really, if you look at how the whole season unfolded, with the exceptions of maybe Mark Buehrle and Konerko, every single White Sox player had a role in it: Matt Thornton unable to save games early, Juan Pierre's struggles on the basepaths and in the outfield, John Danks 0-8 start, Sergio Santos giving up 7 runs in back-to-back losses just as the Sox were making a move in June. There's plenty of blame to go around.

"It's not one person's fault. People want to look at this person to blame, that person, but it was everybody," Pierzynski said.

While the White Sox were crushing the Indians on Opening Day in Cleveland, Jim Thome says he and his Twins teammates were watching the game on television in the clubhouse.

And I remember our guys saying, It looks like Chicago is going to be tough to handle,'" Thome said. "And then as baseball goes, you just never know."

The White Sox won the first two games of the season and led the division by a half-game. They'd only be in first place one more time. Four days later. And they were tied.

Meanwhile, after a slow start themselves, the Tigers won 95 games thanks to an all-world season by Verlander, closer Jose Valverde not blowing a single save all season, and 24-year-old catcher Alex Avila suddenly hitting like Johnny Bench. Now after winning the division, and the pressure and expectations to win it all in 2012, could the Tigers find themselves in the same boat the White Sox were last year?

"One break here or there, one tough loss, you never know how people are going to react," Pierzynski said. "One guy goes down like Dunn last year with the appendectomy, and it seemed to affect him the whole year. You just never know. One little thing can affect the team for a long time. If the Tigers don't get off to the start they're supposed to get off to, maybe the pressure will rise, expectations mount, fans will get on them and they might struggle. But if you look at them on paper, they're as good as anybody."

The Tigers are good. Potentially great. The last time we said this about them was 2008 when they traded for Miguel Cabrera. What happened that season?

They finished in last place.

You just never know.