Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010
Posted 8:34 PM
By Chuck Garfien
ORLANDO, Fla -- For all practical purposes, A.J. Pierzynski should be a Los Angeles Dodger right now.
He told his mom he was going to be a Dodger. He told his wife and kids. They were all planning on a new life on the West Coast.
A.J. in LA. It had a nice ring to it.
But just as Pierzynski was officially going to exchange his White Sox black for Dodger blue, came a much different ring buzzing from his cell phone last Thursday.
It was White Sox assistant general manager Rick Hahn.
There was a last minute offer coming from the South Side. Actually, to say the Sox had a minute left would be an understatement.
"I was literally a half-second away from being gone," Pierzynski says in an interview with Comcast SportsNet. "Right when my agent was picking up the phone to basically call the Dodgers to tell them yes, the White Sox called back, so it ended up working out."
For everyone but the Dodgers.
"I think (the Dodgers) felt they had it done, because I thought they had it done. I think everybody (did). My agent, my wife, me, and it was kind of bittersweet because I was excited about going to LA, a new team, a new start, and then at the same time, I was kind of disappointed with the way it played out with the White Sox."
The issue wasn't that the Sox didn't want A.J. back, but at the time, their main focus was trying to find a way to sign both Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko. Kenny Williams felt (and hoped) he'd be able to wait until the two sluggers fates were resolved before turning to Pierzynski.
There was only so much money to go around, and they weren't sure how much they'd have left for Pierzynski.
"They kept saying, they couldn't talk right now, and I was like 'I'm going to leave,'" Pierzynski recalls. "I said okay, but they still didn't do anything. Then at the last second they called and did it."
Was it divine intervention? Jerry Reinsdorf intervention?
Maybe a little of both.
Pierzynski had a frank chat with the White Sox chairman. "He gave me his honest opinion," Pierzynski says.
Which for A.J. meant that if he wanted to return to the White Sox, he would have to take a large pay cut.
Pierzynski's free agent walk year in 2010 did not go as planned, especially at the start when he finished the month of April batting .169 with no home runs and four RBIs.
"I'd be lying if I said it didn't affect me," Pierzynski says. "It obviously affected me. It affects everybody in different ways. We had brief talks about doing an extension in spring training, and it kind of fell through, and I handled it the wrong way. Instead of looking at it as a positive and going after it, I got angry and didn't do it. It made me miserable, and it affected the way I played on the field. Finally, once I had a realization that it doesn't matter anymore, just go out and play, that's when things turned around."
Pierzynski batted .333 in August and September to finish the season hitting .270. A respectable number, but not the kind he wanted heading into free agency. After making 6.75 million in 2010, Pierzynski's new deal averages out to 4 million a year in 2011 and 2012.
He said all along that he didn't need to break the bank. He just wanted a fair deal.
Going to LA? For many Sox fans, that would have felt like a raw deal.
A Dodger career? "As close as you can humanly come," he says.
But now, Pierzynski is coming back to his second home. Chicago.
Where he belongs.
Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox sluggers Frank Thomas and Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.