CHICAGO (MCT) — I know it’s an exhibition game, that it doesn’t really matter — well, except for that home field-in-the-World Series thing, and come to think of it, that means it isn’t an exhibition, right? Whether it is or it isn’t, the point here is that ballplayers take their profession seriously and sometimes I could scream when I see how Major League Baseball cobbles together its All-Star teams.
This is one of those years, and what I want to scream is this: No A.J., no justice! No A.J., no justice! No A.J., no justice!
Honestly, I want to start a movement. That’s how strongly I feel about what Rangers manager Ron Washington just did to one of the toughest guys in the major leagues, one of the truest professionals, and in case you haven’t noticed — and maybe Washington hasn’t — one of the two best catchers in the AL.
You can argue the Orioles’ Matt Wieters is better than Pierzynski, and you can argue Pierzynski is better than Wieters. But you cannot argue that the Rangers’ Mike Napoli and, at this point, the Twins’ Joe Mauer are better than Wieters and Pierzynski.
Fans elected Napoli, based largely on the popularity he built for himself during a tremendous 2011 season in Texas. That’s fine. But with players and coaches electing the switch-hitting Wieters over Pierzynski, it should have been a no-brainer to put Pierzynski on the team instead of the fading wonder boy, Mauer.
“I don’t know if I’m disappointed,” said Pierzynski, who obviously is. “I’m not surprised. I know how it goes, how it works. I knew this was going to happen.
While Mauer has been hitting the ball well lately, he — like Napoli — is a part-time catcher who gets a lot of hits while serving as a first baseman or designated hitter, not getting dirty in the ways a catcher always has to get dirty. Pierzynski, on the other hand, never misses a mud puddle or a foul tip, and somehow he goes into the trainer’s room only when he needs to roust a young player who is getting too comfortable there.
Mauer over Pierzynski? Come on, Wash, really?
“I feel bad for Pierzynski,” Washington said Sunday. “The guy is having an outstanding year. He’s been working with a very good pitching staff for many years. I consider him a winning player, because he beats you any way he can. He beats you mentally. He beats you physically. I really feel bad for Pierzynski.”
Our guy A.J. is not naive. He knows the true meaning of such rhetoric.
“If (Washington) felt that bad he would have put me on the team,” Pierzynski told reporters in New York. “He had an opportunity to and he didn’t do it. Obviously, he can feel as bad as he wants, but he didn’t feel that bad.”
The one category Mauer tops Pierzynski in is batting average (.324-.285), but these days that average comes with no power. Pierzynski, with 14 home runs, is going to have a shot at 30 homers if he keeps swinging the bat the way he has been. Mauer has four home runs.
Wieters is the only AL catcher with more innings behind the plate than Pierzynski, who had caught 262 more innings than Mauer when the team was named. Not that Mauer is being missed.
Someone suggested to me last week that Francisco Liriano’s turnaround has to do with Drew Butera taking over as his catcher, not Mauer or Ryan Doumit. Mauer has thrown out only four of 30 runners attempting to steal this season — 13.3 percent. Pierzynski, who has labored around 20 percent in recent years with White Sox pitchers doing him no favors, is at 30.4 percent.
He’s just a better catcher than Mauer, period. And he should be an All-Star.
Don’t tell me Mauer is going because the Twins needed a rep. Teammate Josh Willingham was far more deserving. Like Pierzynski, Washington gave him a raw deal.
Washington mysteriously handed Adam Dunn a spot — and good for Dunn, I guess. He handled his nightmare 2011 season with grace and is on track to challenge Albert Belle’s White Sox record of 49 homers in a season.
But Dunn doesn’t feel that good about his season, because he’s hitting .213 and is on pace for 258 strikeouts. Jake Peavy (who is on the Final Vote ballot) has made a better all-around comeback, and would have been a better choice. Paul Konerko certainly deserved his spot.
As for the Cubs, I don’t know what was more surprising — Bryan LaHair going or the Cubs, with the worst record in the majors, getting two All-Stars.
Did you see that coming?
I thought the Cubs would get one pick, and that it would be the homer-hitting Alfonso Soriano, who might win the game with one swing. But in one of the all-time crazy twists, LaHair took advantage of Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder jumping to the AL to win the player vote to back up Joey Votto, the fans’ choice.
LaHair didn’t win the lottery. He earned it with his hitting in April and May — he tailed off in June — and his perseverance through nine seasons and 970 games in the minor leagues, including a 254-game finishing-school run with Iowa in 2010 and ‘11. Still, I’m stunned he got the call ahead of Adam LaRoche, who is the leading home run and RBI man (15, 49) for the first-place Nationals, who have been a sweetheart team.
LaHair and Castro were player picks. I didn’t think the Cubs would get any of those. The Castro pick — for the second year in a row — shows how highly he’s regarded by his peers. He may not be the second coming of Barry Larkin or Derek Jeter, but at 22 he’s a treasure.
Maybe this will get us off his back a little bit. It should.
As for Washington? He comes to U.S. Cellular Field on Tuesday. Don’t be afraid to let him know how you feel.