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A.J. Pierzynski's top moments with the White Sox

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A.J. Pierzynski's top moments with the White Sox

With A.J. Pierzynski heading to Texas, CSN Chicago stats guru Chris Kamka put together his personal top nine moments from his eight years on the South Side.

Sept. 20, 2005: Pierzynski stomps Aaron Boone

With the Sox lead down to 2 12 games in the Central race, there was an air of urgency at U.S. Cellular Field. Cleveland was up 5-3 entering the bottom of the 7th, but Pierzynski had something to say about that.

First Pierzynski doubled home Carl Everett. Next he made his way to third as Paul Konerko scored on an Aaron Rowand sac fly. But an errant throw from first baseman Jose Hernandez sent third baseman Aaron Boone diving to the dirt and Pierzynski stomped him as he lie in his path before scoring the go-ahead run.

A shot of the stomp showed A.J. with his eyes fixed on his victim. Hawk Harrelson chuckled. So did I.

Oct. 4, 2005: A pair of homers in postseason opener

The White Sox dominated in the 2005 regular season, but they also dominated in 2000. So the 2000 ALDS disappointment against the Mariners was fresh in my mind. And they drew the defending champion Red Sox. And then Game 1 of the 2005 ALDS happened.

BoSox starter Matt Clement was lit up to the tune of 8 earned runs in 3 13 IP, and Pierzynski clouted two homers and knocked in four. It was the second multi-HR game in franchise postseason history (after Ted Kluszewski in Game 1 of the 1959 World Series) and Chicago's Sox won in a 14-2 laugher.

Oct. 12, 2005: Pierzynski steals first base

Run first, ask questions later. A.J. did. Angels catcher Josh Paul thought the Sox receiver was the victim of an inning-ending strikeout against Kelvim Escobar, and technically he was. But Pierzynski ran to first and home-plate umpire Doug Eddings ruled that Paul didn't catch it cleanly. Pablo Ozuna entered as a pinch runner and scored on a Joe Crede walk-off double.

Instead of heading into extra innings, facing perhaps an 0-2 hole in the ALCS, they evened the series and won the next three games. And Angels fans haven't forgotten. Unfortunately, they'll be seeing more of Pierzynski than ever in 2013.

May 20, 2006: The punch

After Jermaine Dye grounded out to start the bottom of the second, Cubs starter Rich Hill walked Pierzynski, Crede and Juan Uribe consecutively. When Pierzynski scored on a Brian Anderson sacrifice fly, he emphatically slapped home plate after barreling over Cubs receiver Michael Barrett.

Of course, then Barrett clocked A.J. in the face and the next thing you know, Brian Anderson was throwing down with John Mabry. This eventually led to the White Sox' clever "Punch A.J." campaign for a 2006 All-Star roster spot (which he won).

The dropped third strike and the punch were arguably Pierzynski's two signature games. He went a combined 0-3 with 2 strikeouts, 2 walks and a run in those two games combined.

May 21, 2006: Pierzynski Shows up Big Z

The day after "The Punch," the Sox (wearing 1906 throwbacks) & Cubs met again at US Cellular Field. In the fourth inning, Pierzynski took Cubs ace Carlos Zambrano deep to tie the game at two. After crossing home plate, Pierzynski, ever the instigator, pointed skyward, just like Zambrano does after an inning-ending out. Big Z had to be restrained, and the crowd was abuzz. However, Zambrano & the Cubs emerged 7-4 victors after a bullpen letdown.

July 1, 2006: Redemption at Wrigley

A third SoxCubs moment from 2006. The rivalry was as heated as ever mainly from the intense May series, despite a miserable season on the Northside (while the White Sox were on their way to a second consecutive 90 win season). The Sox trailed 6-5 entering the 9th inning, and Cubs closer Ryan Dempster came in to try to nail down the save.

Dempster got two quick outs on a Scott Podsednik flyout and a Tadahito Iguchi groundout, but Ross Gload singled and Dye walked to set the stage. Pierzynski crushed a 1-1 pitch to right to give the Southsiders an 8-6 lead, which Bobby Jenks preserved with a 1-2-3 ninth.

Related: Flowers ready to earn his role

Aug. 24, 2008: Quick thinking on the basepaths

In the bottom of the 10th inning against the Rays, Pierzynski singled and advanced to second on a Carlos Quentin flyout. When Dye hit into a fielder's choice to shortstop Jason Bartlett, Pierzynski was caught in a rundown and appeared to be in trouble. When it seemed the Sox were destined to blow a good scoring chance, he initiated contact with third baseman Willy Aybar after Aybar made a throw back to second.

Umpire Doug Eddings (him again) ruled obstruction and awarded Pierzynski third base, which created a first and third situation. After a Jim Thome intentional walk to load the bases, Alexei Ramirez singled Pierzynski home with the winning run.

July 4, 2011: The balk-off

Pierzynski came on to pinch hit in the 9th following a blown save by Sergio Santos. A single, a sacrifice, and a wild offering by Aaron Crow put Pierzynski on third with one out. Mark Teahen went down on strikes for the second out which left it up to Adam Dunn (whose homer gave the Sox a 4-3 lead in the 8th). Or did it?

On a 1-0 count, home plate umpire Ed Rapuano signaled Pierzynski home. Who else would score on a game-ending balk? Cue the fireworks.

March 23, 2012: Spring speed

Yeah, it was Cactus League action, but who could forget Pierzynski's inside-the-park blast off Diamondbacks reliever Brett Lorin. The ball hit slightly to the left of the 410 mark in center and ended up about 10-20 feet from the right field line. Hawk and Steve Stone called for an oxygen mask.

Honorable Mention: August 3, 2012

Pierzynski shoved a pie in our former colleague Sarah Kustok's face on her last day at CSN (during a postgame interview with Alex Rios).

Why would the White Sox make a trade for Nomar Mazara?

Why would the White Sox make a trade for Nomar Mazara?

SAN DIEGO — After a deathly silent first day of the Winter Meetings, the White Sox finally created a little buzz on Day 2. A little.

Not any buzz that they’ll admit to, of course, Rick Hahn spending a second straight media session with nothing to announce, talking about how he’s unable to handicap whether the White Sox will make a move this week in Southern California.

But the buzz hit the internet shortly before Hahn spoke Tuesday afternoon, a rumor that the South Siders were once again trying to acquire right fielder Nomar Mazara from the Texas Rangers.

It’s not the first time we’ve heard the White Sox linked to the 24-year-old. They were supposedly interested at the trade deadline in July. And just like they’ve reportedly started trade talks with the Los Angeles Dodgers in another effort to bring Joc Pederson to the South Side, they’ve similarly circled back to the Rangers and Mazara.

“He's obviously a powerful man, 6-4, I think, 6-5. He looks like he's seven-foot every time I see him in the box,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said, asked about Mazara during his media session Tuesday. “Runs extremely well for a big guy. Can defend. Good arm. Brings a lot of qualities to the plate. Can pop one in the seats as quickly as anybody. I think he's done it against us a number of times, but he can play right field well.”

Indeed he can “pop one in the seats,” as Renteria well knows. Mazara hit three homers in two days off Reynaldo Lopez and Odrisamer Despaigne back in June, including one that traveled 505 feet.

Fan reaction was not kind to the idea of the White Sox getting Mazara to plug their hole in right field, a likely result of expectations that the team would be in on the biggest available names this winter, such as free-agent outfielders Nicholas Castellanos and Marcell Ozuna. Pederson, after a career year in which he blasted 36 home runs, would probably sate an appetite for a big splash.

Instead, we’re talking about Mazara. And fans are trying to figure out why.

No, he’s not splashy. In four big league seasons, he’s got a .261/.320/.435 slash line, 79 home runs and 308 RBIs. Playing in just 116 games in 2019, he hit .268/.318/.469 with 19 homers — breaking a streak of exactly 20 long balls in each of his first three seasons — and 66 RBIs. Those aren’t elite numbers.

With a supposedly aggressive approach and money to spend, why is Mazara the target instead of someone like Castellanos? That’s a good question, and one with some potential answers, however unsatisfying to the critics they might be.

Left-handed bat

The right-field vacancy has been, throughout the offseason, the team’s best opportunity to add some left-handed hitting to an overly right-handed lineup. While Hahn has said numerous times, Tuesday included, that the White Sox aren’t going to let handedness be the be all, end all in their search for new hitters, he’s also said that in an ideal world, he’d be able to add some left-handed balance to the lineup.

He did that when he signed Yasmani Grandal to the richest contract in club history. Grandal’s a switch-hitter, giving the White Sox a pair of those, Grandal joining Yoan Moncada. But the remainder of the lineup, both current and projected, is right-handed: Jose Abreu, Nick Madrigal, Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert. That leaves two spots, right field and DH, as the only opportunities to find more balance. The White Sox might move forward with a rotation at DH including Grandal, Abreu, James McCann (a righty) and Zack Collins (a lefty), leaving right field as the only spot, perhaps, to add a left-handed bat of some significance.

“It’s an ideal. There’s certain fits that exist within the trade market. There’s certain fits that exist within the free-agent market still,” Hahn said. “We are not going to sell out to handedness. If we can find a premium right-handed bat that fits that makes more sense than a left-handed option, that’s the route we will go.”

Lesser of the defensive evils?

Hahn has also said that, ideally, whichever player the White Sox add to fill the hole in right would be a good defender. That one’s perfectly easy to understand. While the White Sox have no intention to move Eloy Jimenez out of left field, believing he showed some big-time improvement as his rookie season went along, he’s still a work in progress out there. Some have jumped to the conclusion that he’s already best suited for DH. I’d suggest waiting a little longer than just one injury-interrupted rookie season before declaring him unserviceable in left. Luis Robert, another rebuilding cornerstone, earns rave reviews for his defensive work in center, but he’ll be getting his first taste of the big leagues in 2020.

Well, Mazara isn’t exactly a Gold Glover in the making, it seems. He had minus-four Defensive Runs Saved last season, not a good number. But other options are worse.

Castellanos has a poor defensive reputation, one backed up by the numbers: He had minus-nine DRS in 2019. Seemingly no one at the Winter Meetings has a good thing to say about Ozuna’s defense, either, and he exclusively played left field during his two seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals. Adding either to the outfield mix on the South Side would create unwanted defensive headaches. Could their offensive profiles, particularly that of Castellanos, overcome those defensive reps? Absolutely, but also at a high price point.

Mazara has a reputation as a (perhaps only slightly) better defender and certainly as an athletic player. And the White Sox wouldn’t have to give him tens of millions of dollars to put up such woeful defensive numbers.

“We like, generally, to have athletic players who are capable of contributing beyond just one dimension of their game,” Hahn said. “For example, not just being able to beat you with the bat, but perhaps with their legs and perhaps with their defense. That's the ideal.

“That isn't always the case. There are certain positions where that's a little less the case, and you make due with it and so be it because of how special they may be in another area of contribution.

“Eventually at some point we're going to see Luis Robert running around center field. Certainly with surrounding him with guys that are similarly athletic -- perhaps not on par with that, because he's a bit of a freak -- has some appeal. It's not essential, but yeah, ideally, that would look nice.”

Diamond in the rough?

The White Sox say they’re moving into the next phase of their rebuilding project, and that would seemingly be a phase in which they don’t have to go digging for buried diamonds that might turn their careers around in a new setting. But that’s what Mazara could be.

And Hahn said he likes the idea of adding that kind of player.

“That's where you really can make your hay,” Hahn said. “That's where, if you can find something that's undervalued and you can get it better and you have tangible reasons for believing you can get this guy better, that's a real opportunity.”

Maybe eyes are rolling because Hahn wasn’t similarly glowing about the opportunity to break the bank on someone at the top of the free-agent market, but that’s not a bad desire. Every team wants to find buy-low gems that could blossom into key contributors. Heck, the Cubs made one a centerpiece of their rebuilding project with a 2013 trade that brought Jake Arrieta to the North Side.

That’s hardly suggesting that the White Sox would get the steal of the century in a deal for Mazara. But there’s a reason he was such a highly touted prospect once upon a time. He’s still just 24 years old, and perhaps that old change-of-scenery chestnut actually makes some sense. The Rangers might be willing to sell low due to their projected outfield alignment or due to tiring of waiting for Mazara to live up the hype. And the White Sox could at least take advantage.

———

Are there reasons to be skeptical? Of course. Mazara’s offensive numbers have not been overly impressive. His defense is not what one would call “great.”

But he does address some needs, and perhaps most importantly, he’d be a big upgrade.

Mazara would not be a big-splash type of acquisition, but he’s way better than what the White Sox have in right field at the moment, which is nothing. They do not have an everyday right fielder, and we saw in 2019 how unproductive a parade of ineffective options can be.

Mazara had a .786 OPS in 2019. White Sox right fielders had a .565 OPS.

“Nowhere to go but up” is not a reasoning that fires up a fan base. But it’s also true for the White Sox when it comes their right-field situation.

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White Sox Talk Podcast: Yasmani Grandal is all-in

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NBC Sports Chicago

White Sox Talk Podcast: Yasmani Grandal is all-in

Chuck Garfien speaks with Yasmani Grandal at the Winter Meetings.

The new White Sox catcher talks about why he connects with his former bench coach Rick Renteria (04:22), why he wants to manage one day in the big leagues (05:20), the White Sox fan who told him at Wrigley Field he would sign with the White Sox this offseason (05:47), his burning desire to win (08:00) and much more.

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

White Sox Talk Podcast

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