White Sox

Pierzynski to Texas: The end of one era, the start of another

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Pierzynski to Texas: The end of one era, the start of another

A.J. Pierzynski is off to Texas, per multiple reports, and it appears the book is closed on an eight-year run with the White Sox. When Opening Day rolls around next April, Paul Konerko will be the last remaining player from the 2005 World Series team still with the White Sox.

Pierzynski was a man without a team in the winter following the 2004 season, his lone year with San Francisco. His reputation wasn't good around baseball, despite hitting .293.335.438 in his ages 24-27 seasons. With some prodding from Hawk Harrelson, the White Sox took a chance and signed Pierzynski to a one-year, 2.25 million deal.

We kept going to Kenny, and Kenny was like 'I don't know, I've heard all these bad things, and I don't know, I've gotta talk to my people, Pierzynski told CSN Chicago's Chuck Garfien this summer. Finally, I guess Hawk got a hold of him, sat down and told him he'd take care of me, so Kenny finally consented and I've been here ever since.

Pierzynski stabilized the White Sox behind the plate, starting eight consecutive Opening Days -- the third-most in franchise history, behind only Sherm Lollar and Ray Schalk. He made the All-Star Game in 2006 (as part of the organization's "Punch AJ" campaign) and logged over 1,000 innings behind the plate in all eight of his seasons with the Sox.

His best year, though, came in 2012. Pierzynski hit a career-high 27 home runs (his previous high was 18, set in 2005), while his .827 OPS was similarly a career best.

Pierzynski's departure means the Tyler Flowers era is set to begin in 2013, as the White Sox will figure out what they have in the backstop who turns 27 in late January. Over 108 major-league games, Flowers has a .205.307.388 line with 12 home runs, and his defense has earned above-average reviews.

The White Sox had interest in bringing Pierzynski back, but only at a certain limit, as CSN White Sox Insider Dan Hayes previously reported. The organization, too, has expressed a faith in Flowers to succeed numerous times.

"I think that Tyler, based on the history that weve had with him, will be a quality everyday catcher in the big leagues," general manager Rick Hahn said at the outset of the offseason. "Its tough for a kid, especially a young kid, to sort of have sporadic playing time as he did this past year and continue that development. So that will be one of the things we have to talk about.

"But defensively he certainly can handle the position. I think hes going to get on base and hit for power. So he can be a valuable and viable everyday catcher in the big leagues."

White Sox 2005 Rewind: Small ball, Paul ball, over-the-wall ball

White Sox 2005 Rewind: Small ball, Paul ball, over-the-wall ball

If you were paying really close attention during Game 2 of the ALCS, you saw it.

One fan in the stands at U.S. Cellular Field was hoisting a sign that perfectly summed up how the White Sox scored their runs during a 99-win regular season and during a march to the World Series.

“Small ball, Paul ball, over-the-wall ball.”

Small ball was rebranded “Ozzie ball” by these White Sox, who reaped the rewards of Kenny Williams’ bold offseason trade. The general manager shipped away a productive slugger, Carlos Lee, for a speed demon on the base paths, Scott Podsednik. Lee was pretty darn good at swinging the stick. But the White Sox craved balance in their lineup, and with Podsednik’s base-stealing ability causing chaos at the top of the order, they got it and scored more runs in the first inning than any other during the 2005 season.

Paul ball, well that’s obvious. Paul Konerko was the team’s MVP in 2005. He smashed 40 homers for the second straight season and hit triple digits in RBIs for the third time in his career. He was particularly potent during the second half, helping to prevent a complete free fall out of first place with the Cleveland Indians charging in September.

And over-the-wall ball? Well, as balanced as the White Sox lineup was thanks to Podsednik’s arrival, the South Siders still hit a lot of home runs. Seven different hitters launched at least 15 dingers. Even Podsednik, who had zero of them during the regular season, got in on the power display in the playoffs, hitting one in the ALDS and a walk-off homer in the World Series.

Fast forward two nights from when that sign was lifted up on the South Side, and you saw the White Sox follow that script to a “T” in Southern California.

In the first 17.2 innings of the ALCS, the White Sox scored three measly runs. A tip of the cap to the Angels’ pitching staff, but this was not the same production from a lineup that mauled the Red Sox during the first round of the playoffs. Then A.J. Pierzynski swung, missed and ran to first base and the White Sox offense woke up. Over the course of the next five White Sox hitters to step to the plate — Joe Crede’s walk-off double to finish Game 2 and the first four batters of Game 3 — the White Sox scored four runs.

How’d they do it against John Lackey in Game 3? How do you think?

Podsednik did his thing at the top of the lineup and got on base with a leadoff hit. Then Tadahito Iguchi bunted him into scoring position ahead of Jermaine Dye’s RBI double. Paul Konerko followed with a solo homer slammed into the left-field seats — the beginning of a three-hit, three-RBI night for him — and the White Sox had a crooked number on the board. Just like that.

Small ball, Paul ball, over-the-wall ball.


Of course, this all leaves out the most important ingredient in the White Sox success that season and in this series, in particular: starting pitching. While the offense took a while to wake up in the ALCS, the pitching was on point from “go.” Jose Contreras threw 8.1 innings in Game 1. Mark Buehrle allowed just one run in nine innings in Game 2. And Jon Garland followed with the second of what would be four straight complete-game efforts by White Sox starters in this series.


Though there was more to come, with Freddy Garcia and Contreras going the distance in Games 4 and 5, through three games, White Sox starters had already turned in an impressive string of games, allowing just six runs in 26.1 innings for a 2.05 ERA.

But as good as the pitching was — and it was out-of-this-world good — the White Sox needed to get back to their run-scoring ways following the quiet offensive performances in Games 1 and 2. They did just that, and not until Game 4 of the World Series did they score fewer than five runs.

When it came to how they scored those runs moving forward, the sign didn’t lie.

Small ball? Podsednik wrecked havoc the very next night in Game 4 of the ALCS, reaching base four times (thrice via the walk), stole a pair of bases and scored two runs.

Paul ball? Konerko had more damage to do, with at least one hit in each of the next five playoff games, including an unforgettable grand slam in Game 2 of the World Series.

Over-the-wall ball? The White Sox hit three homers in the final two games of the ALCS, then six more in the World Series, including iconic shots from Konerko, Podsednik and Geoff Blum.

So there are a few hundred words on the subject. But did I really do any better with all those words than that fan did with eight?

“Small ball, Paul ball, over-the-wall ball.”

Keep reliving the White Sox march to the 2005 World Series with #SoxRewind, which features Game 4 of the ALCS, airing at 7 p.m. Friday on NBC Sports Chicago.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.

MLB, players deeply divided with clock ticking: 'It's ugly right now'

MLB, players deeply divided with clock ticking: 'It's ugly right now'

Where do things stand right now between Major League Baseball and the players union?

Let’s just say the owners are in New York and the players are in Los Angeles. Hopefully, they can meet somewhere in the middle — like Chicago — and we can have baseball in 2020.

But it's going to take a lot of work.

MLB's much-anticipated, first economic proposal presented to the players on Tuesday features a sliding scale of pay cuts where the players making the most money lose a greater percentage of their salaries, while those making less will have smaller cuts.  

The players' didn't like it one bit.

"The owners have a long way to go," one player said.

Fortunately, this isn’t the ninth inning of negotiations. There’s still time to make a deal.  

But with the clock ticking, there’s a big divide and harsh feelings that need to be addressed.

According to one agent, “I like to think I’m an optimist, but it’s ugly right now. While it’s a complicated situation, it comes down to money. The little hope I have is cooler and sensible heads [will] prevail.”

Will the two sides come to an agreement? If so, how and when?

That’s what I discussed with my NBC Sports Chicago colleagues Adam Hoge and Vinnie Duber on this Give Me Baseball edition of the White Sox Talk Podcast. 

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