CHICAGO -- A first-time inclusion on the Hall of Fame ballot holds special significance for A.J. Pierzynski, even if he doesn’t earn the 75% of the votes needed for election.
“Yeah, I know how hard it is to get into the Baseball Hall of Fame. It’s nearly impossible,” Pierzynski said recently. “Look at the guys who are in the Hall of Fame and the guys who aren’t in the Hall of Fame, which is pretty crazy some of the numbers guys have put up. Just to be considered for that is really an honor.
“Sometimes in my career, I think people talk about the wrong things. They don’t really look that I was a fairly decent player. So, I think that’s kind of cool to get a little bit of recognition for just the playing career and not some of the other stuff that kind of went along for my career.”
Pierzynski played with an attitude, an edge over the course of 19 seasons, eight of them with the White Sox and six with the Twins. It was rooted in a desire to win. And make no mistake, Pierzynski won frequently.
In the 2005 season, Pierzynski’s first in Chicago, he helped the White Sox capture their first World Series title in 88 years with 128 games played and 1,117 2/3 innings caught behind the plate. Pierzynski had a .292/.367/.500 slash line over 32 career playoff games. In 121 postseason plate appearances, he had five home runs, five doubles, 16 runs scored and 18 RBIs.
His regular-season numbers also were impressive. Pierzynski had a final slash line of .280/.319/.420 with 188 homers, 909 RBIs, 807 runs scored and 2,043 hits. It didn’t bother Pierzynski to be known for that specific persona, as it defined how he had to play the game to be ready every day. But he also wished there were other things to talk about.
“Some of it was kind of I don’t want to say misconstrued or not true,” Pierzynski said. “But sometimes we all have our roles in life and on teams, and I accepted that part of it and dealt with it and dealt with it because I could deal with it better than most people could.
“Playing for Ozzie [Guillen], Ozzie knew he could always blame me in the newspaper no matter what and I would be OK with it, whereas there are other people who I played with he said something about them, they would have to sit out for three or four days. I was always motivated by people telling me I couldn’t do something, or I wasn’t good at something. It always motivated me more.
“At the end of the day there were times where I was like ‘You think that’s what I am? Well now I’m going to go show you.’ I wish I could change some things looking back now, being out five years, but at the same time I don’t wish I could change some things. It’s kind of a double-edged sword. You are like, ‘I wish I could have been thought of as Sean Casey or Jim Thome,’ but at the end of the day that’s not all our roles.”
The 1,936 games caught by Pierzynski rank ninth overall in that category. His 16,335 1/3 innings are seventh, with Hall of Famers Ivan Rodriguez, Carlton Fisk and Gary Carter, as well as potential Hall of Famer Yadier Molina sitting above him. Pierzynsky had 12 straight seasons (2002-13) above 1,000 innings caught,
These numbers might not lead Pierzynski to Cooperstown. They certainly point up his ability as a player, recognized with his ballot inclusion.
The 2022 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will take place on July 24 in Cooperstown. This year’s ballot was released by the BBWAA on Nov. 22, and voters had until Dec. 31 to submit their ballots. Election results will be announced live on MLB Network on Jan. 25.
“They send you a sample ballot to keep and show. The HOF does a great job,” Pierzynski said. “One day I’ll show my grandkids, ‘Hey, look, I was decent at baseball.’
“It’s a tremendous honor to even be on the ballot. I have clearly no misconception. I’m a realist. I know kind of where it is. But it’s cool.”