The catcher who displaced A.J. Pierzynski as the Giants’ starter before the 2005 season is his manager in 2014.
Pierzynski, signed by the Cardinals on July 26, 2014, to help compensate for the loss of injured all-star Yadier Molina, was the Giants’ starting catcher in 2004. The Giants were interested in having him return for 2005. Instead, given a chance for a defensive upgrade that better fit their budget, the Giants signed free-agent Mike Matheny in December 2004 and dumped Pierzynski.
A decade later, Matheny, 43, is the Cardinals’ manager and Pierzynski, 37, joins Tony Cruz as the St. Louis catchers.
The Giants had paid a hefty price for Pierzynski, acquiring him from the Twins in November 2003 for pitchers Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser.
Pierzynski produced a career-best 77 RBI with 28 doubles, 11 home runs and a .272 batting average for the 2004 Giants. But he was criticized by teammates and booed by fans. He caught only 23 percent of runners attempting to steal (15 of 66) and was charged with nine passed balls.
Let’s make a deal
After the season, Pierzynski was eligible for arbitration. Because of his hitting, he appeared poised to be awarded a judgment of more than $5 million for 2005. The Giants, unwilling to pay that much for one season, wanted Pierzynski to consider instead a multiyear contract in the $9 million to $10 million range.
Pierzynski suggested a different financial figure; the Giants didn’t respond.
Instead, they turned to Matheny, who had earned three Gold Glove awards as the Cardinals’ starting catcher from 2000-2004. Matheny was a free agent. The Cardinals hoped he’d return to continue to mentor Molina in 2005, but were unwilling to offer Matheny more than $4 million for two years, according to the San Francisco Chronicle and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
When the Giants offered a three-year, $10 million deal, Matheny accepted.
The Giants intended then to trade Pierzynski, but the catcher’s agent, Steve Hilliard, requested that the club release Pierzynski, enabling him to become a free agent. Brian Sabean, the Giants’ general manager, obliged.
“The Matheny signing came as no surprise to A.J. and I,” Hilliard told the Chronicle. “We knew the Giants were exploring other options and re-signing A.J. was probably not the plan they were going to implement.”
Sabean thanked Pierzynski for his contributions under “difficult circumstances.”
“He’s certainly a guy who helped us,” Sabean said to the Chronicle, “but we’re in a better position in a lot of ways going with Matheny.”
Matheny established the major league record for consecutive errorless games by a catcher (252 games from August 2002 until August 2004). He caught 30 percent (16 of 54) of runners attempting to steal in 2004. He had just two passed balls.
”There’s no telling how many runs he’s going to save,” Sabean said to the San Jose Mercury News.
Said Matheny: ”As soon as the Giants hit the scene, we realized it could be a really special opportunity. There are a couple teams you want to play for and you’re not sure it will work out. In my case, it did.”
Several media reports cited Pierzynski’s personality as a factor in his departure.
_ Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle: “Pierzynski was a defensive liability and rubbed many in the organization the wrong way, even as pitchers grew to respect his game-calling ability.”
_ Jorge L. Ortiz of the Chronicle: “Pierzynski quickly fell into disfavor because of his chirpy personality and defensive deficiencies.”
_ John Shea of the Chronicle: “Pierzynski never seemed to fit in as a Giant … He slumped early and late and was criticized by multiple anonymous Giants pitchers in an Oakland Tribune report.”
_ Chris Haft of the Mercury News: “Though Giants management had publicly expressed interest in retaining Pierzynski … his difficulty in meshing with teammates did not endear him to the club.”
_ Laurence Miedema of the Mercury News: “Pierzynski was criticized by several unnamed (Giants) pitchers in April and was booed regularly at home.”
_ Bud Geracie of the Mercury News: ‘Sabean’s one-year rental of A.J. Pierzynski … ranks as his worst deal. A.J., we hardly knew ye. And we didn’t like ye.”
Matheny won his fourth Gold Glove Award with the 2005 Giants. Pierzynski signed with the 2005 White Sox and helped them to their first World Series championship in 88 years.