“All In.” This 2011 motto for the Chicago White Sox was meant to inspire hope for the upcoming season. It was the organization’s way of telling the fans that they were making aggressive moves to improve the team. However, it was no secret that this slogan also meant that for the White Sox to justify their record setting $127 million payroll, fans would actually need to attend games.
Sadly, south side fans are a fickle bunch and after a rocky opening, attendance took a significant hit. The slogan that was supposed to get fans to stand behind their team did exactly the opposite. The words “all in” haunted players and fans alike as the realization that the big money contract that lured Dunn to Chicago was looking like a poor investment.
Dunn’s dismal performance in the first couple months of the season did not silence the critics from calling out other members of the White Sox for not doing their part. Gordon Beckham, Alex Rios, and Juan Pierre also felt the burden of a poor 11-22 start for the club.
However, while Rios and Beckham continued to struggle, posting a .223 BA and a .232 BA respectively, Pierre hunkered down and ground his average back to a respectable .283, which stands as the eighth best average in all of baseball since June 26th.
Pierre’s “small ball” approach to the game has always made him a favorite of White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. His contributions may not be seen in the box score, but what he does for the team cannot be overlooked. It can be reasonably assumed that many White Sox fans would love to see Pierre return for the 2012 season.
However, the White Sox were “all in” this season and keeping Dunn and Rios for three more years means Juan Pierre won’t be around to see how this hand plays out.
Bringing up 27-year old Alejandro De Aza may have sealed Pierre’s fate. Out of the 46 games he has played this season, De Aza boasts a batting average of .326 with 21 RBIs and three triples.
When asked if De Aza would be returning next year in the leadoff spot, Guillen responded by saying, “He’s playing great, which is why he’s still playing.”
The fact of the matter is that it will be cheaper to retain the red-hot De Aza than to resign the veteran Pierre. This is one situation where a player will be out of a job simply because he is too talented.
Pierre possesses a lifetime .297 BA and has a reputation for being one of the most talented runners in baseball on the base paths. These credentials, among others, don’t come cheap. With $89 million already committed to players for next years and ticket sales showing no signs of improvement, the White Sox simply cannot afford to continue to enjoy his services.
The smart play for the White Sox is to look to their younger players for help. Promising hopefuls such as Tyler Flowers, Dayan Viciedo, and Alejandro De Aza are where the success of the 2012 White Sox hinders. It will be a shame to see Pierre go, but GM Kenny Williams needs to do what is best for the team even if that means correcting this year’s mistakes by saving money in 2012.
The Chicago White Sox know what they need to do. Unfortunately, keeping Juan Pierre is both a financial and a managerial mistake. After putting in two seasons for the White Sox, it is sure that he will be missed.