AJ Pierzynski, Catcher
Remember when you used to hate A.J. Pierzynski, who has long been known as one of the more universally hated players in Major League Baseball for years now? He's been known as one of those guys that you hate, unless he's on your team, and then sometimes you even hate him then.
Well, now he's with the Texas Rangers, and so far this year he's made Rangers fans change their tune on him in a hurry, as he's hitting .310 with four home runs and 10 RBIs on the young season and has called some great games behind the plate and handled the Rangers' young pitching staff extraordinarily well.
On Monday night, Pierzynski, almost on his own, led the Rangers to a come-from-behind win over their fiercest rivals to open a series in Anaheim when they came back from a 6-3 deficit after six innings to win the game 7-6 and win a series opener for the sixth straight time this year (out of seven series).
Pierzynski's bases-loaded single to the opposite field drove in a run in the seventh inning after he was in noticeable pain from fouling a ball of his leg earlier in the at-bat. Two innings later, Pierzynski inserted the dagger and took the wind out of the 15,000 or so-strong at the Big A when he sent an offering from Angels closer Ernesto Frieri over the right field wall to give the Rangers a 7-6 lead that Joe Nathan made stand in the bottom half of the ninth.
Pierzynski was soundly booed as he rounded the bases, as he is every night he plays in Anaheim. You see, he has a history with Angels fans going back to the 2005 ACLS when he was with the Chicago White Sox.
The White Sox beat the Angels in that series, and Pierzynski was Public Enemy No. 1 after he reached base after he took off for first on an apparent swing-and-miss. Chicago went on to beat the Angels and win the World Series. Video replay showed it was a sly move from the veteran and the rest is history.
Angels fans won't forget about it, and Pierzynski loves it.
"I ask people why they boo me here, and they don't even know," Pierzynski told ESPN Dallas. "They just do it because other people do it. It's cool. I actually enjoy it. I love playing here."
Ron Washington loves it too. And the player and manager seem to be building a solid relationship after Pierzynski publicly dissed Washington for leaving him off the All-Star team roster last season in the midst of a career year with the White Sox.
"That's what A.J. is all about," Washington said. "He's an exciting player. He gets excited about a lot of things. I love him. There's a lot of people that hate him, but I love him."
Rangers fans are likely starting to feel the same way.