CHICAGO – It takes Juan Pierre but a split second to analyze his season and sigh.
He has a .270 batting average, a team-leading 172 hits and the most stolen bases in baseball with 63. He is trying to become the first White Sox player to lead the league in steals since Luis Aparicio in 1961.
“Stolen-base wise, I did decent, but offensively, I haven’t had the season I wanted to, with the consistency,” Pierre said. “I haven’t done it consistently. I’m going to fight to the end and try to finish strong and take it into my work in the offseason.”
It takes manager Ozzie Guillen but a split second to analyze Pierre’s season and the first word out of his mouth is, “Awesome.”
Why such differing opinions?
For Pierre it’s all about the black and white of production. He might not know exactly that he had a .193 batting average in April, but he knows it wasn’t good. He knows he was part of a big group of underachieving White Sox players that doomed the club with a slow start.
For Guillen, it isn’t as simple. Sure there were the early struggles and then success like Pierre’s .286 batting average in May, his .300 mark in July and his .354 run in August. And there was also the solid defense in left field, despite a below-average throwing arm. Then there are the intangibles.
“He’s showing a lot of people how to play the game,” Guillen said. “I don’t see him hitting a ground ball and walking to first base or dogging it halfway through it. He plays the game right. Maybe because he didn’t have that much talent when he grew up and [this is] the way he learned how to play.”
Guillen said that if just 40 percent of the players in baseball played the way Pierre did, the game would be better for it.
“I wish this kid [Jared Mitchell] wouldn’t have gotten hurt in spring training,” Guillen said. “He would be here with us right now, just to see [Pierre]. I told them to send Juan Pierre tapes to this kid.”
Pierre is under contract for one more season and then perhaps Mitchell or somebody else will take over at the top of the order. But as far as Guillen is concerned, Pierre has handled the spot just as he had hoped.
“He never gives up at-bats, he always shows up to play, he’s always positive,” Guillen said. “It’s a shame we [don’t] have more players like him, not just White Sox, but baseball period like Juan Pierre.”
So what if that lead-by-example style won’t exactly translate into being a manager one day.
“He’d never be a manager; he never likes to talk,” Guillen said. “To be a leader, you have to talk. You see a lot of crazy leaders, all kind of leaders out there. A leader has to talk. If he can’t talk, he can’t be a leader. That’s why I’m a leader.”
So what can Pierre be when his playing days are done?
“I wish he’d be a coach,” Guillen said. “He’s a very smart man. … He plays the game right. He criticizes his teammates the right way.”
Guillen knows, though, that it doesn’t seem likely that he will have Pierre on his staff one day.
“He’s got like $100 million in the bank,” Guillen said. “Why you want to coach? Stay home, relax and spend your money somewhere. Don’t put yourself in that position.”
Maybe the game ends up having too much of a handle on Pierre for him to just walk away, although it’s probably not a decision he will have to make anytime soon. At 33 and in his 11th major-league season, Pierre isn’t a young man anymore. But he continues to run hard this late in the season even though the White Sox aren’t in contention.
It goes back to what Guillen talked about of Pierre being a guy that is always prepared and always works hard. It’s the only way Pierre knows.
“You never want to go into the offseason with too much of a sour taste,” Pierre said. “It’s going to be sour because we are going to be watching others in October. We can end on a good note and carry it over to spring training and get ready for next year.”
By the numbers
8: Years since Freddy Garcia last lost to the Red Sox. After defeating Boston on Wednesday during his last start of the season, Garcia is now 8-2 with a 4.40 ERA lifetime against the Red Sox and 2-0 with a 4.68 ERA in four career starts at U.S. Cellular Field. Garcia’s last loss to Boston was May 19, 2002, when he gave up three earned runs in eight innings at Fenway Park.
“I’m really happy with the way I pitched tonight. We got second place, at least. I finished strong and I showed them and everybody else I can still pitch. I missed two starts but I battled. I’ve always been that way. I do my job.” – Garcia, who finished the season 12-6 with a 4.64 ERA and helped the White Sox clinch second place in the AL Central.
White Sox left-hander John Danks (14-11, 3.74) will make his final start of the season Thursday, looking for his first career victory over the Red Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. Danks will be opposed by Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester (19-8, 2.96), who is trying to become Boston’s first 20-game winner since Josh Beckett(20-7) in 2007.