The last great Juan Pierre game


The Detroit Tigers are reportedly interested in Juan Pierre.  Heh.

With the exception of 2009, when he got some really good luck on balls in play (.331 BABIP), Juan Pierre has been the same guy for some time now; someone who can get on-base at an average rate, play good defense, and steal bases.  Nothing else.

Then last year Juan Pierre got suddenly worse at playing defense and stealing bases.  So, it’s only fitting that the reason the Tigers are interested doesn’t make any sense.


"Tigers considering Johnny Damon & Juan Pierre with thinking of adding table setters and letting Boesch and Young make up for VMarts RBI’s3 hours ago via web"

Jim Bowden is also a guy who tried to push OPS + RBI as an actual thing, so it’s no surprise that he’s pushing ideas like two players replacing the production of a single player as being adequate, expressing Victor Martinez’s worth in terms of RBI, and espousing ideas like Juan Pierre being a “table setter”, because the labels “productive hitter” and “unproductive hitter” just weren’t suitable.  The Tigers have Austin Jackson, so they shouldn’t need Pierre.

But I come not to bury Juan Pierre.  It’s January 22nd and he doesn’t have a contract.  Thanks to Ned Colletti, Pierre never has to worry about money again, but it would still be more appropriate to remember a better time.

When a Twitter discussion around Juan Pierre averaging around a homer a year broke out, it occurred to me that Pierre actually hit two dingers last season, and the second was off of Ubaldo Jimenez.

That’s right, Juan Pierre hit a home run off of Ubaldo Jimenez. (notice Brent Lillibridge’s goofy celebration in the dugout.  We live in world where Brent Lillibridge views the power displays of others as amusingly quaint)

Juan Pierre–Juan Pierre–hit a home run off a guy who made his name from being able to sling fastballs at 99 mph, and he pulled it to right field.

Now, admittedly, it was 2010 Jimenez who earned that reputation, not the ghostly spectre of August of 2011 who looked like he was flinging pitches to the plate with a wet towel.  Ubaldo threw a 92 mph two-seamer that drifted into what could be termed as “the most optimal hitting location for a left-handed batter ever“, and Pierre turned and burned on it.  It looks more impressive on video, by which I mean that watching it from the left field bleachers, I saw it more as a looper that never landed.

But this was just an individual jewel from a game that never ended.  A 14-inning absurdathon that ended the next day, brought the White Sox back over .500 and dropped the Indians 1 1/2 games behind them.  It also brought the Sox within 3 1/2 games of the Tigers.  They would never draw closer.

The post title is centered around Pierre, and rightly so, he had three hits and did something else big that I haven’t mentioned yet.  But Paul Konerko had four hits, and so did Brent Morel, and that’s Brent Morel when he was still trying to slap grounders through the infield every time up, not the power-hitting September version.  In total, the White Sox had 22 hits that night, while reaching base 25 times total, including two intentional walks.  22 hits, one unintentional walk.  Yes, Ozzie Guillen was managing this team.

5 of those hits were triples.   In a single game the White Sox hit 5 triples, and still had to battle 14 innings with the Cleveland Indians for an 8-7 win.  Partially because only two of those triples actually scored, and mostly because they stranded 16 runners.  16!

That’s a shame, because really this game should have gone down as “The 5 Triple game”, or “‘Kosuke Fukudome is Not a Center Fielder’ Game”, or the “‘Shin Soo-Choo is Still Sleeping This One Off’ Game”.

Any team considering adding Fukudome as a fourth outfielder will have to reconcile themselves with the images of his fielding on Alexei Ramirez’s triple, or his route and footspeed on Alex Rios’ triple.  Or they won’t, because Shin Soo-Choo is going to find the master file for this clip and burn it.

The first De Aza triple, and the Flowers triple both came with two outs, so it’s hard to get too worked up about those guys being stranded.  The Alex Rios triple–well, first, it was an Alex Rios triple, and should have been treated like an endangered species–but it came with no outs in the bottom of the 11th.  The White Sox had three chances to score Rios to win the game.  First, Alexei Ramirez grounded out hard to 3rd base; pretty much the worst place on the field he could have placed it.  Next, Brent Lillibridge was intentionally walked.

We live in a world where Brent Lillibridge is intentionally walked in crucial situations.

To end it all, Tyler Flowers lined out to Jack Hanrahan at 3rd, who doubled off Lillibridge drifting off 1st to end the innning.  We live in a world where Brent Lillibridge is forgiven for baserunning gaffes due to his power-hitting.

The Indians had their chances too.  In the top of the 13th, facing Jesse Crain in his second inning of work, the Indians got back-to-back one-out walks.  Matt LaPorta was forced to hold at 3rd base on a Michael Brantley single, but that still left the bases juiced with one out for Shin-Soo Choo.

Crain’s a good pitcher and Choo was in the middle of a year from hell, but I have to believe that few remaining fans behind home plate conspiring to chant “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH-CHOOOOOOOOO!!!!” with every pitch led to Crain picking up the strikeout.

As fate would have it, Juan Pierre strode up to the plate in the bottom of 13th with the chance to win the game–because Gordon Beckham had hit a double–against the just-brought-in and usually-a-starter and what-am-I-doing-here David Huff.  David Huff threw Pierre a changeup just off the outside corner, which is the perfect speed and location for Juan to slap it out to left in front of Michael Brantley and send them all home.

One more sorta-excited celebration in front of a sparse crowd for Juan.

Now that he’s gone, and all the furor about his playing time and attempts at base-stealing has died down, it’s hard not to smile at footage of Juan goofily clapping to himself after his home run, or skipping around after his walk-off.  It’s easy for the kind and glowing words to flow when reflecting on his maximum-effort style of play and endearing attitude.  Now that’s he’s gone, that is.

Follow James Fegan on Twitter @ JRFegan.  Also check out his full-time, daily blog, White Sox Observer