Sometimes, questionable decisions yield good outcomes: you hit on 17 and draw a four to beat the dealer’s 20, you flee barefoot into the woods and wind up the only one among the group of co-eds not hacked to death with an axe, you take a three-hour boat ride piloted by idiots who probably washed out of the Navy for rank incompetence and wind up stranded on an island with a gorgeous redhead and a gorgeous brunette. The strong performance the Phillies enjoyed from Juan Pierre in 2012 wasn’t quite at that level of unlikelihood, but there was also very little to suggest that Pierre would hit over .300, steal a large number of bases at better than an 80 percent success rate, and overall contribute more than any Phillies position player by Wins Over Replacement (WAR) other than Carlos Ruiz, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins.
Even so, the decision to ink Pierre to a minor-league deal in the first place was defensible, then and now: here was a guy whom someone in the game had valued (rightly or wrongly) as a $10 million player just a few short years earlier, available at less than a tenth of that cost. If you buy that each WAR is worth about $5 million, Pierre’s 1.9 WAR delivered about $9 million in value in 2012. This presumably doesn’t include whatever salutary example he set for the likes of Domonic Brown and other theoretically young position players on the Phillies. (Seriously, who would this be? Erik Kratz was 32, Kevin Frandsen 30. Hell, Darin Ruf was 26, and he didn’t show up until September.)
The worry is that the Phillies might learn the wrong lesson from their good experience with Pierre: the one about veteran deliciousness and positive mental attitude and hard noses, rather than the one about if you play enough lottery tickets, at least one is likely to hit. Hopefully the counter-examples of Ty Wigginton and Chad Qualls made as much of an impression; if so, it’s easy enough to bid Pierre a fond adieu, that debt to the Phillies he incurred while wearing Marlins teal back in 2003 now more or less paid off.
And now, the exit interview:
1. How did you let your teammates down this season?
I reject the premise of the question.
I reject the premise of the question. It invites a dumb-show of taking individual responsibility for a collective disappointmeng—in which I say I didn’t do enough to help us win, and then Wigginton says the same, and Dom Brown says the same, and even Chooch says the same, and we all know that it’s absolutely true for Wigginton and ridiculously untrue for Chooch. If I weren’t a solid Christian I’d probably call it an invitation to a circle jerk. As a solid Christian, I respectfully decline that invitation. Draw your own conclusions.
2. Fine, let's move on. How did you let your manager and GM down this season?
It’s kind of complicated. I think they were probably hoping I’d be a sort of Band-aid, keeping a corner outfield spot warm but not performing all that well, so that when some other awesome alternative showed up I could gracefully fade back to the bench. But I did actually hit pretty well, so I failed to make Dom Brown or Nate Schierholz look good by comparison. Oh, and they probably tried to trade me but couldn’t get that done.
3. You were a notorious Phillie-killer once upon a time with the Marlins. Was it strange going from that enemy role to suiting up for the Phils this season?
But you played for those teams.
Yes. Yes, I did. That’s my point. Having taken care of my Phillie-killing obligations so many years ago, I was free to perform well for them in 2012.
4. Tell me about "Beast Mode."
Oh. Well, it started one night in south Florida, I think in 2006, under a full moon. I was lying in a field feeling dissociated, and yada yada yada, next thing I knew I was transformed into a Pomeranian. It took me several years to figure out how to translate this into on-field performance, which I think—not to make excuses—somewhat explains my career struggles with the Dodgers and White Sox. You see, I was trying to hit for power—as if I’d transformed into a German shepherd. But I’m not that kind of dog, or player.
5. Would you like to be a Phillie in 2013?
It is difficult for me to furnish a simple yes-or-no answer to that question. What are the alternatives? Compared to, say, getting kicked in the head by horses for minimum wage, sure. But I just gave you guys excellent production for peanuts. I'd come back, sure, but for a lot more money, and frankly I'm not going to be worth it. On the other hand, that I'm such a thoughtful and professional guy as to admit this probably merits some kind of reward. So again, you tell me. Beast Mode out.