When it became clear that Corey Patterson was no longer welcome with the Cubs, they were in need of a superstar center fielder. When they couldn’t find one, they settled on Juan Pierre. Pierre brought his undeserved reputation for being a good base stealer, his complete lack of power, his rag arm, and his idiotic McDonald’s commercial with him. You know who clearly doesn’t know a damn thing about baseball? Jay-Z. Juan Pierre is without a doubt the worst player to ever obtain “superstar” status.
On December 7, 2005, the Cubs traded Sergio Mitre, Ricky Nolasco, and Renyel Pinto to the Florida Marlins for Pierre in a move which was long rumored to be in the works. The rumors gave Cubs fans plenty of time to get angry about the trade.
Pierre was excited to patrol in front of the ivory at Wrigley Field. Yes, ivory. Prior to the 2003 NLCS, Pierre said that the only thing he was nervous about was crashing into the “ivory” on the walls of Wrigley Field. If by “ivory” Pierre meant “my fist,” and by “crashing” he meant “getting punched repeatedly by,” then his worries were justifiable. If you recall, that 2003 NLCS was the same NLCS during which Pierre was a complete nightmare for Cubs pitching. Imagine my surprise that it didn’t translate once he put on the blue pinstripes.
Let me run you through about 90% of Pierre’s Cub at-bats. On the first pitch, Pierre fakes like he’s going to bunt. Called strike one. Here’s a question. Why? Why in the hell is Pierre faking a bunt on the first pitch of every at-bat? I’m pretty sure that opposing teams already have the scouting report on Pierre. It reads:
Good speed. Absolutely no chance of hitting the ball out of the
ballparkinfield. Sprays balls to all infielders. Defensively, should consider using short-centerfielder with two outfielders. Likes to bunt for 200 meaningless singles each year. Used to have a ridiculous mustache. Wears baseball cap under batting helmet like he’s still in f@#$ing tee ball. Looks like he’s in f@#$ing tee ball. Hits like he’s in f@#$ing tee ball. Pitch him like he’s in f@#$ing tee ball. Seriously. Go ahead. Walk the ball up to him, set it on a tee, and watch him “square up” a three-hopper to the first baseman.
Seriously, what was the point of Pierre faking a bunt on the first pitch? Everyone knew the only chance he had of reaching first base safely was to bunt. Pierre showing bunt was about as surprising as Lindsay Lohan admitting that she has an eating disorder and boob job. No. F@#$ing. Shit.
The second pitch of a typical Pierre at bat is usually fouled straight back to the screen. Generally, that was the best contact you were going to see during the at-bat. With Pierre, you took what you could get. “Holy shit! Pierre hit a line drive!” you might say. “So what if it was going in the exact opposite direction that we need it to go? It was a screamer!”
On the third pitch, Pierre swings with all his might and hits a seven-hopper to the second baseman. Most of the excitement of watching Pierre play comes in the moment between the time he makes contact, and the time he is thrown out at first base by half a step. Pierre is so astonishingly weak, that opposing second basemen have to charge his grounders at full speed. So every routine 4-3 putout makes idiot fans like me rise to our feet in the hopes that Pierre will beat out the throw to first. Pierre is that perfect combination of speed and limp-dick hitting which makes him all but guaranteed to be thrown out by just a split second on every single groundout. Exciting, I guess, but also a complete waste of 1/3 of an inning each time Pierre steps to the plate.
Pierre has a reputation for not striking out often. What’s his secret? He swings early, and he swings often. Pierre has no idea how to wait for a hitter’s pitch, which is fine since he wouldn’t know what to do with it, anyhow, what with him not being an actual hitter.
Since Pierre refuses to take pitches, he also rarely walks, and he doesn’t see many pitches per at-bat. Basically, he pretty much blows as a leadoff hitter. Yet somehow he was Jim Hendry’s 2006 answer to the leadoff question. Good God. Perhaps if Pierre had spent his pregame routine standing in the batter’s box watching pitches and identifying balls and strikes instead of rolling his balls down the foul lines, he might have been a more useful player.
I’d like to take this opportunity to set the record straight about Pierre’s abilities as a base stealer. Pierre sucks at stealing bases. He’s terrible at it. The guy is fast, no doubt. But he doesn’t get good jumps, he doesn’t read pitchers well, and he never surprises anyone when he chooses to run. That’s why in his career Pierre has only been successful in 73% of his steal attempts. In comparison, legitimate base stealer Rickey Henderson stole successfully 81% of the time. What? It’s not fair to compare the eventual Hall of Famer to Pierre? Okay. Then former center fielder Corey Patterson also stole bases at an 81% rate. Sure, he didn’t steal as many bases as Pierre, but he gave away an out less than one out of every five times he was on base. Pierre gave one away greater than one out of every four times.
Screw you, Pierre, for making me defend Corey Patterson.
Pierre was equally impotent in the field. Sorry, Juan. Every time he threw home, I expected Michael Barrett to start doing a jig next to an enormous pot of gold. Pierre’s arm is so outstandingly bad, even the completely disinterested Los Angeles sports media realizes. You have to be all kinds of awful for a sportswriter in California to acknowledge it. Christ, Dusty Baker didn’t even draw that much ire in his time in San Francisco.
Pierre was let go after the 2006 season to make room for new center fielder Alfonso Soriano/Felix Pie/Matt Murton/Jacque Jones/Angel Pagan. One of the guys the Cubs gave up for one worthless year of Pierre, meanwhile, has gone 2-2 with a 1.89 ERA and a 1.112 WHIP. That’s right. Sergio Mitre is pitching great this year.
Screw you, Larry Rothschild.
Low Point: Everyone’s favorite leadoff hitter only drew two walks in the entire month of September, 2006, and both of those came in the same game. Pierre went twenty-five games at the end of the season (nearly all of September into October) without drawing a single walk. To illustrate how bad that is, Pierre actually had one more home run during that time than he did walks.
Did You Know? In case you’ve been waiting this whole time to come with a “but he had 200 hits” argument, think again. Pierre’s 204 hits in 2006 were the most hollow 204 hits in Major League history. Pierre is only the second player ever to record more than 200 hits in a season without batting .300 (Pierre hit .292). Buddy Bell did it in 1979. The only difference is that Bell just barely got the hits (exactly 200) and just barely missed the average (he hit .299). Oh, and Bell hit 18 homers, drove in 101 RBIs, and slugged .451, as opposed to Pierre’s 3 homers, 40 RBIs, and .388 SLG.