Everybody knows that guy. Not that guy in the picture; well, not really, but that guy. That guy who goes to the gym all week just so he can rip his shirt off at the college bar right around last call. (and have it work for its intended purpose) That guy who still goes to the college bar when he's closer to 30 than 20. That guy who talks about his fantasy teams despite the fact that you aren't in his league and were actually talking about anything but that. No one cares. You drafted Dwayne Bowe, so you deal with that mistake and do it quietly.
There is obviously a lot more to it than that, but you get the idea. That guy sucks, and to make matters worse, he is everywhere! In your office, on your TV, in your movies and probably in your own family. Not that it's any big revelation, but you can probably rattle off a dozen or so athletes that fall into this category without even thinking about it. Right near the top of that list you would probably hear A.J. Pierzynski's name. Now his name is heard in various discussions about the Yankees catching situation for the immediate future.
If you follow baseball even a little bit, you know all about Pierzynski's reputation. He's loud, he's a dick, he was the key piece in what was, at the time, a godawful trade, his own teammates have said they would run his ass over at the plate if they played against him and occasionally does stupid stuff with his hair. All serious character issues in their own right. Plus he was on the receiving end of one of a serious face-punch a few years ago; presumably because of all those things. It's true, he's all of those things, and likely more, but he's also a starting caliber catcher. The Yankees need a starting caliber catcher! But is that guy the right guy for the team?
This has very little to do with if the Yankees will actually sign Pierzynski, or even Pierzynski himself in the big picture. The team is reportedly hesitant to pursue him and Brian Cashman has already said he believes Russell Martin's replacement is on the team now, so this is more thinking out loud about dodging an upgrade based on personality. Cashman, or whatever random team source reporters prod for info, can say it's about the defense, but he rates out right around the average mark. The guys they have are more than willing to let the ball hit the backstop and play long toss with Curtis Granderson more than once in awhile, so that comes off as blowing smoke. It's almost certainly not about the offense, even if they believe he'll never approach 2012 numbers again. The current trio of catchers projects to hit in the neighborhood of .236/.305/.323, so woof. There appears to be very little market for his services, so it can't be the contract. No, all signs point to their aversion being based on Pierzynski being the prick of the group who is begrudgingly kept around in all walks of life.
Staying away for that reason makes complete sense given how the roster has been built the last few years. They've placed an emphasis on guys who mesh in the clubhouse, are good teammates and other generic baseball platitudes. Those guys have generally filled an area of need for the team, but that's besides the point. Who would want that guy on their team? Who wants the brash guy with an attitude about him and no reservations about running their mouth at any given point? Wait, I know:
Make no mistake about it, the Yankees are that guy. No one likes the Yankees, but people love having them around because they're so easy to hate. The fans, the money, the coverage when they're having success, the coverage when they fail, the skewed definition of failure that many teams would kill for; what isn't to hate? They can lower the payroll and sign as many great humanitarians as possible to minimum contracts and it won't make a difference. Once you're that guy, there's no shaking that mantle.
Pierzynski and players like him aren't exactly easy to root for, but we make do. Always have, always will. Older fans dealt with Reggie Jackson and some of his nonsense, we made it through Kevin Brown, we'll make it through Kevin Youkilis and we'd likely make it through Pierzynski if the team were to double down this off-season on players that everyone seems to hate. If you listen to the players, the Yankees are already loaded with guys everyone hates. That's never going to change no matter how many "good guys" they sign, so why not embrace being that guy of the league? Fans hate the likeable guys on the team when they don't perform, so would having the guy no one likes and getting average production be so much worse than getting next to nothing from someone who is completely non-threatening? If everyone, including a good chunk of the fanbase, is going to hate the team anyway, it may as well be the best hateable team they can field.
There's something to be said about what that guy can do to disrupt clubhouse chemistry and such, but it's the same thing that can be said about any number of players. Almost no player is completely devoid of any issues, whether it's personal, interpersonal or a combination of the two. Trying to avoid all of them for the sake of whatever the goal is will end up being an exercise in futility. No one really likes that guy, but sometimes you need them around, even if they are really, really annoying.