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Why so grumpy? Well, A.J. Pierzynski's got an interesting theory

  • White Sox manager Robin Ventura (right) argues with umpires Lance Barrett (left) and Jim Joyce on Aug. 25.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura (right) argues with umpires Lance Barrett… (Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago…)
September 03, 2012|By Matt Lindner, @mattlindner | For RedEye

Baseball players have heroes after whom they try to model their games. So surely managers have other managers they try to emulate when arguing with umpires, right?

According to first-year White Sox manager Robin Ventura, not so much.

"I don't have those," he said. "Lou [Piniella]'s were good. I've seen a couple of Lou's. Those were good. I don't think I have any base-tossing in me."

The easygoing Ventura is as volatile as a bowl of tapioca pudding, losing his cool during the season about as frequently as Chicago does during the winter.

Maybe that's why players say that on the rare occasions when Mount Ventura erupts on an unsuspecting umpire, it has a significant effect on the team, especially one fighting for its playoff life.

"It was fun to see Robin get that mad," White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski said of Ventura's ejection on Aug. 25. "He doesn't usually get that angry, but to see him like that really gave the team a spark."

Few people will compare Ventura's temper to that of his predecessor, Ozzie Guillen, but the mild-mannered captain of the ship has been ejected from three games this season, one more than Guillen was in his first season.

Ventura said he doesn't get into screaming matches with umpires specifically to fire his team up, even if that is the result.

"It's just part of the game," he said. "[Umpires] are trying to do their job; I'm trying to do mine."

Ventura came to Pierzynski's defense Aug. 25 at home against Seattle. Pierzynski had just been tossed by plate umpire Lance Barrett for arguing about the strike zone he was calling for pitcher Jose Quintana when Ventura came storming out of the dugout.

Like any employee in any business, Pierzynski said it's important to know your boss has your back.

"It gets you excited to know that the manager is behind everybody," he said.

"That's what teammates are for," Quintana added. "A.J., Robin coming out and sticking up for myself, for the team."

So what was it that had Pierzynski so upset with Barrett? The catcher said it's the same thing that inspires many barroom arguments throughout Chicago on a daily basis.

"[We were arguing about] what kind of pizza is better, deep dish or thin crust—usually leads to an ejection," he joked. "He said thin crust and I said deep dish, so he didn't like the answer he got, I guess."

As for whether Ventura continued the pizza discussion, that's between the umpires and Ventura, who wouldn't delve into specifics after the game. Bench coach Mark Parent takes over as manager on those occasions Ventura gets ejected. He said rarely, if ever, can you hear what has both parties so riled up.

"They turn the music up when those things happen," Parent said.

Matt Lindner is a RedEye special contributor.

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