"Last year was torture for me," Juan Pierre tells Bob Nightengale of USA Today. "If this organization thinks I'll be happy making money and sitting on the bench, they signed the wrong guy."
I know the players' union would have a field day if Pierre tried to give back some of his salary to get loose from the Dodgers. I'm also not saying that he should do so.
But if Pierre is serious about preferring to sacrifice (not defer) salary for greener pastures -- if the player and the organization are in agreement about this -- then it should be allowed to happen, and he needs to push for it.
The reality is that very, very few of us enjoy complete contentment. Pierre might have been one of those people as recently as April 2007, but he isn't anymore and might not be again. That's the nature of the career he chose.
Juan Pierre is 31 years old. He has a precious few years of baseball left in him. He can choose to make the most money, or he can choose to pursue the most playing time. Both choices offer hazards, but as far as I'm concerned, regardless of the union's stance, it's up to him to choose.
This might be easier said than done, but here's the choice I would recommend: Enjoy your financial good fortune, root for the Dodgers to do well despite being on the bench, and be prepared to contribute whenever called upon, however frequently or infrequently. In short, count your blessings.
Easier said than done is right. Juan Pierre is not a lawyer or a doctor or a baseball writer. At 31, he's already past his prime and there's only one direction left: down. In a global sort of context, Juan Pierre is an extraordinarily talented athlete, and one can hardly blame him for wanting to employ his talents regularly. While he still can.
Of course, in the context of Major League Baseball, he's really not so talented at all. He can run, but he's not a great fielder and he can't hit at all. Still, when a team gives you $44 million and says, "You're our guy for the next five years" well, it's probably not so easy to play for one year and spend the next four watching everyone else play.
This is just a lousy situation for everyone, and you can hardly blame Pierre. Was he supposed to not take the money? Is he supposed to know that he's just not good enough to play regularly?
Yes, he should stop whining publicly; nobody wants to hear it, especially now. And yes, he could always give the money back and look for a job elsewhere (though the union might have something to say about that). But I feel for the guy. They told him he could play. And now they won't let him. That would be torture for me, too.