Obviously, it was a long time ago, but before he became one of baseball’s greatest villains (though he’s still a distant second behind Alex Rodriguez; at least Sox fans and A. J.’s teammates seem to like him a little bit); and before he was the centerpiece of one of the most lopsided trades in MLB history (though I think Brian Sabean may have gotten the last laugh), Anthony John Pierzynski was the Twins’ starting catcher. In honor of his recent re-signing with my least favorite team ever, he’s the Random Twin of the Week.
A. J. wasn’t always so hated; in fact, up until 2003, probably nobody outside Minny even knew who he was. A. J. was drafted by the Twins in the third round of the 1994 draft. He had his best seasons in Minnesota, batting .301/.341/.447/.788 with 26 home runs and a 105 OPS+ between 1998 and 2003. He was even a postseason hero during the 2002 ALDS, hitting a dramatic home run in game 5 to help the team advance to their first ALCS in eleven years. He was getting expensive in arbitration, however, and with future superstar Joe Mauer ready to take over catching duties, the penny-pinching Twins decided Pierzynski was expendable. They dealt him to San Francisco in late 2003, and, well, you know the rest. I do have to say though, I love this ESPN.com story from November 15 2003, the day the trade was made:
"All-Star catcher A.J. Pierzynski was traded Friday by the tightly-budgeted Minnesota Twins to the San Francisco Giants for right-handed pitcher Joe Nathan and two minor leaguers."
Those minor leaguers, of course, were Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser.
So why do Twins fans hate A. J. so much, even though he has brought us much joy in the form of Joe Nathan and Francisco Liriano over the years? I mean, he gets booed pretty lustily every time he comes to the plate in Minnesota (though he seems to get that pretty much everywhere he goes; I suspect he’s used to it by now), while Twins fans seem to have little reason to be angry with him, at least compared to the rest of the league. Well, there was that one time he spiked Justin Morneau, though his actions may have actually spurred the Twins’ five-run rally in the bottom of that inning (they were trailing 4-3 heading into the bottom of the sixth, then ended up winning 10-4). He also plays for one of the Twins’ most heated rivals. Twins-Sox games are rarely ever pedestrian affairs, often involving a lot of trash talk; dramatic walk-off wins; plenty of bean ball and retaliatory attempts to kill the opposing catcher; and more often than not, a division title on the line.
Mostly, though, fans boo A. J. because he deserves it.