California Chrome is threatening to become the first horse to claim the Triple Crown since Affirmed won it in 1978, thanks in part to the nasal strips made by equine veterinarians in Delano. Unfortunately, it does not appear these strips will help Minnesota Twins first baseman Joe Mauer take baseball's Triple Crown.
"We figured what the hell," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. "Those band aid-looking things are supposed to help with stamina and get those nasal passages rockin' and rollin', and Joe was scuffling a little bit out there. They (Flair, the company that manufactures the product) sent some over for a promotion, and the doctors just said, hey, you know what...that turned out to be a bad call.
"First of all, Joe Mauer isn't a horse. Our medical staff tries real hard, but I think they missed a key part there."
The strip, when applied to Mauer's much smaller, human face before the game, acted as both a blindfold and as noise-canceling headphones, causing the former MVP to repeatedly bump into clubhouse walls, fellow players, and, in an unfortunate incident, Twins mascot TC Bear.
"Joe was pretty disoriented from not being able to see or hear that well," said Twins reliever Glen Perkins. "And when he ran into TC, I think he felt the fabric of the costume and his mind just went back to childhood birthday parties. He said, 'Neat, a pinata!' and he just started wailing."
Mauer's smooth, hands-quick-through-the-zone swing was very much in evidence according to multiple eyewitnesses, who said the St. Paul native pounded the head and torso of the pretend bear with a series of sickening, fur-muted thuds. Other players and coaches were able to separate the two, with Mauer expressing remorse that there wasn't any candy because, "candy tastes good." Timmy Rankin, the 23-year-old University of North Dakota senior inside the outfit, is in critical but stable condition at HCMC and being treated for multiple fractures.
Mauer did attempt to play the first two innings of Thursday's game with the strip in place, and the results were similarly fraught with difficulties. The seven 1st-inning errors set a franchise record, and Mauer took the field in the second by standing on the visitor's bullpen pitching mound, facing the wall. He did coax a walk in his only plate appearance. When asked about playing with the strip, Mauer replied that it was "sort of neat, but then pretty cruddy."
"I don't want to pin too much of this on our trainers, but they said not being able to see or hear would heighten his other senses," said Gardenhire. "I asked, 'Are you sure?' And they said it worked for Daredevil. I'm not a doctor, so I let it go.
"Hindsight's 20/20, guys."
(thanks to Twitter/real life friend @djzempel for the suggestion)