A.J. Pierzynski played for the White Sox for eight years, much of which was during the height of the White Sox-Twins rivalry. He was and is a fierce competitor on the field, so I get it. Twins fans got in the habit of booing him whenever he came to bat, and as far as I’ve seen, continue to do so.
This needs to stop.
A.J. Pierzynski is coming to Minnesota this week for what will probably be the final time in his playing career. Don’t boo him.
First of all, from what I remember, we only started booing A.J. because he didn’t acknowledge Twins fans the first time he came back as a visiting player for the White Sox. He was cheered in his first at-bat, but he didn’t tip his cap or do anything. Every at-bat after that, he was booed. (For the record: The only reason I ever booed A.J. was because I figured he liked it.)
Why didn’t A.J. acknowledge Twins fans? Because that’s just the kind of guy he is—on the field. On the field, all he wants to do is beat the team he’s playing against. As he explained to ESPN:
I have been labeled before as the most hated man in baseball. You're probably wondering why. I think you win it once, it's just easy for people to ask who won it last year and they just vote again for the same person. I don't even care. I just laugh about it now because it's not going to change. I don't know why I get it. I just know for the three hours I'm playing, I'm not trying to make friends. I'm trying to win the game for my team. After that, we can be friends, but for those three hours when I'm on the field, it's about beating the other guy. They can be my best friend out there pitching or on the other team, and I'm still trying to beat them.
Frankly, we should applaud A.J. for that. Pierzynski has the same kind of fire other guys from the 2002 band have, like David Ortiz, Torii Hunter, and Doug Mientkiewicz. It’s energizing and awesome. It’s a fire the Twins have sorely missed for years.
Still not convinced? Here’s ten other reasons you should cheer for (or at least, not boo) AJ:
1. He Beat Moneyball
In 2002, the Twins weren’t sure if they would even exist the next year due to the threat of contraction. How did they respond? By making it to the American League Championship Series (ALCS). To get there, the Twins pulled-off a dramatic 9th inning thrashing of the Athletics’ “Moneyball” team, led by—you guessed it—A.J. Pierzynski.
That is the only playoff series the Twins have won since 1991, and it was mostly due to our catcher, A.J. Pierzynski.
I mean, they even made a movie about it.
2. A.J.’s Giants teammates hated him because he watched too many Twins games
The Twins traded A.J. Pierzynski to the Giants following the 2003 season for Francisco Liriano, Boof Bonser, and a Player To Be Named Later—who turned out to be Joe Nathan. It was a nice haul that most Twins fan remember very, very fondly.
Although he understood the move, A.J. was devastated.
A.J. was largely hated by his Giants teammates. An anonymous pitcher there at the time called him a “clubhouse cancer”. Why? AJ spent too much time playing cards and watching Twins games in the clubhouse.
Hey—can you blame him?
3. Grant Brisbee still tries to justify the A.J. Piersynski trade for the Giants.
Kudos to the valiant effort, Brisbee. I don’t usually like to relish in this sort of thing, but the Twins are 37-61 right now so bite me.
4. He invented (or at least popularized) the Rally Beer
Obviously A.J. Pierzynski is not the first person to come up with the rally beer. But he was the first person to popularize it, and coin it? Maybe?
5. He’s best friends with Doug Mientkiewicz
Doug Mientkiwewicz, the former Twin and current manager of the Twins’ AA Chattanooga Lookouts, has been a long-time best friend of A.J.’s. And who doesn’t love Doug Mientkiewicz?
When A.J. was playing for the Red Sox in 2014 and Doug was coaching for the Twins, they rented a house together in Fort Meyers, FL (where both the Red Sox and Twins spend Spring Training). A.J. explained the experience thusly:
Doug Mientkiewicz is going to be my roommate here. We actually roomed together a couple of years ago in Arizona spring training when he was in his first year coaching with the Dodgers organization. Doug and I have always been good friends since our playing days together with the Twins, and our wives are good friends, too. We see each other in the offseason. We always talk and text back and forth during the season. So it won't be weird to live with him, but I'm kind of mad at him. I thought he was coming to big league camp with the Minnesota coaching staff, so I got a nice place. But he's three weeks late and I'm still waiting on him to get here as he's manager for their [Class] A team in Fort Myers. He has kind of stood me up.
lol, classic Dougie baseball.
6. He’s been durable as hell.
A.J. Pierzynski is nearly 40 years old and is still a catcher. He’s played 1923 games at a catcher. Only eight other people in the history of people have caught more games than A.J. He did serve as a DH in the American League 32 times, but otherwise? He’s a catcher. Every single game. He’s never played a defensive position other than catcher. Period.
7. T.K. insists on calling him Anthony.
I’m sure you can remember Tom Kelly’s stints as the color guy for the Twins’ TV broadcast? And how he always called A.J. “Anthony” or “Anthony John”?
Good, because I can’t find any videos of that. Instead, here is a video of Bert praising our beloved T.K.:
8. A.J. Pierzynski will automatically try to frame a pitch, no matter how ridiculous
I’m not kidding.
Dude is out of control.
9. Get the Band Back Together
Only three players from the 2002 Twins are still in the majors: David Ortiz, Kyle Lohse, and A.J. Pierzynski. A.J. is the only one the Twins have yet to face this year. Let’s complete this trifecta.
Let’s get the band back together.
10. Chicken A.J. Out
Do you know how the game “Chicken” is played? Usually, you have two trains (or cars, or what not) barreling towards each other—certain death—and the winner is the one who doesn’t pull away.
So look at it this way: the Twins fandom train is barreling down one track, and A.J. is barreling down the other. The Twins fandom wants to win the, “Who is actually more appreciative of the Twins” contest. We can win by putting aside all the B.S. and showing our love for A.J. regardless of what he has done since he was forced to leave us.
And just imagine, if we all suddenly cheer him, what he would have to think?
Outwardly, he would probably ignore us, of course—but maybe afterwards, just maybe, he’d go home and play cards and watch the Twins game.