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End of an era: Pierzynski plays the Twins without hearing boos

ajA.J. Pierzynski, one of the strangest villains in Twin Cities sports history, is in the midst of his 19th MLB season and is back in Minneapolis with the Braves for their two-game series with the Twins.

I say strangest villains because Twins fans have often booed Pierzynski when he came here as a visiting player even though:

1) Pierzynski was a very good player on the 2001-2003 Twins, at the outset of a era in which the team won six division titles in nine seasons. His home run in Game 5 of the 2002 ALDS proved to be critical in helping the Twins triumph in the only playoff series they have won since the 1991 World Series.

2) He was TRADED before the 2004 season to make way for Joe Mauer, and the Twins received a mighty haul (Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser) in return.

Sure, Pierzynski has a reputation for chirping. And yes, he played many seasons for the rival White Sox. But the boos have always felt strange given his success here and that his departure wasn’t via free agency.

Alas, it sounds as though Twins fans are coming to their senses. There was maybe a small smattering of boos for A.J. during Tuesday’s Braves victory, but it was hardly the full-throated venom of years past.

Maybe the crowd is older and wiser. Or … as Pierzynski said after the game, maybe nobody cares anymore?

Per a tweet from David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, here’s what Pierzynksi said after last night’s game: “It was kind of weird they didn’t boo me, then again I think no one in the stands remembered I played here it was so long ago.”

Ah, that could be it. Regardless, maybe we’re finally at the end of a weird era. If so, it’s for the best.

Twins, Wolves, Wild: After much noise, all quiet on trade fronts

rubiowolvesThis had all the makings of the summer of the deal, with three prominent Minnesota teams either publicly stating they were willing to trade or being strongly linked to a major deal.

But so far, it appears none of them has found the deal of the summer.

Wild GM Chuck Fletcher went into the offseason publicly professing a willingness to make trades as a means of retooling the roster. Earlier this month, he was quote as saying, “I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to more managers more often than I have the past few weeks.” As of late July, though, the volume on trade talk is low.

Before being fired by the Twins last week, Terry Ryan was open about the last-place club looking to deal. Interim GM Rob Antony continued that thread, saying recently, “We have had some good dialogue with teams. I hope it comes to fruition.” As of Tuesday afternoon, with the nonwaiver trade deadline looming Sunday, nothing has happened and even the rumor mill isn’t churning out much of note.

There was all sorts of speculation about potential Wolves trades just a month ago. The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski — almost certainly the most respected national NBA reporter, and perhaps the most trusted sports journalist in the United States — tweeted on June 23, “Minnesota has been shopping Ricky Rubio throughout the week. His future in Minnesota is likely coming to an end.” Yet here it is, July 26, and the only moves the Wolves have made have come via free agency.

If you’re a Minnesota fan who’s been hitting the refresh button on various trade rumor sites, it’s been in vain.

The quietness combined with the constant clamor for something to be done underscore two things:

1) It’s not easy to make a trade, or at least it’s not easy to make a good trade. With contract terms, public perception, potential vs. known and various other factors all weighing into deals in a sports landscape that has become both more lucrative and more scrutinized, nobody on either side wants to be left thinking they got the short end of a trade.

Even Antony, who has limited time to make an impression before the GM search widens, has maintained he needs to do the “right things” when presented with offers.

2) Trade rumor season is just as exciting (if not more so) for some fans than the actual season. I can’t even really criticize this rationale because I know from my own online behavior I’m far more likely to click on a link this time of year that’s about a potential trade than a game that has just been played.

Much like player drafts, trades offer subjective winners and losers that can be analyzed and dissected. If the Twins lose 5-2, we can second-guess some decisions. But there’s no doubt they lost.

I get the sense there are some Minnesota fans who are disappointed right now. Maybe this is just the calm before the storm.

Or maybe everyone will just have to re-calibrate and set their sights on Vikings training camp battles if they want some controversy.