Fair Update, AJ's at it Again & ST Mailbag

Hello again everybody...

Back to the grind, but the weather's downright perfect in Minnesota, which somehow makes it much easier. I have no idea how, since I'm stuck inside for 8 hours a day. But it just does, so I won't question it too deeply.

Today I'm going to give you a brief rundown of my day at the Minnesota State Fair yesterday. Then I'll describe the latest chapter in "The Annoying Antics of A.J. Pierzynski". And finally it's this week's Mailbag question. And this one has me pretty vexed, so be sure to check it out! Onward...

He can compress the most words into the smallest ideas of any man I ever met.
- Abraham Lincoln (1809 - 1865), 16th President of the United States

(I don't know who Abe was referencing here - I suspect Stephen Douglas - but it struck me that we all know someone for whom it would fit. And before any of you get any ideas, I'm not talking about Don Shelby. Really. I'm not.)

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So my first item today has nothing to do with sports, but some of you have been asking about it, so I thought I'd describe a bit of my workday at the State Fair yesterday. It began with a bus ride most of the way there, because the estimable bean counters at CBS Radio have cut back on our ability to run a shuttle between the station and the Fairgrounds. I say "most of the way" there because the main drag that runs out to the Fairgrounds was a parking lot when my bus approached. So I had to get out about 8 blocks early and hoof it the rest of the way.

This actually turned out to be a slight blessing because it allowed me to burn about 1/16th of the calories I was about to consume. I didn't go terribly overboard mind you, because I'm going to be out there again next Sunday. But I'm fairly certain that those cheese curds took a few months off of my life expectancy.

(By the way, is that really a bad thing? I'm not trying to be insensitive, but based on the quality of life I've seen my grandparents - may they rest in peace - have towards the end of their lives, I'm not so sure I'm not happy to shave a few months off here or there. But that's just me.)

In any case, I got to the Fair, got to the WCCO Radio Booth and proceeded to spend the next 5 hours people watching. Some genius somewhere came up with a "People Watching Bingo" card that we have in the booth. I can't describe all of the items to you because this is a family blog. But some of the printable favorites were, "double/triple-wide stroller", "mullet/she-mullet", "mesh top/cut-off jersey", and "wife-beater wearing hairy guy". There were plenty more, and some of them were even funnier, but like I said, my Mom reads this blog and there's no way I'm discussing certain unfortunate-female-clothing-choices in front of her!

The important point is, somebody needs to copyright this bingo idea, because it made the whole day immensely more enjoyable. I'm fairly certain that nobody's getting paid for this idea currently, but they should be. It's a good one!

So I made it through the day with no major incidents and only a minor amount of gastrointestinal discomfort. All in all a win for me. Now if I can just get through next Sunday, I'm home free!

Next up I have to talk about the ballplayer everybody loves to hate, Chicago's A.J. Pierzynski. There are some Twins fans that look back fondly on A.J.'s time in Minnesota. But I'm not one of them. The guy's basically an extreme pain in the ass. It's borne out of a strong competitive spirit - and I'm all for that - but A.J. takes it too far, too often.

So in yesterday's game with the Rays, A.J. was trying to advance to third on a ground ball to the left side of the infield - a base-running no-no - and ended up in a run-down (or hot-box, or pickle, choose whatever term you like). As A.J. retreated towards second, it appeared he was tagged out after slipping and falling. But oh no, that wasn't the case. Or so said second-base umpire Doug Eddings.

(Aside: Some of you will recall A.J. taking first after striking out in a 2005 playoff series against the Angels. A.J. acted like the ball had hit the dirt, even though it hadn't. The umpire froze and eventually ruled that the ball had hit the dirt and A.J. was allowed to take the base. That umpire's name? Doug Eddings. Eerie ain't it?)

In yesterday's incident, Eddings ruled that A.J. was interfered with by Rays 3B Willy Aybar. Looking at the replay, there absolutely was contact between Pierzynski and Aybar. The problem is, A.J. initiated it. If you saw it, or can find a replay somewhere (sorry, I tried with no luck), you'll see A.J. give Aybar a forearm shiver as he falls down. But according to third-base umpire Ted Barrett, it was still interference:

"As a runner, you're allowed to do that. What Doug ruled at second base was, even though A.J. did kind of stick his arm out to make contact, Aybar was still in his way. So A.J., if he would have turned, he wouldn't have been able to continue on to third. So after making the throw, Aybar is no longer in the act of fielding and he can't obstruct the runner, which is what Doug ruled happened. And in a rundown, even though A.J. was going back to second, the rule of obstruction during a rundown is he gets his next advanced base and that's why he was rewarded third base. If Aybar's got the ball, there's no obstruction. You protect the fielder when he's in the act of fielding. Once that ball's released and out of his hand, he has to vacate."

I guess that makes sense. But it seems to not account for the spirit of the rule. And any subjective interpretation of the situation would have to conclude that there's no way Aybar interfered with Pierzynski's ability to get back to 2nd base, or turn and get to third. So to make a ruling based on what "might have" or "could have" happened seems rather silly to me.

Only in baseball... and only A.J.... craziness.

Finally for today, it's this week's Sports Take Mailbag question. Today's question comes from Mary in Plymouth:

This is a bit of a The Lady or the Tiger conundrum: Do you root for the Boston Red Sox (whom you hate) when they are playing the Chicago White Sox, when a Boston (whom you hate) win means the Twins gain the top of the division?

Wow. That's such a good question, I barely know how to answer it. But since the White Sox are hosting Boston (whom I hate) this weekend, it's a terribly relevant one. (And you get extra points for including the correct moniker after "Boston".)

If I were to rephrase the question, "does my love of the Twins exceed my hatred of the Red Sox, or is it superseded by it?"

I can't root for Boston (whom I hate) to win under any circumstances. I just can't do it. The hatred is so deep, so ingrained that I'd pull some sort of musculature were I to try and cheer for them to win. And yet I'm a big Twins fan. I want the boys to complete what they've started and make it into the playoffs in a year where no pundit - including yours truly - thought they could. So how do I deal with this conundrum?

(Ed's Note: The word has just come into the Sports Take offices. The Twins have re-acquired relief pitcher Eddie Guardado. Eddie G back in the house! I have no idea if this will help, but I love it.)

It requires some nifty psychological tricks on my part, but here's how I deal with it: I ignore the Boston (whom I hate) end of the equation completely. I simply can't root for the Red Sox (whom I hate) to win, so instead I root for Chicago to lose.
Yes, intellectually I know that one can't occur without the other, but baseball is a matter of the heart and soul and in my heart and soul, I can separate the two quite easily thank you.

So it may seem like a total cop out on my part. And it probably is. But it's the only way I can explain it where it makes sense. To me it feels perfectly natural. Hopefully not as many of you are scratching your heads as there were when I began this answer.


Thanks for the question Mary. Remember, you can send your questions to the Sports Take Mailbag at: There are no dumb questions! But the answer just might leave you dumbfounded. Sometimes even in a good way!

That's all for today folks. I'll be back on Wednesday with some College Football previews (the picks start Thursday) and assorted other Sports Take wonder. Until then, thanks for reading!

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