From Johnette Howard @ espn.com comes this:
When Joe Mauer signed a massive contract extension with the Minnesota Twins before the 2010 season, it was praised as the sort of feel-good story you rarely see in baseball anymore. The Twins enhanced their longstanding reputation as the small-market team that could, at least until the Yankees‘ Brinks truck annually runs it over in the playoffs, win it all.
And Mauer, a former American League MVP and three-time batting champion, was celebrated as a throwback star and native son who stayed home when he could’ve done a LeBron and chased more fame or money elsewhere. On Twin Cities sports talk shows, two of his nicknames are “Baby Jesus” and “St. Joe.”
But Mauer’s regard has taken a hit since he suffered what was initially called “mysterious bilateral leg weakness” in April, then didn’t return to the injury-wracked Twins until June 17 amid questions about why his recovery took so long. The Twins were spiraling out of a Central Division race they were again picked to win. They’ve been losing more and more players to injuries as they go.
Critics accused Mauer of being soft, selfish and the subject of eye rolling even among his own teammates — an insinuation that gained momentum last weekend, when the Twins‘ Jose Mijares dared call out Mauer about his pitch calling Friday. Seriously. Jose Mijares. An erratic reliever whose entrance into a game often puts the “e” in “eek!”
Well, that didn’t take long.
What was a great story, one that made people all across the heartland last summer feel “all warm & fuzzy inside” has suddenly soured.
On Sunday, a poll on the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s website asked readers if Mauer should have volunteered to play first base rather than his preferred catching position now that Justin Morneau is headed toward neck surgery, and 97 percent voted yes — yet another sign of the popularity hit Mauer has taken.
But herein lies the problem.
Even if Mauer moves to first base his contract looks even worse than it did before.
The main reason why the Twins were willing to pay someone who is basically a singles & doubles hitter, and contrary to what your mind has tricked you into believing that is all the guy is, that much money was his defensive ability and skill handling a pitching staff.
Now that is gone.
You are paying $25 million a year for a catcher-turned-firstbasemen that has hit more than 13 homeruns exactly ONCE in his career.
Now we can argue all day about the man’s three batting titles and his penchant for raking thirty to forty doubles per year, but in the end those kind of numbers aren’t worth the kind of cash he is getting.
Making it worse is the undeniable fact that maybe a team like the Yankees or Red Sox can absorb that kind of a financial hit for such little “thump”, but no matter how hard the Twins try to argue that they’ll be able to manage it I wind up feeling like they are completely full of shit.
The baseball fan in me hopes that I am wrong.
The realist in me knows that I am not.