Why Joe Mauer Being Placed on Waivers Says a Lot About State of Loyalty in MLB
Manager Jimmy Dugan once said, "There's no crying in baseball!"
Apparently, there's no loyalty, either.
Ken Rosenthal reported that fact on Tuesday morning, citing a "major league source." For a process that's supposed to be kept highly secretive, that's quickly become a joke in itself.
Mauer signed an eight-year, $184 million deal in March 2010, a deal that presumably would keep the hometown favorite in the Twin Cities for the duration of his career.
Considering that Mauer had won three AL batting titles and an MVP Award, it certainly made sense at the time, and no one really railed against the deal despite Mauer's chronically balky knees.
The 2011 season was a wash, as Mauer suffered through a spate of injuries that limited him to just 82 games.
In order to protect Mauer's knees, the Twins went out and signed free agent catcher Ryan Doumit to a one-year, $3 million deal, hoping to give Mauer more time at first base and as a designated hitter to help preserve those very expensive knees.
Doumit was even signed to a two-year, $7 million extension in late June, a sign that the Twins were not only happy with Doumit's role with the Twins, but certainly an indication that Mauer would indeed see much more time not crouching behind home plate.
Now, Mauer may not only be not crouching behind home plate for the Twins, he may not even be a Twin.
How's that for loyalty?
The days of a player enjoying a long career with the same team are clearly winding down. Chipper Jones will end his playing days next month after 19 seasons with the Atlanta Braves, certainly a rarity these days.
Mauer is in his ninth season with the Twins, and his contract would take him through his 15th season with them as well.
But these days in Major League Baseball, loyalty is to the almighty dollar, not the player.
Mauer is owed $142.5 million on his deal through 2018. Considering his body of work, that's not necessarily a tough pill to swallow, certainly not along the lines of a Carl Crawford, that is.
But the Twins, like every other team in baseball, answer to their bottom line. They answer to the amount of club suites they sell, the concessions they sell in the stands, the massive TV contracts they sign.
Loyalty to a player? That's kind of a 19th century thing, don't you think?
Look at the recent deal made by the Boston Red Sox. Three players who they thought would be long-term players who would lead the Sox to greatness in the future—Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett—are now building futures with a new team, the Los Angeles Dodgers. And there is certainly no guarantee they'll even stay with the Dodgers long-term, either.
Signing a $100 million contract will buy a lot of things these days, but loyalty is not one of them.
The story of Mauer is literally one of storybook proportions. A local kid, born in St. Paul, Minnesota, who went on to star at Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul and was then selected with the first overall pick in the 2001 MLB Draft by none other than the local team, the Twins.
Scripts in baseball just don't get written much better than that.
There's only one problem with that script—it doesn't have an ending written for it, and loyalty may have already been written out of the script.
Current GM Terry Ryan was in charge when Mauer was drafted by the Twins, and he is the man now who made the decision to place Mauer on waivers.
The Twins for decades have been one of the most loyal teams in all of baseball. Only two managers have guided the team over the past 25 seasons (Tom Kelly, Ron Gardenhire) and only three GMs since 1985 (Andy MacPhail, Bill Smith, Ryan).
Ditto for its players—the Twins traditionally have never been a major player in free agency, preferring to go with homegrown players. Trades and free agent signings have taken place, but more as the exception rather than the rule.
Mauer is one of those homegrown players, and now he has to look at the headlines regarding his current status on the waiver wire and wonder to himself—"All I've given to them and this is what I get in return?"
If I were Joe Mauer, I'd be a little bit more than upset right now.
Another thing to keep in mind—Despite not having 10 full years of major league experience, Mauer does have a full no-trade clause in his contract, meaning he has to give approval on any deal proposed to the Twins.
Mauer has the ability to dictate exactly where he wants to play. And considering he has to be feeling unwanted by his hometown team right now, he can really make GM Ryan squirm.
Who would blame him?
At the time Mauer was signed, questions were asked about payroll vs. revenue, and team president Dave St. Peter said that Mauer's deal would not reflect badly on the Twins' future.
"We've talked for a long time about the importance of the new ballpark, and certainly Target Field puts the Minnesota Twins in a great position to retain the talent that we work so hard to scout, draft and develop in the Minor Leagues," St. Peter said. "Joe and so many other current players on our roster fit into that mold. We're very happy being the Minnesota Twins."
Maybe St. Peter and the rest of management are happy about being the Minnesota Twins, but they're apparently no longer happy with Mauer, or his contract.
Loyalty? That's for a dog and his master—it's no longer part of the equation between teams and players in Major League Baseball.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.
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