"Save us Joe Mauer, you're our only hope."
Okay so he's not quite Obi wan Kenobi and I'm not exactly Princess Leia but you get the point.
With the July 31 trade deadline approaching faster than Mauer's 2010 unrestricted free agency, he along with several Twins veterans including Joe Nathan and Justin Morneau have openly pleaded through the local media for the Twins front office to make a move-any move-as long as its "significant."
We've seen this move before. In 2007, several other Twins players most notably Morneau and Johan Santana asked for deadline help only to be ignored. In fact, the Twins actually threw in the towel by trading instead one of their own in former All Star Second Basemen Luis Castillo in what still is a very controversial and unpopular move among many.
Following the event, Santana went on a similar public tirade voicing his displeasure which again fell on deaf (and stubborn) ears.
That's because the Twins front office knew he didn't fit into their long-term plans and they didn't care. They, like the Torii Hunter situation had already planned to move on without him.
Granted, even the most naive Twins fan knew there was no chance of keeping crybaby Santana as many doubted beforehand whether he ever actually wanted to stay there despite his "the sooner you sign me, the cheaper it will be" threats.
Its obvious to me the Twins front office doesn't give a damn about Morneau having already rebuffed him once. They also didn't care about Hunter, Sanatana, Castillo, and it looks like Nathan but maybe Boy Wonder will force them to change their miserly ways?
Mauer, a 25 year old, Mr. Everything local product, is slated to hit the open market fifteen days after the 2010 World Series conclusion at which time the Yankee$ and Red $ox will just happen to have two very aging catchers on their roster.
On the other hand, the Twins are opening a $512 million dollar palace next April so the excuse that they simply can't afford to keep Mauer is moot since what do you build stadiums for if not to compete or retain your own, best players?
Mauer knows that he holds the ball that is firmly in his court and that his leaving would have a dramatic, catastrophic impact on his hometown club's future.
How in the world would the team justify losing a two time American League batting champion as well as a two time All-Star not even in his prime after a revenue-generating stadium was finally built after a dozen years of failed legislative attempts?
With that, Mauer must act by forcing the Twins hand.
We've heard the MLB-trade-deadline-buzz:-Tuesday's-edition" target="_blank" title="Twins looking for infield, bullpen help">Marco Scutaro rumors. We've heard the buzz about Jack Wilson and/or Freddy Sanchex and Jon Grabow from the Pirates. We've heard all about Orlando Cabrera and Michael Wuertz from the woeful Oakland AAA's.
The problem is, we've heard it all before. We've heard the perennial excuses about not being able to agree on the right set of players, or not wanting to give up top prospects. The only problem is, this time it might actually matter.
Mauer could leave, and I think he should seriously start to explore that option.
Twins fans have expressed anger on message boards about Mauer and Morneau's prime years being wasted for a team that is always one player away from actually doing something. Everyone knows their weakness this year is a second baseman and adding a .300 hitter in Sanchez would not only be a logical and obvious improvement but also a start at convincing Mauer that things are changing and that he is the #1 priority to the team.
Current filler Alexi Castilla is hitting a putrid .168 upon his return from AAA and if you are truly to be a playoff contender and team, you can't have that going into the playoffs.
Mauer is Minnesota's LeBron James and each player finds himself in the unique and coveted position of holding their teams hostage. Like LeBron in the NBA, Mauer needs to publicly force improvement-or else.
If I were Mauer, here is what I'd do:
1. Demand that a trade being discussed actually go down.
Tell the front office: "Listen, I want Freddy Sanchez and a good reliever. You don't get me them, I leave."
If they call his bluff (which they would), Mauer should leak to the press that he's putting his house (and/or his parents house) up for sale.
That'd be sure to create a buzz (and full panic to boot).
A set of relievers would be fine as the team is obviously fatigued having to rely on junk like Jesse Crain in long relief. Either Grabow or Wuertz, however short, would be an upgrade.
2. Threaten to sign with another team, preferably an AL rival like the Detroit Tigers.
This would make sense considering 1. Detroit, currently leading the division is already good and 2. Gerald Laird or Brandon Inge aren't exactly quality and Mauer would be an instant upgrade (even if Inge did get lucky in making the once meaningful, now popularity contest, All-Star Game.
Should they actually be forced to comply with option No. 1 in fear of losing Mauer, then he could come back and say "lets talk contract," but until they show some promise and commitment, why should he?
B.S. Bill Smith
Again, imagine if you are Bill Smith (Twins GM) explaining that move to your angry fan base who just shelled out the money for your new playground.
A lot of fans refer to Smith by his initials for obvious reasons given his garbage Santana to the Mets giveaway or his over matched Delmon Young and Branden Harris for (now All Star) Jason Bartlett and Matt Garza trades.
I can't fault Smith for the latter trade having been both shocked that the Twins actually took a chance on trading some of their young, abundant pitching talent for once and secondly because I really thought that at 22 years of age and having just come off a 13 HR, 93 RBI rookie season the Rays had given up on the Rookie of the Year runner up too soon in Babe Ruth type fashion.
In addition, I'd always liked the Yankee-killer Harris (and still do).
It is perhaps for this reason, that there is a minority of Twins fans hoping Smith doesn't make any moves for precisely these examples!
I however, prefer to call Smith B.S. for another reason-Blowing Smoke.
One Twins poster put it best:
"If you know you aren't going to make any moves, at least make it look like you are by working late and making sure people see you working in your office. That way, when you fail, you can come back to the media and fan base and plead that "you tried".
This is exactly the same tired strategy the Twins are trying yet again, only this time we, along with Mauer can't let them off the hook so easily.
Despite what overrated Sid Hartman says, the Twins should be given no credit no matter how hard they seemingly tried. Hartman, a self-titled "legendary" sports reporter wouldn't know a good trade if it landed in his lap (similar to Smith, whose just a Yes-man by all accounts, having risen up the ranks in the Twins organization.
A tired Annual Act
Prior to these new Twins teaser trades, Smith prepared the base for the usual lack of activity with this leak to his partner in crime. This was no doubt, to continue to sucker fans into buying into the hard working mentality.
We all know in the end the Twins will do absolutely nothing. After all, that's typical Twins, the "Twins way" if you will. They like to play the "woe is us" card only this time, with a new stadium around the horizon it just might not work.
For a stadium that's expected to add at least $20-30 million in annual payroll flexibility, the team could easily afford both Mauer's $20 million expected annual salary and someone like Roy Halladay who only recently admitted into not wanting to come there despite rumors the Twins were in fact, interested.
For the prospects it would take to land Sanchez, Wuertz and a pitcher like Halladay, since it won't be Halladay himself, one-two World Series rings later, I am sure Twins fans could care less about the long term impact these moves would provide, for if anything, short of a title, it would at least provide hope and a sign from the front office that they actually are trying instead of just flapping their gums.
Like their hockey team, the Wild, the Twins, by always being one player short, can continue to sell to the fan base that they will be competitive (since its technically true) thus they will continue to shell out their money knowing they have a shot.
But how much of a shot really?
I guess it could be worse. They and their fans could find themselves similar to the even-greater excuse making, and perennial rebuilding Jokeland AAA's or Pittsburgh Pirates who in their case, have been rebuilding since 1992, flipping veterans and arbitration eligible studs for a slew of questionable bargain-bin prospects.
I can't imagine how the fans-both of them- in either city cope with this each year but I admire the fact they do.
Its time for Joe-bi wan ken-Mauer to allow the Twins to play their hand, and in doing so, I hope he uses the Force.