Joe Mauer: Batting Third For Your... ?
The Minnesota Twins are lucky to have two of the greatest hitters in the game today. Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are consistenly talked about as candidates for the American League's MVP award among sports writers and fans alike.
But up to this point, because of a lack of media coverage due to the huge, veiny boner ESPN has for the east coast, only Morneau garnered enough attention to win an MVP. Unfortunately for Twins fans, that's likely to change soon.
Wait, what? Mauer getting the MVP is... unfortunate?
I say that because Mauer is going to be getting more attention for the MVP award than he or any other Twin has ever had before. But this still sounds like a good thing. You still don't get why this is "unfortunate."
It's unfortunate because he won't be a Twin for much longer.
We've seen this happen before. Small-market player (Alex Rodriguez of the Mariners, Jason Giambi of the A's, Mark Teixiera of the Braves, Josh Beckett of the Marlins, or Johan Santana of the aforementioned Twins) shows out-of-this-world ability on the field, and then a large-market team scoops him up (typically after some ridiculous trade-deadline deals) for two draft picks because Scott Boras tells the player they are worth $500 bajillion a year. Or something like that.
Mauer, after yesterday's game at Texas, is hitting .383. The lowest his batting average has been this season was around .353, after "slumping" in July with a .309 average for the month. Now in August, he's rebounded, and is hitting .485 this month. Four-eighty-five! The longest span of games he's gone without a hit this season: two (three different times, twice in July and once in June). He hit safely in every game he played in May except for two of them. In August, it has only happened once.
Enough about Mauer's stats. We all know he's one of the best players in the game. Twins fans have known that for a long time. Even the Twins' front office knows that. But they're still going to let him get away.
Don't mind the fact Twins fans will blow up the new Target Field if and when it happens. Don't mind the fact that Morneau, Mauer's long-time friend, told Mauer they would no longer be friends if he left for a big-market team.
When Mauer's contract is up, he will be gone, and that's sad. I've been a Twins fan since I moved to Minnesota in 1990. My dad went to Game two of the '91 World Series and I still have the Homer Hankie he brought back with him.
After watching Johan Santana exit a couple of years ago to the Mets, I was angry with the organization. How could they let the best thing in Minnesota sports go? The team was HIS. Everyone loved Santana, and he kept the Twins in the race every year. But I was still a fan. But with Mauer? No way. If he goes, I go. I don't know who my team would be, but it wouldn't be the Twins. How could the front office let this happen AGAIN?
Carl Pohlad (may he rest in peace) was filthy rich, but he kept the payroll of the organization somewhere between that of David Beckham and the WNBA's New York Liberty. This could end up costing his successors the support of a loyal fanbase, as well as possible championships.
I don't blame Mauer. I'd leave if I were him. When you're driving in roughly 22% of men on base (well above Texeira's 17%, by the way, the player whom many believe is a lock for the AL MVP this year), you have the right to be upset if the organization didn't find a way to win ballgames.
Think about what the team could do (and the stats and accolades Mauer could rack up) if he consistently had people on base in front of him. Get Alexi Casilla and Nick Punto out of the bottom of the lineup for guys that can actually put down a bunt or hit a single. Then go find the two guys with the highest OBP in the country and get them on your team hitting one and two in front of Mauer. Sign them, and make them play every day. You're guaranteed at least three runs per game probably just from that combination alone (and if Mauer can't do it, there's still that Morneau guy hitting right behind him).
Not that Mauer is dying to get the stats and accolades, but he's definitely deserved the MVP before. He deserves it this year. Will he get it? Maybe. But that remains to be seen, and there's the matter of that huge name playing first base for the He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named franchise of baseball.
Mauer is the guy who told Sports Illustrated he loves to spend his time mowing his yard and hanging out in his log cabin and just wants to win a championship. What he has to ask himself is: is Minnesota the place where I have the best chance to do this? Considering the management of the team, the overwhelming answer has to be "No."
Maybe I'm wrong. Hopefully I'm wrong. Maybe Bill Smith realizes that to prevent riotous uprisings in the Twin Cities and the rest of Minnesoohhtah, he needs to sign Mauer, no matter the cost. I'm just not holding my breath.
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