Did anyone in the surrounding areas of the upper midwest feel a strong breeze come upon them on Sunday afternoon? That was the collective sigh of an entire fan base.
The Minnesota Twins signed their catcher, and 2009 League MVP Joe Mauer to an 8 year $184 million contract extension.
The significance of this deal cannot be summed up in few words.
There are actually so many different angles you can take on the exact importance of what this deal means to the player, the franchise, and the fan base.
After all is said and re-said about this deal, one thing will, or at least should, emerge as the most talked about aspect of this deal.
That is, Joe Mauer can join very select company, one person, to be exact, as a part of all-time Minnesota Twins franchise lore.
I'm of course referring to Twins legend, and my all time sports hero, Kirby Puckett.
Only Puckett and Mauer can say they spent their most formidable years with the only franchise they've known, in this case the Minnesota Twins.
Sure, the Twin historians, and fans alike may say, well what about Rod Carew?
Carew did spend a good portion of his career with the Twins, but when push came to shove, and larger contracts, and better facilities and weather came calling, Carew decided to leave the Twins for the Angels.
Only Mauer and Puckett did the right thing—at least in the eyes of the fan base, and put loyalty ahead of luxury, which is exhibited no more plainly than in the contract's no-trade clause.
The year was 1992, the year after the Minnesota Twins had won their second World Series in five years, and Kirby Puckett had the option of leaving Minnesota.
After turning down several lucrative offers from other teams, Puckett stayed with the franchise that put all of its efforts into his development, and still managed to sign a five-year $30 million contract, which at the time was the second largest contract in baseball history.
18 years later, another player the Twins had chosen to draft and develop, this time from the city of St. Paul Minnesota, had the option to play his final year with the Twins, enter free agency, and shop himself around.
However Mauer, like Puckett wanted to stay in Minnesota at just about any cost.
While the Twins organization was mum on the details of this contract, it is now understood that the Twins and Mauer's agent Ron Shapiro (who was Puckett's agent in '92) had been working round-the-clock for a month, trying to keep Mauer in Minnesota.
The kind of loyalty Mauer has shown should be remembered by every fan of the Minnesota Twins.
Before Twins fans get sappier than I've managed to get here, it also must be stated that loyalty wasn't the only reason the MVP catcher re-signed.
This Twins team is now built for success for years to come.
The Twins have never had the kind of lineup that manager Ron Gardenhire will have at his disposal this year.
If the guys in the middle of the lineup hit their career averages in hits, runs, average, slugging, and on-base percentage, and the Twins can get "B-grade" years from everyone else, Minnesota should win the AL Central by five games or more.
Another factor in re-signing may have had to deal with some of the relationships Mauer has developed with his teammates.
Justin Morneau was quoted saying in a Sports Illustrated article last year, that if Mauer didn't re-sign with the Twins, Morneau would never speak to the star catcher again.
Mauer has also developed good relationships with the guys he has to be close with based on his job description, the pitchers.
The development of the starters last season, all of whom for the most part would have been perennial fourth or fifth starters for most other teams, can be somewhat attributed to Mauer.
Nick Blackburn in particular went from uneasy starter, to a guy who can consistently give you seven solid innings of work against any lineup.
Expect the rotation to continue its development this season, and a lot of the progress you see can be attributed to the Twins' No. 7.
While Joe Mauer may very well be on his way to having his likeness be hung, or constructed in various places in and around Target Field in the future, the contract extension keeping him a Twin for the better part of his career, may solidify those future accolades.
Regardless of how well Mauer plays in the years to come, one thing will stand out above everything else surrounding this franchise-record breaking deal.
Make no mistake about it, Joe Mauer's loyalty to the Minnesota Twins will single-handedly propel him to the "legend" status that only the late Kirby Puckett currently enjoys.
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