WhatIfSports MLB Insider Talks Joe Mauer and Milton Bradley

Jake WestrichSenior Writer IMay 17, 2010

Jacki Wells Cisneros says she screamed and cried when her husband confirmed they had just won the $266 million Mega Millions jackpot on May 4.

Four days earlier, Minnesota Twins general manager Bill Smith may have reacted the same way when his $184 million investment, reigning MVP Joe Mauer, injured himself trying to beat out a grounder against the Indians.

Remember, the Twinkies are presently on the hook for closer Joe Nathan's 2010 contract. Yeah, that fat check boasting an 11 followed by 250, then three zeroes.

Speaking of zeroes, that's exactly how many pitches Nathan has thrown (and will throw) this season following Tommy John surgery.

So, forget Washington—this Mr. Smith may have ended up going to the asylum had Mauer been placed on the disabled list or missed an extended period of time. Let's face it: $12.5 million (Mauer's 2010 salary) divided by 162 is...enough to make a GM scream and cry.

Smith's sanity remains intact, for now, as Mauer, and his bruised heel, returned to the lineup this past Sunday in Baltimore. But the Twins' front office and fanbase, responsible for filling up Target Field, aren't out of the clear. The true test of the heel injury will come in the crouch for this catcher this week.

Former general manager and current Fox Sports baseball analyst Jim Bowden encountered situations like this throughout his career. He says if Mauer experiences any setbacks this week, it's better for management to error on the side of caution.

"You don't allow him back with an injury where he may hurt a knee or a hip favoring the injury," Bowden said. "You can't replace an impact player like Joe Mauer."

For Whatifsports.com's Hardball Dynasty and SimLeague Baseball owners, Bowden's impact injury advice translates to your teams too.

"If (a player) is out for a couple weeks, you make due with what you have," Bowden said. "If a guy is going to be out a half a season, and you're not happy with the replacement, then at that point you have to have trade discussions."

Rookie catcher Wilson Ramos replaced Mauer in the lineup following the heel injury. After starting his major league career 7-for-9 from the dish, Ramos is one for his last 18 (.055 BA). Gulp!


Missing Milton

Games Missed Since 2002

General managers know they can play the injury card at any time. It's tucked away in their back pocket ready to strike when chaos ensues. But when baseball's elite players melt down mentally, GMs need to be more careful with their commentary on the situation.

It's times like these where GMs prove, and their fans are reminded, it's not all about the dollars and the cents, the wins and the losses. It's about the health of the human being inside that uniform.

Seattle Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik is currently walking the delicate line between business and baseball.

Last week the M's placed Milton Bradley on the restricted list as he undergoes some counseling for stress-related issues. Now according to MLB rules, Bradley, who is the second highest paid Mariner ($11 million) behind Ichiro, should not be paid while on the restricted list. Zduriencik would not comment on whether Bradley was being paid or not.

Bradley has dealt with anger management issues season after season since he broke in with the Expos. Injuries and games missed over the years have truly stunted the breakout potential Bradley has showcased in spurts. Since 2002, he's been inactive over 370 games.

In that same breath, Bowden says the troubled outfielder has a positive reputation around the league.

"If you talk to general managers, managers, and teammates, they all like him," Bowden said. "He's a real respectful guy. Where he fails is in between the lines."

Bowden believes fans forget how difficult it is to be a professional ball player. Sure, the paycheck at the end of the week is just like hitting the lottery, but the mental stress can be overwhelming.

"It's difficult to be a major league player when you aren't doing well," Bowden said. "The fans show a lot of hatred and you hear it. Most major league players can tune it out and be professional and understand it comes with the territory. Milton snaps and blows up."

Bowden applauds the Mariners' front office for supporting Bradley instead of turning their back on the ball player when it's the human being that needs the help.

"I think Seattle's doing the right thing given the circumstances," Bowden said. "It doesn't matter if it's a drug issue, marriage issue, custody battle. Whatever issues the person is going through, he's part of your family. You treat him like part of your family. I'm glad he's out there trying to get help again."

Jacki Wells Cisneros' life changed after hearing the numbers 9, 21, 31, 36, 43, and 8.

Whether he realizes it now or down the road, Milton's life changed the moment he said, "I need your help."