In Spring 2008 Trade Mauer had it's humbling beginnings by making a simple request - trade Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer while his value as a player was at its peak. At the time the hate filled comments and e-mails rolled in like many Mauer ground balls to second base. I got called all sorts of names, many of which I will not repeat because this is a family blog of which I am certain many parents read to their children before bed every night.
Well here we are three years later with many a change in the air. Some things haven't changed, as the Twins got bounced by the Yankees in the first round of the playoffs last fall and have started yet another season (2011) hoping to win the division and get past their pinstriped foes.
Some things have changed, with the biggest being an 8 year, $184 million contract for Joe Mauer. The Twins not only made Mauer the fourth highest paid player in baseball, but gave him a contract that probably causes Johnny Bench to wonder why he wasn't born 30 years later. Mauer is far and away the greatest compensated catcher of all time.
Why would any team sign a catcher to a $184 million contract? That is, as Wilson Ramos was overheard on his way to Washington DC, "mucho dinero." Catchers aren't known for their durability, often switching positions at some point during their career for longevity sake (Craig Biggio) if not just breaking down both physically (Mauer) or mentally (Darren Daulton). The idea of making any catcher, not just Mauer, one of the highest paid players in baseball during a season in which he turns 28 and will be 35 when the contract runs out, shows a tremendous lack of foresight.
So why would the Twins spend $23 million per season through 2018 on one player, especially when the franchise has a reputation of letting great players leave instead of paying them? Two reasons.
1. Because they couldn't let him go with the new stadium being built.
2. Because he's from Minnesota and most fans will love him even if he's awful.
Mauer had his best season in 2009, hitting .365 with 28 home runs in 138 games. Pretty ridiculous Pujols like numbers. With Target Field opening the following season, the Twins knew that the fans would burn it down opening day if Mauer wasn't in the opening day lineup. While Mauer's numbers before 2009 warranted a big contract extension, it was that boost in 2009 that got him up the ridiculous $184 million mark.
As I was writing this late last night, news came that Mauer will be on the 15 day dl because of "bilateral leg weakness." While some Twins fans are panicking and worried about everything from MS to improper eating habits, this doesn't mean Mauer won't have a great 2011 season. However, it further suggests that giving Mauer as much money as they did was a mistake that could haunt through the limestone walls of Target Field for years to come.
Trading Mauer doesn't seem so ridiculous now, does it? It's hard to live up to $23 million a season no matter who you are. But Mauer played his cards right and got his huge contract, knowing the pressures of playing in New York and Boston are far greater than in the hometown. He wanted to stay here all along, but now even Twins fans are getting antsy. It will be fascinating to see if Twins fans turn on the hometown boy because of injuries or perceived lack of production this season.
It's good to be back.