Mauer Puts Off Possible New Deal
Questions have hovered over Joe Mauer’s future this summer as the Twins’ 35-year-old first baseman plays out the final season of his contract.
Does Mauer want to continue his now 15-year major league career with his hometown Twins? Might he prefer another team with more potential to earn its way into the 2019 postseason?
Does he even want to play beyond this season? Will he choose retirement?
Do the Twins want Mauer on their roster in 2019?
The answer to the last question is yes. Club president Dave St. Peter made it clear how much the front office values the Minnesota native during an interview with Sports Headliners on Monday. “I think if Joe Mauer wants to play—and we expect him to make that decision sometime in the early part of the offseason—I would expect Joe Mauer would be back with the Twins. But Joe Mauer has indicated that he would prefer that dialogue to take place in the offseason. We are fully supportive of that. We’ll have that dialogue at the appropriate time.”
The Twins made Mauer the first pick in the first round of the 2001 MLB Draft after a legendary athletic career at St. Paul’s Cretin-Derham Hall High School. He has played his entire professional baseball career in the Twins organization.
Mauer is finishing the last season of his eight-year, $184 million contract. With a career history of injuries, a young family and all the money he could ever need, he might decide to retire.
The flip side? Mauer is still able to play major league baseball better than many of his peers. The desire to continue competing on the field may still be in place during the months ahead.
St. Peter describes it as “speculation” as to what Mauer will decide regarding his career this fall. What St. Peter does believe is not having Mauer in a Twins uniform would be a significant loss to the franchise.
“You lose a very good player, somebody who is still playing at a high level,” St. Peter said. “Still taking great at bats. Still one of the more difficult guys to get out with runners in scoring position late in the game.
“He (also) turned himself into a Gold Glove caliber first baseman. So you lose a lot. That’s not to be taken lightly in terms of that decision and how it impacts your baseball team. …”
Before switching over to first base in 2014, Mauer could be mentioned in the same breath with baseball’s greatest catchers ever. He is the only MLB catcher to win three batting titles and the only one ever among American Leaguers. He won the 2009 American League MVP Award and also received three consecutive Gold Glove awards for his work behind the plate.
“This is a player that our young players look up to,” St. Peter said. “He leads in I’d say a very quiet, very steady manner inside of our clubhouse. I think he leads by example. I think he models the type of behavior in terms of preparation that you want your young players to mimic…to learn from.”
Mauer has been hitting better of late, batting about .300 in recent games and knocking two home runs over the fence. Will how he finishes the season impact the decision on his playing future?
“If he were to get hurt, I think that could have some impact,” St. Peter said. “I think Joe is healthy today. He feels good. Assuming that remains the case, I really don’t know the on field stuff is going to have a huge impact. Joe knows he can still play. He’s demonstrated that. I expect him to have a strong final six weeks.”
St. Peter didn’t offer details yet but expect the Twins to make offseason improvements to Target Field as has become their custom.
Augsburg baseball alum and Minneapolis native Mike Gallagher is in his second year as a radio play-by-play announcer for the Elizabethton Twins. The Johnson City (Tenn.) Press had an online story last Friday featuring Gallagher and another Minnesotan, Andy Fisher from Hutchinson who is a Minnesota-Crookston graduate. Fisher is a statistical data caster for the Twins minor league team in Elizabethton, Tenn. Data casters enter all the information from a game into a computer so viewers can follow developments on the Internet.
The Big Ten Network TV football crew including Gerry DiNardo and former Gophers coach Glen Mason attended Minnesota’s practice last Thursday. DiNardo said on the show devoted to analyzing the Gophers that redshirt freshman Tanner Morgan and true freshman Zack Annexstad look like better quarterbacks to him than last year’s twosome of Demry Croft and Conor Rhoda.
Mason likes the throwing accuracy of Morgan and Annexstad, who has been named Minnesota’s starter for the opening game August 30 against New Mexico State. “If I was going to say a negative thing about it, I am not sure if they have got the strong enough arm to throw the deep ball,” Mason said on BTN.
The offensive line lacked numbers and quality last season. Mason sees improvement in both areas. “They’ve got some big dudes in there now. Now they’re young. B-i-g doesn’t spell good but…in time they’re going to be good offensive linemen.”
Mason still lives in the Minneapolis area and said he is asked “all the time” how the Gophers, 2-7 in the Big Ten last year, are going to be in 2018. He answers “average at best” and said that’s a good thing because the roster of players is so young and inexperienced. “Down the road they’ve got hope here,” Mason said.
Annexstad is a walk-on and sure to earn a scholarship next year if he becomes a key contributor to Minnesota’s success this fall.
The Gophers may have about 6,200 University of Minnesota freshmen using free tickets for the opener August 30 at TCF Bank Stadium. Freshmen are annually given free tickets as an introduction to Gophers football.
Jim Brunzell, the former Golden Gopher football player and one-time partner with Greg Gagne of The High Flyers wrestling tag team, recalls this directive from Minnesota football coach Murray Warmath: “Brunzell, you can jump like a kangaroo but your blocking will kill us!”
It will be interesting to see how the Gophers volleyball team, ranked No. 4 nationally in a preseason poll, draws in its Big Ten/ACC Challenge at Target Center Friday and Saturday. Minnesota was 28-6 last season and has 12 returnees including three All-Americans—Alexis Hart, Stephanie Samedy and Samantha Seliger-Swenson.
The Gophers’ home matches at Maturi Pavilion were a popular ticket last season. Multiple matches at the Pav are likely sellouts this season including against Nebraska, Penn State and Wisconsin. In the American Volleyball Coaches Association’s preseason poll Nebraska is No. 2, Penn State No. 6 and Wisconsin No. 9.