Joe Mauer is still the face of the Minnesota Twins, and one of the faces of baseball in general, but he’s been under siege ever since he signed his 10-year extension and the Twins moved to Target Field. He’s not playing up to his contract, he no longer hits for power, he’s no longer a perennial MVP candidate, merely an All-Star (and even that might be stretching it- Matt Wieters and Cleveland’s Carlos Santana have better Wins Above Replacement on the Baseball Gauge).
He’s probably not worth the $23 million a year he’s getting, I understand that. I also think that the deal had to be done. Not for on-the-field reasons, but for off-the-field reasons. Psychological reasons. Go below the jump to see why.
Remember back before Mauer signed his extension. It seemed like every week somebody speculated about how much the Yankees, or Mets, or Red Sox, or whoever, would pay him if he were to reach the open market. This happens every year as a big name approaches the market. Last year it happened with Albert Pujols. And, unlike Mauer, Pujols didn’t stay in the city he had grown to be most identified with. He went to the Angels.
St. Louis, of course, survived. SportsCenter didn’t lead with angry Missourians burning Pujols jerseys. The Cardinals, until this month, barely seemed to miss him.
Minneapolis/St.Paul, however, isn’t St. Louis. Few cities are, as far as baseball goes. Not to mention the Twins weren’t coming off a World Series title.
To have lost Mauer would have brought the Twins down to their current last-place standing. Fast. The Twins, having another tough year, have seen attendance decline greatly this season. Just imagine how badly attendance might have been without a marketable face (Justin Morneau would also have been out of the equation given his concussions), even one who is underperforming to his contract?
In short: The Twins needed to sign Mauer. If they had lost him, especially to one of the big East Coast teams, it would have dragged the team and people’s perception of it down faster then a pile of bricks.