Twins GM has steps to take to sign Mauer

Published 8:50 am Thursday, December 10, 2009

“City Slickers” is a good movie. It’s about a small-time radio advertising man played by Billy Crystal having a mid-life crisis. He is an unhappy man whose friends talk him into being part of a west country cattle drive.

On the drive he runs into Curly, a hard-bitten trail boss played by Jack Palance. He learns Curly’s philosophy of life. That life boils down to one thing. And that for Curly it is being a cowboy. Billy Crystal’s Mitch finds his one thing eventually and that is his love for his family and friends. I think almost all of us would agree with Mitch.

Organizations’ one thing can be many and varied, outside of making money that is. What it should be for the Minnesota Twins is winning the World Series. Some might say, that it is enough to put a competitive team on the field. I don’t think that’s enough for Joe Mauer. The one thing that should motivate the Minnesota Twins is winning the World Series. Why else do they play? Kent Hrbek said the same thing when I interviewed him years ago.

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During the down years of the Twins, all fans that stuck with them are to be admired. It’s easy to be a Yankee fan, but when your team is out of the race in May, it’s not so easy. So the Twins front office has done well these past few years in making the team competitive, but it’s time for the next step.

Granted General Manager Bill Smith can’t get on the field and play, but what he does affects the team to a greater extent than any player. We’re lucky that Joe Mauer cares so much about the team and winning, for if he was just interested in money he would be long gone next year. He’d sign with the Yankees for a swollen contract and endorsements. It seems that is not his primary concern and is willing to stay in his home state with family and friends if Smith can meet his concerns about becoming part of a World Series team.

I don’t know of any other player that has the kind of influence over the front office that Joe Mauer does. Given his Minnesota popularity, Smith must accede to his wishes and keep Joe Mauer on the team or be subject to a wave of negative reaction and lack of support. And that translates into ticket buying or not.

What does Smith have to do? He’s got to convince Mauer that he will build a Series team in Minnesota. And that doesn’t mean just for a year or two. It means for the length of Joe’s career. Smith has gotten off to a good start, not only acquiring a fine shortstop in J.J. Hardy, but also signing possible future stars, spending $4 million on Dominican and German teenagers. I’m sure Joe Mauer took notice.

What else does Smith have to do for Mauer and the team. From last year’s indications they need a second baseman, third baseman and a dominant or at least a very reliable pitcher. However that need has lessen with Carl Pavano accepting arbitration. Smith and Mauer could be satisfied with the stretch drive second baseman Nick Punto had, but wouldn’t a hard-hitting, good-fielding, third baseman be welcome? With the addition of Hardy and pitchers Jon Rauch and Pavano, the team looks to be improved. It will also help if pitchers Kevin Slowey and side-arming Pat Neshek are healthy. If Smith can add a third baseman, a right-handed pinch hitter on the order of Joe Crede, that should about wrap things up. Then, if the money is right and if Joe Mauer doesn’t sign, the responsibility rests on Mauer himself.