But this time, it had to happen. It was meant to happen. And for once, the right player, the right agent and the right team came along to recognize that they couldn't possibly have it any other way.
The quote's from Jayson Stark's long, purple prose piece on Mauer's extension. Since news of the Mauer signing came down, a lot of people, including members of this community that I respect to the utmost, have held up the mammoth, $184M extension as something that is not just good for Mauer or the Twins but is also good for baseball and, perhaps, even good for our very souls as baseball fans. It has been asserted, both implicitly and explicitly, that Mauer being in Minnesota for all time is somehow an appropriate karmic balance to the extravagances of the Northeastern spendthrifts and that our universe is a kinder, nicer place for the have-nots and never-wills of the world because Joe decided to keep his midwestern smile in his home state for all time.
I do not buy it. The universe is still as terrible a place as it was the day before the signing and I'll tell you one of the big reasons why: the Minnesota Twins still exist.
I cannot and will not get on board with anything that transmits good vibrations in the direction of the Minnesota Twins. You feel happy because something good happened to the Twins? THE TWINS? Everything good always happens to the Twins! That's why I hate them!
I think we all got pretty serious about hating the Twins back in 2002. That was when the Twins took the first of their recent vintage AL Central crowns and they did it with a real humdinger of a ball club. I say "humdinger of a ball club" because I assume that's how Morton Goldblatt, the town dentist in Big Falls, MN, would want me to say it. I mean look at this team: Cristian Guzman at SS! A.J. Pierzynski behind the dish! Doug Mientkiewcz, the slickest fielding first basemen you've ever seen (seriously, why did most of America go along with the idea that anyone was allowed to make a living as defensively minded first basemen?)! Then there's the rotation, featuring 92 starts by Rick Reed, Kyle Lohse and Eric Milton. Now, I know what you're thinking: "This team seems irritating and terrible." And, I won't argue that point except, there it is, 94 wins and a division championship. Lest we neglect to notice, the Twins pythagorean put them at 86 wins which happened to be the same as the White Sox's pythagorean that season, but, whatever. The Twins won the division! They would do that a bunch more times, winning it in 2003 (85 pythag wins, 90 actual), in 2004 (87 pythag wins, 92 actual), 2006 (93 pythag wins, 96 actual), and 2009 (86 pythag wins, 87 actual).
In these golden years of Twins baseball that we've all been living in they've managed to draft Joe Mauer because Mark Prior (justifiably) hated Minnesota, give David Ortiz away for nothing and have it not matter, watch their best veteran player negotiate through the media and fist fight with younger teammates, again to no ill-effect, see Rule 5 draftee Johan Santana become the best player in franchise history (Hector Ambriz for the Hall), lose the best young pitcher in baseball to injury, again to no ill-effect, and become the nation's darlings because of their insistence on playing baseball the "right way", i.e. bunting and chewing tobacco. Their strategy is, essentially, a rehashing of what the Mighty Ducks do in D2 against international competition: there are a couple of actually good players and then a variety of hardworking, likable child character actors who each only has one skill that is abused to the max: as the obvious example, Nick Punto can't really hit or field but he can electrify Ron Gardenhire with his bunting, so he does that a lot.
All this is to say, the Twins don't need any belly rubs from me and they certainly don't deserve any. They've been the luckiest team imaginable over the last decade and I, as a fan of the most unlucky teams of, oh I don't know, maybe all time, don't have any interest in getting the warm-fuzzies over the fact that they got to keep their franchise player while my team lost two Cy Young winners in the last two seasons because, apparently, Northern Ohio is not as charming a locale for millionaires as Minnesota.
I hate the Minnesota Twins. The Twins are what would happen if Joe Buck's fantasies became reality. The Twins are the most boring group of 25 men imaginable and they are led by a magical walrus that has taken human form, some pleading vocalization for tradition cribbed from a native people's folk tale. And, the Twins know they are this boring, so what do they do? They run around all the time, thinking that will fool us. It's not fooling me, Twins. It's not fooling anybody. You're the straight-laced kid who shows up at the school dance with new Zubaz and a flattop, starts talking about how he loves to jam to Little Miss Can't Be Wrong and suddenly thinks he's going to get to dance with Topanga Lawrence. You don't get to dance with Topanga, Twins. She's still Jeter's date.
We are not all in this together, us small market teams. We are the crabs in the bucket and the only way we're going to get out is to step on each other and now one of the other crabs has a quick-wristed catcher in place of a claw. Great.
Am I happy they signed Mauer? No. Even a little bit? No. Why would I be? All this does is strengthen the competition. It doesn't make it any more likely that one of the Indians' important star players will take a lock-up deal. It doesn't set a precedent for anyone except for somebody who might idolize Joe Mauer and none of our players do that. Because they're not total dorks. It gives fodder to Selig who will, I'm sure, claim that revenue sharing money kept Mauer in Minnesota, pick up Stark's narrative and explain this is where he "had to be", where he "belonged." As if each player has a destiny that the finances of the league permit: Mauer's destiny is to be the most popular Minnesotan ever, whereas Mark Teixiera was born to be a Yankee, right? Ugh.
I wish Mauer had signed with the Yankees, along with every other star of a small-market team. Scorch the earth until it's obvious to everyone that things have to change. Then again, why do the Yankees need Mauer anyway? They swept the Twins without him.