Tagged: Joe Mauer

A Rare Off-Season

After making the playoffs for the fifth time in eight seasons, and with a new ballpark in the waiting, the Minnesota Twins entered the off-season primed to make some moves. It took less than two days for the front office to get started, and the big moves over the past four-plus months have many fans optimistic about the team’s chances. 

Four roster moves and one key signing have fans excited, and the season that has been talked about for several years has now finally arrived. A new ballpark, the beginning of the prime years for several star players, and new additions to the roster could potentially make a great start for a new era in Minnesota baseball.
Less than forty-eight hours after the New York Yankees clinched the World Series, the Twins acquired shortstop J.J. Hardy with the hope that he can solidify the shortstop position for at least the next two seasons. The position hasn’t seen consistency since Christian Guzman roamed there during the 2005 season, and if Hardy can hit anywhere near the way he did during his breakout years in 2007 and 2008, he could be a perfect fit.
Next on the agenda was veteran starting pitcher Carl Pavano. His success against the division and the Detroit Tigers in particular made him the perfect late-season pickup as the Twins looked to capture a division title last year. His success with the Twins helped him stay put in Minnesota. After offering Pavano arbitration and receiving acceptance, the sides eventually worked out a one-year, $7 million deal. 
The Twins’ off-season was already going smoothly when the new year began. The rumors continued, and the big name that popped up seemingly every week was that of lefty Jarrod Washburn. Instead of adding another pitcher, the Twins added some pop to the bench with the signing of future Hall of Fame slugger, Jim Thome. After lacking a power hitter off the bench in the 2009 playoffs, the Twins went out and added a cheap option while taking an old nemesis off the streets at the same time. 
With the late-January addition of Thome, the Twins had made three solid off-season moves. Retaining Pavano and bringing in both Hardy and Thome were moves that helped general manager Bill Smith’s grade sheet. The money available seemed to be thin though, and what else the Twins could do remained uncertain as spring training neared.
Just over one week away from the start of spring training, and already at $90 million for the Opening Day payroll, the Twins wrote one more check and added second baseman Orlando Hudson to the fold. The veteran has made All-Star appearances, has won gold gloves, and is the perfect fit between Denard Span and Joe Mauer in the lineup. 
The off-season was already superb with the additions of Hardy, Pavano, Thome and Hudson when the Twins locked up one of baseball’s best players, Joe Mauer, through 2018 to officially complete the five months of hard work. Experts and fans from around the league have lauded the team’s off-season moves and the organization has without a doubt heightened their MLB betting odds for the 2010 season with what might be an off-season of a lifetime for the Minnesota Twins and their fans. 


Mauer Signs.jpgTarget Field will end indoor baseball in Minneapolis, and it may too end the use of the moniker “cheap” in relation to the Minnesota Twins. After trading for J.J. Hardy, retaining Carl Pavano and signing stars Jim Thome and Orlando Hudson, the Twins put the finishing touch on their busy off-season Sunday night, locking up their hometown hero through 2018.
Joe Mauer is a rare breed. At the age of 26, he’s won three American League batting titles, three more than any American League catcher in baseball history. His .365 batting average last season is the highest by a catcher in baseball history, and he also became the first catcher in history to lead the American League in batting average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage. 

His eye-popping numbers in 2009, which came even after he missed the first month of the season, earned him a third Silver Slugger award, and helped him join teammate Justin Morneau as an MVP award winner. 
Mauer’s busy off-season has now collided with the Twins’ after months of negotiations, and the result is an 8-year, $184 million contract. For the next nine seasons, and through the age of 35, Mauer will be with his hometown team in Minneapolis.
The months filled with false rumors and false hope are gone. No longer will Mauer need to talk about where he might be after the 2010 season on each road trip. Instead he can answer questions about staying with his hometown team and his attempts at taking the team he grew up rooting for to a World Series. 
In the early years of the long contract, if Mauer continues to progress and produce, fans will praise what is now the fourth largest contract in baseball history. In the later years, if Mauer regresses or struggles at times in his mid-thirties, there may be some grumbling. 
Yes, the long term deal carries its risks. Paying a 35 year old catcher $23 million might not work out. Then again, who says Mauer couldn’t change positions over the course of nine years if necessary? 
The Minnesota Twins had no option but to fork over the money, and in the end, it’s a deal that seems fair for both sides involved. Had the Twins lost Joe Mauer after just one more season, fans would be wondering for the next decade, what might have been. There will be no need for those thoughts however, fans will be able to find out the fate of the contract with a front row seat.

They’ve Arrived

Pitchers and catchers have finally kick-started spring training with their arrival in the Minnesota Twins’ spring home of Fort Myers, Florida. Joe Mauer is present and already answering questions about his contract status, and newcomers J.J. Hardy and Orlando Hudson are in town a week early.

The Associated Press is on the scene, and you can find more photos at the team gallery
Spring Mauer.jpg
Spring Hardy.jpg
Spring Hudson.jpg

Interview: MLB 10: The Show’s Jody Kelsey

The Show InterviewOver one month before real baseball begins at Target Field, fans will have the opportunity to see the park in action. For the first time in a video game, baseball will be played outdoors in Minnesota, and Senior Producer of MLB 10: The Show, Jody Kelsey was kind enough to answer some questions.
From the difficult task of replicating Target Field before the team steps foot in the park as well as the Minneapolis skyline, to the decision on Joe Mauer gracing the cover, Kelsey shares insight on what the job entails and a few things fans can expect to see when the game hits shelves on March 2nd.
A Voice From Twins Territory: How long have you been working on Target Field to get it ready for the final version of the game?

Jody Kelsey: We start off our process with pre-development, which includes layout and the collecting of reference material. This took about one month. Once we’re ready with our references, the overall digital construction of the stadium is about two-three months in the making. The digital construction encompasses modeling, texturing and lighting.

AVFTT: What role did the Minnesota Twins organization play in the process of putting the ballpark together for the game?

JK: We have contacts with all the MLB teams, and our contact with the Minnesota Twins helped to provide us with the blueprints, as well as other instrumental reference photos during the stadium construction. We provided samples of specific details we’re looking for, one example being the type of tree species they will be planting within the batters eye, which they provided to us. We need to know all the details, big and small.

AVFTT: When you guys work on building a stadium, what are the steps? What type of research do you do, on-site visits, etc.

JK: After obtaining all the needed reference material, we go into the initial layout stage. Our main focus deals with important items such as wall dimensions, wall heights and field layout. We then go into construction and model detail. Accuracy is always on our mind, so during this process we continue to check for updated reference material to assure the model is as accurate as the real stadium. Texturing and lighting is the final stage in the development of the stadium. During this whole process, we do travel to the stadium sight if possible, obtaining photo and lighting reference allowing us to recreate the most realistic stadium experience for anyone playing in Target Field in MLB 10 The Show.

Mauer OnDeck2.png
AVFTT: When you guys went to Target Field, what were your initial impressions? What stuck out about the ballpark?

JK: Unfortunately, we did not actually make it to Target Field this year. We relied on the Twins to get us all the data and they were incredibly helpful.

AVFTT: What makes Target Field unique? What are a few things your team noticed that might stick out to fans and make the park different?

JK: I would have to say the detail that the stadium encompasses. Things like the unique lines of the Metropolitan Club to the metal detail running through the entrance plaza in left field. The stadium is packed with character even down to the dark green window color.

AVFTT: No sports video game has needed the Minneapolis skyline before; what went into developing this, and was it difficult because this will be the first game to feature it?

JK: Lots of internet research occurred to find building placement, building heights, etc. We also used existing city photos we have from previous visits for texture map accuracy. This combination allowed for an exact digital replica of the downtown Minneapolis.

AVFTT: The Metr
odome is no longer in use, will it remain in the game?

JK: Yes. We’ve added the Metrodome to our Classic Stadium collection joining Shea Stadium and Yankee Stadium.

AVFTT: There is an all new presentation system and stadium realism; what type of new animations, celebrations, ballpark effects, presentation effects, etc. can gamers expect to see at Target Field and all other ballparks?

JK: Night time player lighting has a richer, more realistic feel to it, now that we are accounting for the self shadowing effects cast by the stadium bank lights. Day games will immediately look different, and you will feel the difference between 1pm and 3pm, both in the light energy, and the stadium cast shadows. Clouds now cast faint shadows on the world, which brings yet another realistic soft touch to the feeling of the visuals. Reflection and energy maps convey current time conditions, and are localized, so you can watch the reflection change in a baserunner’s helmet as he rounds the bases. Additionally, players populate dugouts and bullpens in real time and we’ve added stadium specific touches with scoreboards, jumbotrons, real-time clocks, splashcams, etc. We’ve also included crowd animation updates like stadium-specific behaviors such as animated objects, fireworks, splash counts, TB cowbell, and improved play-off atmosphere with additions such as noisemakers and rally towels.

AVFTT: Joe Mauer has become one of the game’s best, outside of that fact, what were the key reasons for choosing him as the 2010 cover athlete?

JK: Well, it’s impossible to ignore that Joe is one of the best players in baseball today and that is one of the reasons he’s a great fit for MLB 10 The Show. But, it’s also the entire body of work that he has put together in just a short time. His accomplishments at the age of 26 are almost unrivaled in the history of baseball. Joe is also just moving into the mainstream with people now understanding and appreciating the skill that he brings to game. On top of that, his range on the field links very well to what our game, The Show, really encapsulates, which is the deepest experience we can bring to your living room short of you actually putting on the equipment and getting on the field.

Virtual Target Field

Target Field may still be two months away in reality, but in less than one month, fans will have the opportunity to throw the first pitch well before April 12th comes. In the video below, Target Field is becoming a reality in the virtual world of MLB 10: The Show, which features Minnesota’s own Joe Mauer on the cover.

Odds and Ends: TwinsFest Day One

(*) The Official Twitter account of the Minnesota Twins was all over the Metrodome grounds taking pictures of Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, the newest Twin, Jim Thome, the picture of Denard Span above, and much more. 
(*) There were many quotes from several players, including Joe Mauer’s thoughts on the Homerun Derby last season:

Mauer says home run derby was tiring “because Morneau kept me out late the night before.”

(*) Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune has a story on Joe Mauer’s contract situation, and the following excerpt shows just how much the catcher means to the city and the Minnesota Twins organization:

The line for Joe Mauer’s autograph started outside the Metrodome at 8 a.m. Friday. He was eight hours from signing, and the temperature was minus-4.

TwinsFest 2010 will resume on Saturday at 9 a.m. and will wrap up with a third day on Sunday. No Joe Mauer signing is expected this weekend, but the annual event will help get baseball back in the news nonetheless. 

To-Do List: Late January

The Minnesota Twins have made some improvements to the roster this off-season, but they have nonetheless been relatively quiet. Outside of acquiring shortstop J.J. Hardy, retaining starting pitcher Carl Pavano, bringing in reliever Clay Condry, and avoiding arbitration with eight eligible players, the Twins have kept to themselves.

Questions remain regarding the roster, and the team is now just four weeks away from reporting day in Fort Myers, Florida. Every question can be answered with a roster move in the form of a free agent signing or trade; those same questions can be answered in-house if the front office deems that to be the best route.
Now one week away from TwinsFest and one month away from day one of spring training, here is a look at the team’s current to-do list.
1) Sign Joe Mauer
Whether the Twins sign two more players or make no additional roster moves, their off-season will be judged based on what they’re able to do with Joe Mauer. The Twins will be assessed by the outcome of their negotiations, and they must lock up the hometown hero to keep fans not just happy, but calm as well.
2) 5th Starting Pitcher
Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackburn and Carl Pavano seem to be locks for the 2010 Opening Day rotation. One final spot remains however, and the Twins must decide what their plan will be.
Lefties Brian Duensing, Glen Perkins and Francisco Liriano could compete for the job, or the team could sign veteran Jarrod Washburn, whom they offered a one-year deal weeks ago. The best route and money-wise way would be to let the in-house candidates fight for the job this spring.
3) Fourth Outfielder
If the season were to start today it seems as though Jason Pridie would be the team’s fourth outfielder. He isn’t the worst option since he brings both speed and the ability to play each outfield position.
Nonetheless, the Twins must decide if they’re comfortable with Pridie or if they feel they need to bring in a veteran who can provide pop off the bench. One popular name is Eric Byrnes, whom the Diamondbacks released earlier this week. 
4) Solution Needed: 2B and 3B
The organization’s third base options are now limited. They can re-sign Joe Crede to an incentive laden deal, or they can go in-house with a combination of Brendan Harris and Nick Punto. Whatever the case, they’ll soon be forced to pick a solution.
Second base is more complicated. Two premier upgrades remain on the market, and each would provide a solution to both the infield position and the two-hole in the lineup. The Twins have had internal discussions about both Orlando Hudson and Felipe Lopez, but are waiting for the price to drop. 

Interview: Joe Posnanski

Joe Posnanski is a senior writer for Sports Illustrated. He’s written three books, wrote for The Kansas City Star from 1996 to 2009, has twice been voted as the Sports Columnist of the Year by the Associated Press, and has been nominated for a grand total of 21 sports writing awards. 

Posnanski covers many sports, but he’s well known for his baseball writing, and in recent years, his name has become even more widespread to Twins’ fans. He’s been very passionate about two causes that relate to Minnesota Twins fans in particular: Joe Mauer and the MVP, and Bert Blyleven and the Hall of Fame. 
Joe took some time out of his busy schedule to talk Mauer, Blyleven, writing, the Metrodome and more.

Voice From Twins Territory: Growing up, what was your favorite baseball team, and who were some of your favorite players? 

Joe Posnanski: Well, I was a hardcore Cleveland Indians fans in the 1970s and my favorite player, without question, was Duane Kuiper, a gutsy second baseman who could not run fast or hit with power or hit much at all. But I loved him just the same. Loved pretty much all those Indians – Buddy Bell, Andre Thornton, Rico Carty (who would keep his wallet in his baseball pants and would not slide), Len Barker, Frank Duffy, Rick Manning, … well, just say all those Indians players. 

VFTT: What was your childhood dream, did you always know that you wanted to be a sports writer? What influenced this decision? 

JP: My childhood dream was to play second base for the Cleveland Indians. And if that did not work out, I was willing to be an overachieving wide receiver for the Cleveland Browns. And if that didn’t work out, I had an image of myself sprouting up so I could be a point guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Despite all my backup plans, none of those things quite worked out. I did not think about becoming a sportswriter until college … my decision was basically influenced by flunking out of accounting. 

VFTT: What has it been like in the past year to have the opportunity to join Sports Illustrated as a senior writer covering Major League Baseball? 

JP: Well, the great thing about my job at Sports Illustrated is that I get to cover everything. Baseball is my calling card, I think, and I love it. I also love that when baseball season ends I’m writing football and when football season ends I’m writing basketball and golf … I love the variety of my job. 

VFTT: What are your thoughts on sabermetrics? How do you feel they change the way people look at players and baseball in general? 

JP: Well, sabermetrics, as I understand it, is the analysis of baseball through objective measures – so my general thoughts: I love that. I don’t agree with everything I see, and I don’t understand everything I see, but I like the idea of trying to find truth in baseball rather than just throwing out an opinion without some effort behind it. 

VFTT: Regarding sabermetrics, where do you cross the line? When is the time to ‘ignore’ them in certain cases when looking at players? 

JP: I don’t think you EVER cross the line in an effort to find truth in baseball or any sport. I think people can use statistics in a misleading way to prove a pre-determined point, and so I suppose that’s crossing the line. But that’s not really sabermetrics. And I don’t buy for one minute that the enjoyment of the game is in any way hindered by numbers. I get a huge thrill out of Albert Pujols’ wide stance, Carlos Beltran chasing down a fly ball, Tim Lincecum painting the outside corner with a 98-mph fastball, Evan Longoria making a diving play to his left, and a guy hustling up the line to beat out a double play. I love the big and small details of baseball. But that doesn’t prevent me from wanting to challenge what I see and know more than my observations can tell me. 

VFTT: You lobbied hard for Joe Mauer’s Most Valuable Player candidacy this season, what made you feel so strongly about him winning the award? 

JP: He was clearly the best player in the American League. I just thought it was so obvious that I had to write about it again and again – imagine, a catcher leading the league in batting, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. It had never happened before, and it’s one of the great accomplishments in baseball history. I hoped it would be rewarded, and I’m glad that it was rewarded. 

VFTT: You have stated that you felt Mauer should have won the Most Valuable Player award in both 2006 and 2008, did this make you push for him harder in 2009? 

JP: No, I don’t think so. I’m a big Joe Mauer fan. I love watching him play. I think he was underrated in 2006 and 2008 – I voted him MVP in 2008 and would have in 2006. But I think 2009 was a year apart even from those two seasons. 

VFTT: What do you feel Joe Mauer’s future holds? Do you see any way that Mauer is not a Twin after the 2010 season? 

JP: Well, I see a way, of course. If he pushed it, he could probably get $30 or $35 million a year. But I HOPE he stays a Twin because he means so much to the town and the Midwest in general. At the end of the day, I hope I would never tell anyone how to live their life. I would love to see Minnesota pay Mauer fair market value and I would love to see him stay there for his whole career. But that’s up to Mauer and the Twins. 

VFTT: You have a Hall o
f Fame vote and it’s been said that you are ‘obsessed’ with the process of filling out your ballot, is this true? 

JP: I would say that’s probably true – but I don’t think it makes me different from many Hall of Fame voters. Most of the voters I know take the process very seriously. 

VFTT: You watched Bert Blyleven growing up, what were your impressions of him at that period in time? 

JP: I thought he had the best curveball I had ever seen. It was a Bugs Bunny curveball that would start at your eyes and end up at your toes. I know that generally he was not viewed as a big star, but I thought he was just awesome when he pitched for some lousy Cleveland teams in the 1980s. 

VFTT: You voted for Blyleven the first year you had the opportunity to vote, how strongly do you feel about him being in the Hall of Fame? 

JP: Well, as strongly as I can feel, I guess. I vote for him. I push for him. I probably won’t handcuff myself to Cooperstown doors … I leave that for Rich Lederer, who feels even more strongly than I do. 

VFTT: What are your key arguments of why Blyleven should be in the Hall of Fame? 

JP: Well, there are countless arguments both ways. I guess at the end of the day, my feeling is that a pitcher who is fifth all-time in strikeouts, ninth all-time in shutouts and 27th all-time in victories belongs in the Hall of Fame. 

VFTT: What do you think other voters who don’t vote for Blyleven see? Why has it taken so long for people to begin to vote for him? 

JP: Well, there are arguments against Blyleven. He didn’t win 300 games, which is probably a silly line to draw but it is a pretty clear-cut line – if Blyleven had won 13 more games he would have gone to the Hall in one of his first three ballots, I bet. He only won 20 games once – another silly line in my mind but it’s there. His winning percentage is low for a great pitcher, and fairly or unfairly he really did not have a reputation as a great pitcher. It just takes a while for all that to flush through the system, I think. 

VFTT: After getting 74.2 percent of the vote, is it a guarantee that Blyleven will get in next year? 

JP: There are no guarantees in life, but I’d say he’s 99% sure. 

VFTT: You’ve twice been named the best sports columnist in America and have been nominated for over 20 other awards, what has that all been like? 

JP: My mother always says that with all my awards and 4 bucks I can get a cup of coffee at Starbucks. It is really nice that people have thought enough of me to give me some awards and I’m very appreciative. But I also know that’s not what this is all about. 

VFTT: What is your favorite part of covering major league baseball on a daily basis? 

JP: Well, I don’t quite get out there on a daily basis, but I love the whole thing – love watching batting practice, love watching infield (when they do it), love everything about the daily process of baseball. 

VFTT: What is the best event that you have witnessed in person in your time covering baseball and sports in general? 

JP: I’ve been to so many great things. The Jeter home run shortly after 9/11 was incredible. But I’ve really seen a lot of great stuff. 

VFTT: The Minnesota Twins will be outdoors next season, have you seen the new stadium, and what are your impressions? 

JP: I have seen the stadium, and it looks absolutely beautiful. I know people talk about the weather a lot, but I know that June and July and August in Minnesota are about as beautiful as anyplace in America, and it always made me sad to go inside and play ball on those days.  

VFTT: Do you think weather will be a factor in Minnesota any more than it is in Detroit, Cleveland and other colder cities? 

JP: Probably not. I was lectured by my friend Jeff Shelman on that very subject when I brought it up. Early April could be brutal, late October could be brutal, but generally it is not much different from my own Cleveland hometown. 

VFTT: As the team leaves the Metrodome, what are your impressions of the facility and your greatest memories of the park? 

JP: Well, it’s weird … I always liked the Metrodome in an odd way. It was a great place to cover a baseball game – ev
erything was easy there. It may not have been a great place to watch baseball, but for a writer who just wants access to and good sight lines and all that, it was pretty great. And I liked the possibility that a player would lose the ball in the roof. 

My greatest memory there, without question, was Buck O’Neil Day. I was traveling with Buck then to write my book “The Soul of Baseball” and they had Buck O’Neil Day – gave out baseball cards with him on it, brought in celebrities like Tony Oliva – and it was just beautiful. Minneapolis is one of my favorite places in the world, and that’s a big reason why.

Random Notes: Bonuses and Former Players

Things are moving slowly in Twins Territory as the date nears mid-January. The Minnesota Twins have uncertainty remaining at both second and third base, and options are falling off the table with each passing day.

Despite the slow move through the winter, there are some interesting notes to pass along.
Award Bonuses
It is common for players to receive award bonuses in contracts, and if calculations are correct, the Twins paid out $200,000 worth of bonuses last season. How did it all stack up?

Justin Morneau received $25,000 for his All-Star selection.

Joe Nathan received $25,000 for his All-Star selection.

Joe Mauer received $25,000 for his All-Star selection, $25,000 for his Gold Glove award, and $100,000 for his Most Valuable Player award.

Paying Lamb
Next season, Mike Lamb will be nowhere in sight. Nonetheless, the Minnesota Twins will be paying him for one more year. For the 2010 season, the Twins will pay the former Twin $100,000.
The Twins signed Lamb to a two-year contract prior to the 2007 season, and designated him for assignment before he completed even one season. Lamb was paid by the Twins last season, and the money he’ll receive this upcoming season will be for an option year that was included in the deal.
Hocking an Oriole
Denny Hocking played for the Minnesota Twins for 11 seasons before moving around at the end of his career. Hocking has been in the radio business since, but now is moving back to baseball.
After sending messages to three teams, Hocking has joined the Baltimore Orioles and will be a minor league coach next season:

“Once I decided to get into pro coaching I sent out e-mails to the Twins, Angels and Orioles. The Orioles’ David Stockstill called me back within three hours and it didn’t take me too long to join the organization.”

Hat tip: Cot’s Contracts