The two best players on the Minnesota Twins are arguably Joe Nathan and Joe Mauer. One Joe is the best pitcher on the team and one Joe is the best hitter. But both Joe’s are starting the 2010 season on two very different paths.
Joe Nathan will be in rehab after recently deciding to go ahead with season ending Tommy John surgery on his injured right elbow after waiting two weeks to see if he could pitch through the injury. He attempted to pitch from 60-70 feet and immediately felt soreness in the same spot he tweaked when he was pitching in relief almost three weeks ago. Right now he’s 35 and will be going on 37 the next time he pitches in a major league game. Odds are 50/50 right now that he can come back and be the same dominant closer he has been for the last 6 seasons for the Twins. He has averaged 41 saves a season since he was acquired in a trade for A.J. Pierzinski that also included former Twin Boof Boonser and former ace and current 5th starter Francisco Liriano, who had the same surgery 3 years ago and has never re-found the nasty stuff that made him the ace in waiting after Johan Santana ended up with the Mets. Nathan is coming off his best season ever but it still remains who will be the closer for the 2010 Twins who are opening a new stadium in 3 weeks and might have the most all around talented team since 1991.
Joe Mauer, however, is having a great spring and is now the highest paid athlete in Minnesota sports history, signing a deal worth, gulp, 8 years, $184,000,000. That’s $23, 000,000 per season through 2018 with a no trade clause. That makes him the 4th highest paid baseball player of all time. Somewhere Babe Ruth and Kirby Puckett are rolling around in their graves wondering why they couldn’t have been born in the era of the over paid athlete. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy the Twins decided to pay the catcher what he’s worth and if that keeps him out of Yankee pinstripes than it’s totally worth it. Someone else who’s probably rolling over in their grave is the late billionaire owner of the Twins Carl Pohlad. Would he have paid almost 2/5 of a billion dollars to keep Joe Mauer? Probably not, but his family was wise enough to see that if they did pay Mauer, the most popular Minnesotan to ever play for the Twins, they will lock up the best hitting catcher in baseball, a future Hall of Famer, and the face for the new Target Field for the next 8 seasons and possibly for the next 15. And Mauer is smart, he knows that he must carry the team even more so since Joe Nathan is already done for the season and possibly his career, that is, assuming Joe Mauer stays healthy.
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Written by Chad McIntyre