The Minnesota Twins can’t make an announcement of any kind without Joe Mauer coming up. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — there’s just a lot of interest in whether he’s going to return for a 16th MLB season.
When the Twins fired Paul Molitor, questions about Mauer’s future came up. “We’ve been in contact with him,” Thad Levine said.
When the Twins had an end-of-season conference call for reporters a week or so later, Mauer’s future again came up. “There’s no timeline for him to make a decision, but we’d be happy to have him back,” Derek Falvey said.
And finally, when the Twins introduced Rocco Baldelli as their new manager, Mauer’s name again came up.
If it feels like the media is belaboring the point, that’s not the intent. There’s just a lot of interest in Mauer from the standpoint of not only reporters, but the people who engage in the content they put out.
The Twins insist they’re in no hurry to hear back from Mauer regarding his plans, but that’s easy to say right now. Mauer can’t even file for free agency until after the World Series ends, so any sort of resolution between the end of the year and now would have been unnecessary from any standpoint other than closure.
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But when Mauer’s name came up during Baldelli’s media availability on Thursday, the new Twins skipper was able to bring a unique angle.
Thirty-three of Baldelli’s 519 career MLB games came against the Twins, and all but one year of his career intersected with Mauer’s, so he’s seen plenty of him as a player and even now as a scout and coach after his career.
“I’ve known Joe from the other side of the field for a while,” Baldelli said. “He’s about as respected of an individual in this game as I know of. He is beyond a wonderful representative of the Twins — he is the Twins in a lot of ways. I think a lot of people relate to him in a lot of ways. They love him in this area. I was able to get on the phone with him briefly earlier today.”
So respected is Mauer in baseball circles that he’s got bullpen catchers coaching first base just for a chance to get to shake his hand.
“Scott Cursi, our longtime bullpen catcher — that’s his favorite player,” Baldelli said. “He’d actually go out to first base and coach just to get to shake Joe Mauer’s hand. That’s the kind of guy he is and that’s how people feel about him.”
Cursi has been the bullpen catcher for the Rays since 1999, so while he’s seen a lot of Mauer — he’s seen a lot of other players, too. That Mauer, a player who isn’t in the same division as Tampa Bay, and thus doesn’t face the Rays all that frequently, can have that kind of effect is pretty special.
“I don’t know what he’s thinking about his own personal situation,” Baldelli concluded. “Now is probably not the best time to address any of that, because that’s his decision going forward, but I think saying that everyone would like Joe Mauer to be a part of the Twins organization going forward is a safe assumption.”
After saying that, Baldelli looked to his right and to his left, with Falvey and Levine both nodding in unison.
“I totally agree,” Baldelli said.
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