If Joe Mauer wanted to be the prototypical superstar diva who uses his contract and no-trade clause as a hammer to force the hand of his front office, he could do that.
It wouldn’t take much of an effort for Mauer to inform the Twins that he has no interest in moving out from behind the plate; that he doesn’t want them to trade Justin Morneau and if they do it’s not going to be in the interests of Mauer becoming a first baseman; that he isn’t going to sit by as a good soldier in the prime years of his career and endure a long rebuilding project; that if his input into who the GM, manager and teammates are isn’t taken into account, he’s going on a PR blitz with friendly reporters who are looking to accumulate the readership that coincides with being the mouthpiece for an unhappy team star.
Mauer could make the Twins’ lives difficult because he has an immovable contract, is the hometown hero and the team is going to be awful for the foreseeable future.
He hasn’t done that. Mauer’s been the good soldier and played positions other than catcher. Last season he played right field in an emergency when they were short on position players.
But in today’s game against the Brewers at Target Field (still in progress as of this writing) Twins’ fans inexplicably chose to take their frustration out on Mauer when he hit a single that would’ve been a double if he hadn’t been playing with a sore hamstring.
Later in the game, Mauer was removed with a different injury, a bruised quadriceps.
Much like the demands he could place on the club with his status and the financial commitment they’ve made to him, he could also look at the team circumstances and choose not to play due to any injury from a headache to a hangnail to something he made up so he could just relax. (Carl Pavano could help him with that.)
He’s not doing that either. The 25-39 Twins are done for 2012. They’re going to clean house of several veterans and may be facing the prospect of a new GM and new manager after this season.
But Mauer’s going nowhere.
As heavy as Mauer’s contract is and as much as people scoff at the idea that anyone who signed a guaranteed $184 million deal provided a “discount”, the fact is he took less money to stay with the Twins when he could’ve gotten more on the open market—by definition a discount. If he were the type of person who was thinking of himself above all else and behaved in the manner suggested above, he could sabotage a rebuilding effort. To boo him is indicative of a spoiled fanbase that has gotten so used to winning that they forgot what it was like being a Twins fan for much of the decade following their 1991 championship and the club was a similar toxic wasteland to what they are now. From 2001-2010 they were in contention every year and were a few bad breaks away from a championship or three until last season.
It’s gone sour; they’re stuck with each other; what was once a happy story of a player eschewing the allure of the big city and a record-breaking contract is now degenerating into an unhappy union trapped by the equivalent of a prenuptial agreement in the form of the contract he signed to stay. They can’t trade him. The team’s terrible. The fans are acting like brats.
This gets worse before it gets better.