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Updated: November 11th, 2013 10:11pm
Zulgad: Twins correct to announce Joe Mauer move early in offseason

Zulgad: Twins correct to announce Joe Mauer move early in offseason

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by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com

The Minnesota Twins could be accused of making several suspect moves over the past three seasons as they managed to lose 96-plus games each year.

But those missteps stopped, at least temporarily, on Monday morning when the organization took the proactive step of announcing that Joe Mauer would be moving from catcher to first base in 2014.

You can argue all you want about how the decision threatens to take away value from a guy earning $23 million per season, but the Twins had no choice in this case and getting the word out now was the smartest thing they could have done.

Plus, if you want to criticize the Twins for shifting Mauer from behind the plate, you have no choice but to credit them for playing a big role in calling the shots about where he likely will be spending the remainder of his career.

This is an organization that is often criticized for being stuck in its ways and not taking control. Well, on this one, the Twins did what was best for the Twins.

The move, of course, was prompted by the fact Mauer did not play in the final 39 games of the 2012 season after he suffered a concussion on Aug. 19 when he took a foul tip off his mask against the New York Mets.

Initial conversations with Twins officials, made it sound as if Mauer would have a significant say in whether he returned to catching next season.

This was frightening.

No one is questioning Mauer's abilities behind the plate - he won Gold Gloves from 2008 through 2010 - but he also is an outstanding hitter and taking a gamble he would not suffer another concussion made no sense.

The next one Mauer suffered promised to be worse than this one and, unlike with a sore shoulder or knee, an athlete can't be told to suck it up and play through a head injury. Concussions end careers or, as turned out to be the case with former Twin Justin Morneau, can play a major role in an All-Star becoming a journeyman.

For those who said moving Mauer to first base wouldn't make him worthy of his salary, the obvious comeback was this: What's his value if he's sitting out months at a time after taking another foul tip off the mask?

The answer: Zero.

Twins general manager Terry Ryan continues to say that the decision was left up to Mauer, but it's clear the franchise approached him with a clear-cut game plan on how to make him a former catcher.

This was a wise because it made Mauer feel as if he were part of the process. All you have to do, however, is read the press release the Twins issued Monday to see how the situation played out.

The release stated, "After consultation with doctors from Mayo Clinic and team doctors, and given the inherent risks of future injury at the catcher position, the organization and Joe determined that it would be in the best interest of both him and the Twins for a position change."

In other words, Mauer showed up for his meeting with the Twins, was presented with mounds of rock solid evidence of why continuing to catch would be a bad decision and ended up shaking his head in agreement.

The Twins probably didn't hesitate to point to Morneau's concussion problems as an example of how this could end if Mauer balked at the move and Mauer and Morneau did discuss matters. (Yes, Morneau was a first baseman but do you like Mauer's odds of staying healthy more at first or behind the plate?)

"This is probably one of the tougher decisions I've had to make, but it's also probably one of the easiest," Mauer said on a conference call with reporters.

Give the Twins credit, too, because there is no turning back now. The team made sure of that by taking this news public.  If they had sat on it, there was always the chance Mauer could have had a change of heart and tried to convince them he could catch.

That no longer will be a concern because as of Monday morning, Mauer is a first baseman and an ex-catcher. And for the Twins, that's a positive start to the offseason.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
In this story: Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau
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