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Reusse's Reality: Twins' rhetoric remains obstacle for Mauer

by Patrick Reusse, 1500ESPN.com Updated 27 months ago | 3890 reads

The Twins did Joe Mauer a large favor when they signed him to a $184 million contract on March 21, 2010. It was an eight-year extension that kicked in for the 2011 season and will pay him $23 million annually through 2018.

The 2010 season was fine for all parties, as the Twins opened Target Field with record attendance and the sixth American League Central title in nine years.

The Twins haven't done Mauer many favors in the public relations arena since then. It started with the "bilateral leg weakness'' fiasco on April 14, 2011, as a way of explaining Mauer's trip to the disabled list.

The naïve folks in charge left it to manager Ron Gardenhire to read that asinine diagnosis off a piece of note paper in the visiting manager's office in St. Petersburg. The fact that no one in charge understood the hell that this could bring down on a $23 million player - a mysterious explanation for his absence that included the word "weakness'' - remains incomprehensible.

To complete that horrendous 2011 for Mauer and the team, the Twins announced on Sept. 16 that the catcher was likely to miss the final two weeks of the schedule with a case of "mild pneumonia.''

Did someone on the Twins think they were doing a favor by throwing "mild'' into the diagnosis?

I had double pneumonia as a 13-year-old in 1959. I was in and out of a stupor in the Slayton hospital. I didn't know how bad it was until the parish priest showed up and offered what we used to call "extreme unction,'' with emphasis on the extreme.

All in all, it wasn't a case of "mild pneumonia,'' and I was back in school at St. Gabriel's by the middle of the next week.

And Joe was getting shut down for two weeks with "mild'' pneumonia. The Twins should have said, "Yeah, it's a serious case of pneumonia not be trifled with, and by the time the schedule winds up, Joe still will be regaining his strength, so that's that.''

Mauer put the 2011 season behind him in 2012, even if the Twins didn't. He played more than ever - catcher, first base, designated hitter - and produced.

You still could find snide references to "bilateral leg weakness,'' but so be it.

We are now 45 percent through the 2013 schedule. The Twins are non-contenders once again. Mauer is hitting, getting on base and scoring runs, with very few chances to drive in runs.

The Twins were in Cleveland over the weekend, losing two and winning on Sunday. Ryan Doumit, the second catcher, hurt his ankle late in the game. The Twins went to Miami after the game. They were off Monday, played Tuesday night (L) and against on Wednesday afternoon (L).

Before the series started, Gardenhire was expressing angst that Mauer would be forced to catch both games, and he doesn't like to catch Joe on day games after night games. It was reported as though this was some kind of crisis ... which, of course, had the Mauer bashers offering versions of this:

"Poor Joe, only making $23 million, and they are making him catch a day game after a night game.''

Mauer had nothing to do with this. He had no trouble with being behind the plate on Wednesday. It was the team - in this case, the manager - creating another chance to bloviate for the "Mauer is soft'' crowd.

The Twins have done more to create this theory with their words than has Mauer with his actions.


Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He co-hosts SportsTalk from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. and hosts The Ride with Reusse from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. He also co-hosts "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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