Opinion Corner: Twins show a little lifeThey probably won’t win the division. They might not even finish above .500, for that matter. But after Thursday’s offensive barrage against the Los Angeles Angels, fans who have had to stomach Twins baseball the last couple of summers should at least have a reason to watch.
By: Michael Savaloja, The Jamestown Sun
They probably won’t win the division. They might not even finish above .500, for that matter.
But after Thursday’s offensive barrage against the Los Angeles Angels, fans who have had to stomach Twins baseball the last couple of summers should at least have a reason to watch.
Finally, the team’s heavy hitters appear healthy and ready to roll, and I’ve got to say it’s nice to see.
Not just because it breathes life back into a ball club that desperately needs it, but also because that’s where the organization’s poker chips are. God knows, the money isn’t in that rag-tag group of pitchers they’ve thrown together over the past few years.
By the end of the summer, $38 million of the team’s payroll will once again be doled out to two players, albeit former MVPs, on the roster: Joe Mauer ($23 million) and Justin Morneau ($15 million).
Minnesota’s M&M boys, so to speak.
I don’t know if that stands for Mauer & Morneau, or Millions & More? But I digress.
The Twins have the 13th highest payroll out of 30 teams in the majors this year at $94,085,000, according to USA Today. You can do the math. The M&M boys’ combined $38 million chunk is well over a third of that healthy apple pie.
I say healthy, because the money always is. The M&Ms? Not so much.
Mauer’s bilateral leg-whatever — and other dings and dongs that almost appeared as if his mommy was slipping Gardenhire notes saying Joe’s tummy hurts today — limited the former all-star catcher to 82 games last season.
That’s over and done with now, but what needs to be remembered is that the Twins coughed up $280,487 and change to Mauer for those 82 games. You read that right. Over a quarter million per game.
If Mauer plays in all 162 games this season, which obviously he won’t, he’d rake in $141,975 and change per game. That’s an incredible amount of scratch, folks. Think of your annual salary, and then think of one 9-inning baseball game.
But the fact of the matter is that’s the world we live in. The best-of-the-best of professional athletes make ridiculous money. Mauer’s average salary is ranked in the top five in all of baseball, and that is just fine with me if he once again leads the league in average, while driving in over 100 runs and getting back to his 2009 numbers, or something close, when he clubbed 28 home runs.
That’s where that type of money goes, if it’s not to a Justin Verlander or a Roy Halladay. So, the Twins need to hope their contract with Mauer — which lasts for another 6 years at $23 million a season — puts runs on the scoreboard and translates into victories.
If it doesn’t. It will go down as one of the worst professional contracts of all time.
Morneau doesn’t nearly make what Mauer takes to the bank, but he’s still the second-highest paid player on the team, and he’s also not a pitcher.
Morneau’s been on the mend for over a year-and a-half after being concussed midway through the 2010 season. He was putting up MVP numbers when he went down, but he hasn’t been close to the same since.
Minnesota’s third-highest paid player is, believe it or not, a pitcher. Carl Pavano pulls in $9 mil a season, but is once again followed with another bat in the form of Josh Willingham ($7 mil) before you get to Frankie Fastball ($5.5 mil).
It should be obvious. Minnesota is banking on its lineup to produce runs, and that’s where Thursday’s game comes into play.
Mauer was able to pull a ball for a three-run homer — his second home run in Target Field history — Willingham hit a solo shot on a ball he flat-out missed but had enough power to get it over the fence anyway for his Major League-leading 4th dinger of the year, and Morneau absolutely crushed a two-run shot to right-center as the Twins came back from a 6-0 hole to win 10-9.
The Twins scored 10 runs on 20 hits and produced three home runs. That’s the Twins’ recipe, people.
Stop talking about the pitching, i.e. Pavano, Liriano, Blackburn, or whoever else they might toss out there this season. You will be a frustrated Twins fan if you are banking on shutouts and strikeouts.
There isn’t a man in that rotation that can shut a team down for 7 or 8 innings. The Twins are going to give up runs, probably at a clip of 5 or more per game, and the only way they’ll be able to keep their heads above water is to hit the ball.
And, what the heck? If they are hitting homers and scoring runs, I can tune in for that. Even if they end up falling in a lot of close games.
I also believe Mauer is primed for an elite season. Not because I think so, but because he has to.
Don’t kid yourself. Mauer is far from locking in a spot at Cooperstown, and don’t think that the man doesn’t have a chip on his shoulder. Minnesota’s Golden Boy was getting booed at home, and he heard them.
He’s got some things to prove this year — his legacy and Hall of Fame hopes depend on it — and when you combine that with a Morneau resurgence and more Willingham home runs, maybe they can outscore the competition?
We saw it once, which is a great sign. And, that’s where the money is.
Sun sports writer Michael Savaloja can be reached at (701) 952-8461 or by email at email@example.com