Posted on: February 25, 2012 5:20 pm
Edited on: February 26, 2012 8:21 am
Ft. Myers, Fla. -- Joe Mauer praised Jose Reyes for his great season and National League batting title, but Mauer, the three-time batting titleist, said he wouldn't sit on a lead to win a fourth title, as Reyes did.
"I don't think (personal) awards like that should take the place of playing the games,'' Mauer said. "You should play the game the right away, and let the chips fall where they may.''
Back in 2006, when Mauer was trying for his first batting title and holding a slim lead over Yankees Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano going into the final day of the regular season, in 2006, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire came to Mauer and said to him something along the lines of "What do you think?'' Gardenhire appeared to be opening the door to Mauer possibly sitting the game out.
The Twins already had wrapped up a playoff spot, but the idea of sitting out was so far from Mauer's mind he didn't even know what Gardenhire meant at first. Once explained to him, Mauer said he wanted to play. He DH'ed, went 2 for 4 and won with a .347 batting average, to .343 for Jeter and .342 for Cano. Mauer has since won second and third titles in 2008 and '09, with averages of .328 and .365 for the unprecedented three titles for a catcher. Before Mauer won even one, the last catcher to win one was Ernie Lombardi with the Reds eons ago.
Of course, Mauer would love a fourth batting title. But first he has to show he's back to being a star. To have a chance do that, he has to be heatlhy. He knows he tried to come back too soon last year, starting the season with the Twins after his winter knee surgery wasn't all healed. Some team doctor really should have stepped in, but Mauer took the blame. "You want to be in there and play the game,'' he said. "It's easy to look back on it now and I say I definitely wasn't ready. You learn from it and move on.''
Mauer said he's feeling much better now. "Night and day,'' he said.
He wouldn't guess at how many games he'll catch, though. "I'm going to be in the lineup as much as I can. When I'm in the lineup, we're a better team. And when I'm catching we're a better team,'' he said. "If it's up to me, I'd be out there for 162.''
Most of the Twins teams failed to come close to the 162-game mark last year, as disaster befell them. Mauer wound up having only three home runs, 30 RBIs and a .287 batting average. Justin Morneau never fully recovered from concussion symptoms and other ailments.
"Last year everything that could go wrong went wrong,'' Mauer said. "I don't want to say it was a fluke. We still want to get after it.''
He's thrilled to see Morneau putting in the long days without hesitation now. Morneau accidentally made a stir the day before when, responding to a hypothetical question about what would happen if he had another concussion, honestly mentioned he might not have a career under that circumstance. But Morneau said today he has remained symptom-free for more than a month and seemed pleased by how he'd held up here. "So far, so good,'' he said.
The others have noticed, too. "He's smiling and out there moving around,'' Mauer noted of Morneau.
That's a positive sign, because as Mauer and Morneau go, so go the Twins.
Posted on: February 23, 2012 3:31 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 3:44 pm
The Angels and Marlins spent plenty, the Astros stood pat, and the Mets did worse than that. Here they, one through 30, from most improved team to least improved.
1. Angels. Anytime you add Albert Pujols when you don't really need a first baseman, that's quite a luxury buy. Maybe 10 years are too many, but he'll obviously make a major impact in the first years of that deal. C.J. Wilson gives them as good a first four as just about anyone. Plus, he comes directly from the main competitor.
2. Marlins. Jose Reyes is a monster get, when healthy, Mark Buehrle fits as the perfect veteran lefthander to pitch behind Josh Johnson and Heath Bell is a very good closer. Ozzie Guillen spices things up. Much more interesting team as they move to their new park.
3. Diamondbacks. Loved that they didn't rest on their laurels. Trevor Cahill bolsters their rotation and Jason Kubel their lineup. Also tried hard for Hiroki Kuroda, offering him $13 million, $3 million more than he got from the Yankees. Terrific effort by a team in an area hit hard by the economic downturn.
4. Nationals. I don't love Gio Gonzalez's 1.48 lifetime road WHIP, but he's a talented, young lefthanded starter who's exactly what they needed. Of course, they still could use a center fielder.
5. Yankees. Hiroki Kuroda is the solid starter they needed, and Michael Pineda has a chance to be better than that, especially if he masters his changeup. Jesus Montero will be a mega star but they needed the pitching, so it was a worthwhile gamble. A.J. Burnett is addition by subtraction.
6. Rockies. Michael Cuddyer is a huge get, even if he did cost $31.5 million over three years. Jeremy Guthrie steps in as the Opening Day starter and Tyler Chatwood has a chance, though rotation questions still remain. Casey Blake might not have a lot left at third base, but super prospect Nolan Arenado looks to be close.
7. Rangers. Yu Darvish is going to be better than Wilson. They flirted with Prince Fielder, but came up a few years short. Had they pulled that one off, too, they would have easily topped this list. A lefthander in the pen wouldn't have hurt, either.
8. Rays. Carlos Pena will bring a lot more punch than Casey Kotchman, and if healthy, Luke Scott brings more still. Somehow, they find a way.
9. Blue Jays. Sergio Santos, Francisco Cordero and Darren Oliver represent a nice bullpen upgrade over Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch. Never made the huge deal folks were expecting, though.
10. Reds. They gave up a lot for Matt Latos, a talented pitcher who'll have to adjust going from pitching-firendly PETCO Park to Great American Ballpark. The pen is better with Ryan Madson in as the closer and strong lefty Sean Marshall over from Chicago. Looks like a contender.
11. Tigers. Owner Mike Ilitch gets props for the $214-million, nine-year band-aid he bought in Fielder after Victor Martinez's brutal knee injury.
12. Phillies. They imported Jonathan Papelbon, who has a longer track record, to replace Ryan Madson. Jim Thome fills the resident nice guy role left vacated by Brad Lidge's departure (and Juan Pierre won't hurt in that dept. either, assuming he makes the team). They have more versatility with Ty Wigginton adding to their bench strength.
13. Pirates. The new killer B's are here -- Rod Barajas, Erik Bedard, Clint Barmes and A.J. Burnett. The Bucs certainly should be better.
14. Mariners. Hong-Chih Kuo, Shawn Camp and Hisashi Iwakuma have a chance to help. But their offseason will turn on whether Montero becomes a bigger star than Pineda. The guess here is, he does.
15. Padres. They maximized the Latos trade. Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal could become stars, and Brad Boxberger may be the closer of the future. Huston Street ably replaces Bell. And Carlos Quentin may thrive back in his hometown.
16. Cubs. David DeJesus is a solid outfielder, and Paul Maholm will help. But their winter will turn on whether slugging first baseman Anthony Rizzo is the player they think he is. The real loss for them was the new rule limiting bonus pools for drafted players.
17. Royals. Jonathan Sanchez is just the type of high-ceiling pitcher who fits, Bruce Chen was needed back and Jonathan Broxton is worth a flyer.
18. Dodgers. They managed to cut to below $90 million as cash-strapped Frank McCourt sells the team, but they pieced it together pretty well. Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang are solid starters but most of the other imports are extras. They also made an exciting secret grab at Fielder but were outbid by the Tigers. Their best move, though, was signing Matt Kemp for eight years at $160 million,
19. Indians. Given the restrictions of the budget, not terrible. Casey Kotchman looks to be on the upswing, and Derek Lowe is a veteran presence needed especially now that Fausto Carmona is better known as Limbo Carmona.
20. Giants. Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan are late bloomers, and they might do as well as the combo of Caros Beltran, Andres Torres and Cody Ross. The comeback of Buster Posey is probably the biggest key. Also like the smaller pickups of Clay Hensley and Ryan Theriot.
21. Cardinals. It's hard to lose Pujols (not to mention Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan) and not feel it. But somehow, the Cardinals seem to find a way. Beltran replaces some of Pujols' lost offense, if not his presence. Adam Wainwright's return is the biggest addition, though.
22. Orioles. Nobody did more different things, but it's tough to evaluate or guess what Wei-Yin Chen or Tsuyoshi Wada will become. Wilson Betemit was an odd signing in that no one saw a two-year deal coming.
23. White Sox. Love the Robin Ventura move (though I suspect they should have made him take a more-experienced staff). The team will be a lot younger, too, with all the kids acquired for Santos and Quentin. Buehrle is tough to replace, though.
24. Braves. Their big deal was for utlityman Jack Wilson, which says a lot. Never found the right deal for Jair Jurrjens or Martin Prado.
25. Twins. Josh Willingham has a lot of pressure on him to make up for the loss of Cuddyer and Kubel. Joe Nathan preferred to go to a contender. Not sure how much Jason Marquis has left.
26. Red Sox. I like the way they recovered from the loss of Papelbon by adding Mark Melancon and Andrew Bailey. Cody Ross and Nick Punto are nice complementary pieces. But I think they'll miss Jason Varitek more than think. And they still don't have a No. 4 or 5 starter or starting shortstop after trading Marco Scutaro in exchange for "flexibility.'' Bobby Valentine was a great call for manager, and he does his best work when there are issues, so maybe he pulls it all together.
27. A's. They did a nice job collecting prospects (Jarrod Parker, Brad Peacock and A.J. Cole could be stars) but will be hard-pressed to avoid 90 defeats this year after trading Cahill, Gonzalez and Bailey. Big Talent Yoenis Cespedes and Mannyball spice things up. Interesting offseason.
28. Brewers. Tough to make up for the loss of Fielder. Aramis Ramirez is a nice middle-of-the-order bat, Alex Gonzalez is an upgrade at shortstop and Nori Aoki may work. Also lost some bullpen depth with Takashi Saito and Hawkins gone.
29. Astros. They took a flyer on the oft-injured Fernando Martinez but after failing to unload Wandy Rodriguez, Carlos Lee or Brett Myers, they basically return the same team. Which is not necessarily good news when you lost 106 games.
30. Mets. They lost the heart of the team (though an of-injured one), and Andres Torres wouldn't be my first choice to replace the dynamic Reyes. Actually, Pagan would have been better. But that's nitpicky. Let's face it, no one that cuts an unprecedented $50 million can do well.
Posted on: December 21, 2011 5:21 pm
Veteran free agent pitcher Roy Oswalt is waiting for a couple of the hot young starting pitchers on the market to be dealt before finding his spot. Nothing appears imminent with Oswalt, and it may not be until Gio Gonzalez and Jair Jurrjens are dealt.
Oswalt is believed to have drawn some level of interest from the Red Sox, Nationals, Marlins, Blue Jays, Yankees, Rangers and Twins.
However, reasonably the Rangers may be less interested after winning the bid for Yu Darvish, the Yankees seem to have prioritized others and the Twins may not be able to afford him.
Oswalt remains one of the most desirable free-agent pitchers remaining, especially since he may consider a one-year deal.