Herald Journal Columns
March 21, 2005, Herald Journal

And the debate continues . . .

By Aaron Schultz

Oh, it seems just like yesterday on a dreary June day that the big debate would come to an end.

But, in fact, it was nearly four years ago when the Twins arguably made their biggest decision as a franchise since they moved from Washington to Minnesota over 30 years ago.

The Twins held the top overall draft pick in the annual amateur baseball draft.

The debate was ongoing of who the Twins should draft with that top choice.

It came down clearly to two players – Cretin-Derham Hall high school senior Joe Mauer or USC stud, starting pitcher Mark Prior.

The debate was fierce, as many, including myself, thought that the Twins needed to draft Prior, while just as many voiced their preference for Mauer.

Arguments for and against each guy were numerous, and kept many of the Twin fans divided.

The Mauer camp felt that this high school kid, with local ties and unbelievable talent, was exactly what the Twins needed.

Meanwhile, they felt the Twins would never be able to sign Prior, and passing on such a great local talent would come back and bite them in the end.

As for myself, and the rest of the Twin fans who thought we needed to draft Prior, the arguments were obvious.

Prior was the best prospect at any position available, he was pro-ball ready, and was regarded as one of the best college pitching prospects ever.

A guy like that only comes around once in a blue moon. While Mauer was good, there was no guarantee that he would even play baseball.

See, Mauer had a full ride to Florida State for football, and besides, he was a high school kid, would take several years at the minimum to develop, and you just never really know how a high school kid will develop.

Another big reason why I wanted the Twins to draft Prior was the fact that after nearly a decade of horrible baseball, they were winning once again.

Yep, they were in a pennant race and a guy like Prior might have been able to step right into the rotation and help the Twins to a division title.

Besides, who would have thought the Twins would have continued winning since that day.

With that in mind, I believed the Twins needed to do whatever it took to win then, since I believed they would just end up blowing up the team at the end of the season, and go into another decade long slump.

Well, the big day was finally there, and like many other Minnesotans, I listened to the radio to find out who the Twins decided upon.

Yep, I remember it just like it was yesterday, listening to the P.A. and Dubay show on 1130 AM KFAN Radio.

Dubay (Jeff Dubay) was in my camp and believed the Twins had no other option but to draft Prior, and needed to go in that direction to solidify the franchise.

The moment was upon us, and it was announced that the Twins had drafted 18-year old, high school senior Joe Mauer, catcher.

Well, Dubay went ballistic, and uttered one of my favorite quotes I have ever heard, and here it goes.

“You cowards, you pathetic cowards,” said Dubay.

He then went on a rant, as I called my father and brother and went into a similar rant.

I was so sure that my team, the Twins, would once again head back down to the cellar.

Well, as the days went by, and the Twins fell out of the Central Division race, I continued to fume.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Cubs took Prior with the second overall pick, and were very happy.

Prior pitched for them early on in his career, and was, and continued to be regarded as one of the top young pitchers in baseball.

As for Mauer, the Twins were able to sign him away from college football, and he became the top prospect in minor league baseball almost immediately.

Still, as Mauer had all of the press through the years as the best prospect in baseball, Prior was doing it at the Major League level.

Now, fast forward to last year, and all of my worries and wonders had passed, and I started to see how wrong I might have been.

First off, the Twins kept on winning without Prior.

Second, while Prior has been very successful in the Major Leagues, he has suffered from some injuries.

With all that said, Mauer was ready to step up and be the Twins’ catcher for the next 15 years, and perhaps be in the discussion as one of the best catchers of all time when his career was over.

Mauer started out the 2004 season just as everyone had hoped, and looked to be the real deal.

That is until just a few weeks into the season when he suffered a knee injury, a very bad thing for a catcher.

He would end up missing the entire season, leaving many Twin fans to wonder if he would ever be able to catch again.

Now, as spring training gets into full swing, and Mauer appears to be healthy once again, other than a slight set back here and there, the debate rages in my head once again.

I have serious doubts that Mauer will be able to have a long career as a catcher with his bum knee.

Then I think about what a rotation the Twins would have with Prior, reigning Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana, Brad Radtke, a healthy Joe Mays, and anybody in the fifth spot, would look like.

Wow, you think the Twins rotation looks good now, add Prior and you could possibly put the Twins in the discussion of the best pitching rotation ever.

That is until I heard that Prior is once again on the shelf with yet another injury, and a timetable for his return is up in the air.

Once I heard that, the debate started up again in my head, and I have been convincing myself that Mauer was the right choice after all.

I guess this is a debate that might never be settled, but it is sure fun to think and talk about.

Not feeling well today

People all across this country were missing from work Thursday and Friday.

Some, like myself, took the days off, but many more had the basketball flu.

You know, that virus that seems to come around about the same time every year, and lasts for a couple of days.

Is there any kind of cure for this type of flu? I don’t think so.

Yep, one of the greatest sporting events in this country kicked off Thursday, and ran through the weekend.

That event, for those of you living in a cave, was the NCAA Basketball Tournament.

The field of 65 was trimmed to 64 after Tuesday’s play-in game, which I think was a bad idea to implement.

Pretty soon there will be people advocating to expand the field so there are more play-in games, and the next thing you know, any team that is .500 or above will get in.

But that is an argument to be made a different time. For now, the field was trimmed to 64 for the first big day of the tournament, which also happened to be St. Patrick’s Day.

After the first round was completed Thursday and Friday, the second round was played Saturday and Sunday, which brings us to the Sweet 16, this upcoming weekend.

The tournament wraps up the following weekend with the final four.

Myself, like millions of others, filled out a bracket, and like millions of others, I usually don’t do very well.

This year I had a different strategy than normal, one that I heard talked about on the radio.

The strategy was to pick my champion, then my final four teams, and work backwards.

What the heck, I never have even come close to getting a bracket right in my 15 or so years of filling out brackets, so I thought I would give this way a shot.

Just so you all know, I wrote this column Wednesday, since I had Thursday and Friday off to watch basketball, so there was no cheating.

So, while I’m sure at least two of my final four teams will already have been eliminated, I will go ahead and let you all know my predictions.

I have Rick Pitino’s Louisville Cardinals winning the whole thing, beating Oklahoma in the finals.

My other two final four teams are Illinois and Florida.

Pretty bold picks, don’t you think? Or, maybe they are just pretty dumb picks.

Anyway, I picked the Gophers to win their opening round game, only to lose to North Carolina in the round of 32.