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Mauer’s May-days

June 1, 2009

by Matt Kane

Oh, month of May, where have you gone? I miss you already.

I had a birthday in May, but who cares about that, other than my mother? I miss May because I’m worried about what June will do to Joe Mauer’s season.

Through the May 26 game against the Boston Red Sox, Mauer was batting .429 with 11 home runs, 31 runs batted in and 26 runs.

All of Twins Territory, including my mother, is walking with their chests out a little prouder because of the hometown boy from St. Paul, and it seems the entire baseball world is noticing Mauer.

Mauer was the first American League catcher to win a batting title when he did so with a .347 average in 2006, and he backed up the first batting title with a second last season, when he batted .328. Mauer was an all-star in both of those seasons, so he is definitely known as a great hitter, but his start this season is drawing rave reviews.

For any so-called baseball experts, who ripped on the Twins for choosing Mauer first overall in the 2001 amateur draft over right-handed power pitcher Mark Prior, how do you like those Twins now?

There is no way the Twins could allow Mauer to get away, simply because he grew up in the backyard of the Metrodome. Remember Paul Molitor, Jack Morris and Dave Winfield? They all got away, and two of the three now have plaques in Cooperstown.

I believe Prior is with the San Diego Padres now, but he hasn’t played since 2006.

Prior beat Mauer to the big leagues when he debuted with the Chicago Cubs May 22, 2002 (Mauer’s debut was April 5, 2004), so everybody was irked at the Twins, while Mauer was playing in the minors. I don’t hear anybody questioning the Twins’ move now. Mauer is a top-five hitter in the game, and Prior’s career might be near its end.

The only concern Mauer’s success brings to Twins fans is how high will Mauer’s price tag be by the time he is a free agent in December 2010?

I couldn’t help but notice who the Twins were playing against in the month of May. They were at the New York Yankees May 15-18, and they hosted the Red Sox May 25-28.

Gee, do you think the Yankees and Red Sox will be interested in the left-handed hitting Mauer in two years?

I think so.

I think Mauer will sign with the Twins only because the organization will finally take the crowbar to its wallet, just so the kid they watched grow up stays home. Plus, Mauer, with Justin Morneau driving, brought the lumber as part of M&M Lumber to Target Field.

But, if the Twins fail to sign Mauer before he becomes a free agent, he will be the chew toy of choice, with the Yankees tugging at one end and the Red Sox growling back at the other.

I know you don’t want to, but think of Mauer playing 82 games at Fenway Park, peppering double after double off the Green Monster, ala Wade Boggs. Or finally pulling the ball and tucking home runs behind the right field wall that stands just 314 feet away from home plate at Yankee Stadium.

Both the Yankees and Red Sox have catchers who have been the backbone of their respective teams, but both of those catchers — New York’s Jorge Posada and Boston’s Jason Varitek — are on their last legs as catchers, at least, meaning the Yankees and Red Sox will be looking for replacements.

OK, stop thinking about that, because it won’t happen.

Mauer is a power hitter now, so all those home runs he is hitting to left field in the Metrodome would only be doubles at Fenway. And we all know Mauer will never be a dead pull hitter, so those Yankee bums can forgetaboutit.