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Continued: Mauer is gambling he won't get injured

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: March 17, 2010 - 11:23 PM

In Major League Baseball, the players get paid regardless of their injury.

If they get hit by a truck or suffer a non-baseball injury, they still get paid.

Should Twins closer Joe Nathan need Tommy John surgery and not play this season, he will receive 100 percent of his $11.25 million salary.

So you wonder if reigning American League MVP Joe Mauer and his agent, Ron Shapiro, are concerned about the consequences of Mauer suffering a serious injury should the former Cretin-Derham Hall all-around athlete choose to not re-sign with the Twins this year and become a free agent at the end of this season. If Mauer did suffer a serious injury, the market certainly wouldn't be what it is today.

Mauer has missed a total of 120 games because of various injuries out of the 974 regular-season games the Twins have played since he joined the team in 2004.

He missed 69 games in 2004 because of a torn meniscus in his left knee after being injured in April. Mauer was healthy in 2005 and 2006, when he played in 131 and 140 games, respectively.

However, the 26-year-old All-Star catcher missed 29 games in 2007 because of a strained left quadriceps muscle suffered in May. After playing in 146 games in 2008, he missed all of spring training and 22 games into the 2009 season because of an inflammation of the right sacroiliac joint.

But if Mauer happened to get seriously hurt before signing, the big-money, long-term offers would disappear. The Yankees and Red Sox haven't thrown money around like they have in the past. Those two clubs would likely be the most interested in signing Mauer to a big contract.

The Yankees now have a policy of not signing their superstars with expiring contracts until after the season, so shortstop Derek Jeter and closer Mariano Rivera will become free agents. Yankees manager Joe Girardi is also in the last season of his three-year contract.

The Red Sox didn't re-sign outfielder Jason Bay and let him go to the Mets. Victor Martinez, the catcher who came to the Red Sox from the Indians at the trading deadline last season, is a free agent at the end of this season and he hasn't yet signed an extension.

I have known Mauer since his high school days. He is not only a great athlete but a super person.

The Twins no doubt are offering him big bucks. You wonder if it is worth the gamble of suffering a serious injury and being deprived of a long, big-money contract by delaying in making a deal with the Twins.

Strong U contributors

Two Gophers basketball players who didn't contribute early -- Devoe Joseph and Colton Iverson -- played a big part in the team winning seven of its past 10 games, including three games in the Big Ten tournament to reach the final.

Joseph, a sophomore, is used to playing off-guard. But when point guard Al Nolen was ruled academically ineligible, Joseph took over the position and, once he got some experience, developed into one of the best point guards in the Big Ten.

"Joseph is a clutch performer," Gophers coach Tubby Smith said. "One of the things he gives us at the point guard position now that the our previous point guard didn't have is his ability to knock down the three-point shot. He's got that mentality that he is going to keep on shooting. Same way with Blake [Hoffarber] and Wes [Lawrence Westbrook], because I have confidence in them, and that's why they're in the game."

As for Iverson, he certainly has become one of the most improved players on the team. The 6-10, 258-pound sophomore from Yankton, S.D., has become one of the best rebounders in the league and his inside shooting was tough for opponents to stop in the Big Ten tournament.

Look for Smith to play Iverson and 6-11 Ralph Sampson III a lot together against Xavier on Friday to take advantage of their size in the Gophers' NCAA opener.

New turf for Dome?

Even though the Vikings' lease expires at the end of the 2011 season, Bill Lester and the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission likely will install new turf on the Metrodome floor. The turf is wearing out, and new turf would be a big plus for the Vikings.

Lester said one of the big expenditures for baseball was air conditioning, and with the Twins moving into Target Field, that will save the MSFC about $500,000.

The MSFC earned about $2,230,158 from the Twins in 2009. However, without baseball, Lester said the commission will lose between $1.5 and $2 million for the 2010 season. Lester said three motor sports events that sell out most of the time are planned for the fall and winter. However, those dates won't be set until the Vikings schedule is released in April.

Giles, Hornets win

Former North Stars defenseman Curt Giles, who coached Edina to the Class 2A boys' hockey title last week, is not a full-time teacher at Edina but works outside of the school.

"I think it's something like 60-70 percent of the coaches now that are coaching a lot of the athletics in the high schools are non-teachers," Giles said. "We took the approach they don't see us at school every day, so it might be a little bit of a break not being one of their teachers."

Giles played for the North Stars for almost 12 full seasons and also spent time with the Blues and Rangers.

Jottings

Had the Gophers basketball team not qualified for the NCAA and played instead in the NIT, they would have had to play a lot of road games because of the first- and second-round games of the NCAA women's basketball tournament scheduled at Williams Arena this week.

The Wild won its 13th consecutive home game against Edmonton on Tuesday, tying Nashville's home streak against Columbus as the longest active home winning streak against another team in the NHL.

In addition to signing outstanding University of Massa-chusetts free agent Casey Wellman this past week, the Wild also signed one of its prospects, goalie Matt Hackett, to a three-year, entry-level contract Tuesday. Hackett is one of the top goalies in the Ontario Hockey League this season and is the nephew of former NHL goalie Jeff Hackett.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. • shartman@startribune.com

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