When Joe Mauer retired in November after 15 seasons with the Twins, there’s no way he could have known the club he was leaving would be one of the best teams in baseball just eight months later.
But Mauer said this past week that even though the Twins are playing great, he has no regrets about his decision to leave the game.
“No, I don’t, I don’t,” he said. “Obviously I took a lot of time and going over everything, but no I am definitely happy and happy where I am at right now.”
Mauer, who was a six-time All-Star, three-time AL batting champion and the 2009 AL MVP, said he did believe there was a good chance that this club could be much improved over last season, when the Twins went 78-84.
“Absolutely, I knew what we had in the room last season,” Mauer said. “Obviously a lot of things didn’t go our way with injuries and all sorts of things. But you know, I knew what type of talent was in that room and what that team last year was capable of and this year what they were capable of. I’m really happy for them and how it has been going. They made great moves to add to that core that was already there. It has been really fun and exciting.”
Veteran, power hitters
Mauer, who spoke at the Dunkers in downtown Minneapolis on Tuesday, said that when it comes to the club’s historic power — the Twins are on pace to become the first major league team to hit 300 home runs — he thinks the addition of several veteran hitters has played a big role.
“We added a lot of power,” he said. “You know the likes of Nelson Cruz and [Jonathan] Schoop and [C.J.] Cron and even the guys that were here last year are hitting for more power.”
When it comes to the change from Paul Molitor, the fellow Cretin-Derham Hall product whom Mauer had a great deal of respect for, to Rocco Baldelli as manager, all he would say was that Baldelli gave off a great impression when Mauer knew him during their playing days.
“To be honest, I don’t know, I am not in the clubhouse and I don’t really know what is going on, but I know Rocco from competing against him, and seeing him as a player and a manager I know that the Twins have a good one in Rocco,” Mauer said. “I am glad to see him having the success and I hope it continues.”
Core group of talent
The Twins definitely benefited from a number of offseason acquisitions, but there’s no doubt the biggest improvement has come from some of their core young players, including Jorge Polanco, Eddie Rosario, Max Kepler, Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano, who are all having successful seasons.
Mauer said it reminded him of when he came up with players such as Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel and Johan Santana.
“They have a good group, a good core,” he said. “It’s a very talented group and very good guys, too. It has been fun to kind of have a small part in that grooming process and to see those guys improve every day.”
Does it surprise him the way they have come along?
“They are at a point in their career where they are starting to get into their mid- to late 20s and have a couple of years of experience under their belt, and I think they are starting to really turn the corner,” Mauer said. “It has been fun. I think players in general, when they hit that four-, five-year mark in the big leagues and start to get into their late 20s, I think you start finding that they’re playing their best baseball. I see those guys improving, and I can see them getting even better.”
Mauer, who knows a thing or two about catching, has been especially pleased with the play of Mitch Garver, who has had a career year.
“It’s nice to see the year that he is having,” the three-time Gold Glove catcher said. “He’s always been a guy that I have enjoyed watching him hit. He has always had a great plan, and he is really putting it together this year not only on the offensive side but on the defensive side, as well.”
Mauer, who played for four Twins teams that won the AL Central, was asked if he has any advice for a number of young players who are making their first push for a division title. “Just keep playing, keep playing and having fun,” he said. “You can tell they’re a lot more relaxed and a lot of smiles going out there, just keep doing what you’re doing. They don’t have to change anything.”
Future plans are wide open
The 36-year-old Mauer said that for now he is mostly away from the game of baseball, but he did make sure that his charitable efforts remained in place with the Twins.
“I’m not doing anything baseball-related,” he said. “I have been in contact with the Twins and I wanted to make sure I would keep all of the community and charity work that I have been doing the same and as far as baseball-wise goes I just am not there quite yet.”
On one last note, Mauer was asked if he had any opinion about the debate surrounding his future candidacy for the Hall of Fame, which in my mind is a no-brainer.
“I don’t, I don’t really,” he said. “You know, I haven’t really put a whole lot of thought into that. Obviously it would be a tremendous honor, but you know, that’s still a long ways away.”
• Over the past five years, the University of Minnesota ranks third among all NCAA Division I programs with 44 CoSIDA Academic All-America merits. Only Stanford and Alabama have had more.
• ESPN NFL columnist Dan Graziano had a column making big predictions for the next three years in the league. No. 2 on his list was that quarterback Kirk Cousins will sign a contract extension with the Vikings. … CBS Sports ranked the NFL’s top defensive backs and had Xavier Rhodes, who struggled in 2018, as the 10th-best cornerback in the league and Harrison Smith as the sixth-best safety.
• Paul Holmgren, the St. Paul Harding product who played hockey for the Gophers, Fighting Saints and North Stars, decided to no longer serve as president of hockey operations for the Flyers, the team he made his NHL debut with at age 20 in 1976, and instead will be a senior adviser. General Manager Chuck Fletcher, the longtime Wild GM, will now serve as president of hockey operations as well.
• Former Twins second baseman Brian Dozier entered Saturday hitting .235 with 14 homers and 35 RBI in 89 games with the Nationals. His old friend Eduardo Escobar entered Saturday hitting a career high .291 with 21 homers and 77 RBI in 96 games for the Diamondbacks.
• Amir Coffey’s final NBA Summer League stats with the Clippers: 14.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists per game. In seven games with the Timberwolves, Jordan Murphy averaged 8.9 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. … Former DeLaSalle standout Reid Travis played with Atlanta in the Summer League and averaged 4.2 points and 4.0 rebounds in five games.
• Baseball Prospectus has a new rating system for catchers’ defensive ability and ranks the Twins’ Jason Castro No. 10 in the majors while Mitch Garver ranks No. 51.