Twins launch All-Star vote campaign for a favorite son

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 16, 2006 - 12:11 AM

St. Paul native Joe Mauer leads the American League in hitting, but trails in balloting to players in bigger markets.

Here, basically, is the Minnesota Twins' point: This is no average Joe.

Mauer, that is. The Twins catcher who leads the Major Leagues in hitting at .376, first in the hearts of Minnesota fans ... and nowhere near first in the voting for the American League's All-Star team.

Hence the slogan: Vote Joe. The Twins have inaugurated a drive to get out the All-Star vote for Mauer. It is a campaign with a zeal reminiscent of Eugene McCarthy. Unfortunately, it stands just about as much chance of succeeding.

"We understand this is a long shot," said David St. Peter, Twins president. "We're just trying to make the statement that he's deserving of being in Pittsburgh."

That's where this year's All-Star game will be played.

And to help get Mauer there, the Twins gave out 10,000 "Vote Joe!" buttons at the Metrodome before the games with the Red Sox on Wednesday and Thursday. It's red, white and blue with a picture of a smiling Mauer when he wasn't quite as long in the sideburns. On the bottom is the Twins website: www.twinsbaseball.com.

That's where the Twins would like fans to go and vote. And vote. And vote. Folks can vote up to 25 times each. Turns out it's easier to stuff a virtual ballot box and you don't have to worry about those pesky dangling chads. And while St. Peter acknowledges this might reek of old Chicago-style politics, that's just the point. Everybody does it. Look at the names currently among the top catchers in All-Star voting and you get cities such as Boston (Jason Varitek), New York (Jorge Posada), Detroit (Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez) and Chicago (A.J. Pierzynski).

Here, in order, is how the voting stood: Varitek (630,657 votes); Rodriguez (595,132); Posada (489,430); Pierzynski (370,020); Victor Martinez, Cleveland Indians (324,575).

Fine catchers, all. But in baseball, it's as much about where you play as how you play. Which might be why Mauer isn't currently in the top five.

"Unfortunately, Minnesota by itself ain't gonna do it," said center fielder Torii Hunter. "I can tell you that right now.

"He has to get out there on ESPN, market himself. Of course, I don't think he's the kind of guy who does that."

So others are trying to do it for him. The Twins waged a campaign for Johan Santana in his quest for the Cy Young in 2004. And now, Mauer. His teammates are certainly on board. Mike Redmond, who has made a career out of backing up All-Star catchers, has become the unofficial campaign manager, flooding the clubhouse with buttons.

"I'm just trying to make the focus about Joe Mauer," Redmond said, "not that it isn't already."

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire wasn't sporting a Mauer button before Thursday's game. At least not one that could be seen.

"I don't want to be fined by the league," he quipped. "I have it on my underwear."

It should be noted that Varitek, before Thursday's game, also threw his support behind Mauer.

"I love the way Joe handles himself," Varitek said. "He seems to take pride in what he does. He's become a great hitter, and he does the little things behind the plate. He keeps the ball in front of him, throws the ball well. ... He's hitting, like, .380. People around here should get behind him."

Mauer himself? Just say he's playing it Joe Cool. He gave his permission for the campaign, but doesn't seem comfortable talking much about it. He hasn't gone on-line to vote and hasn't worn his button yet.

"But I know my mom will like it," he said. "There are a lot of deserving players. We'll just have to see what happens. But it is pretty cool, getting people to go out there and vote."

But, pressed, Mauer did make one campaign pledge, if elected: "I haven't thought of that kind of stuff. But I will go there and represent Minnesota if it happens."

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