Jim Souhan: Twins should know there are no secrets in baseball

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 31, 2012 - 2:26 PM

Bad: The Twins should have known the news would get out about putting Mauer on waivers. Worse: No one claimed him.

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Joe Mauer has a no-trade clause in his contract and would have to approve of any deal before being moved.

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Placing Joe Mauer on waivers was like asking the fire department to extinguish the blaze in your basement meth lab. Some things you don't want to call attention to.

The Twins termed it a routine move. They underestimated what the reaction would be. There was no way for this to end with anything other than a social media blitz, a national media frenzy and a new round of questions about Mauer's worth.

Just when Mauer was nearing the end of a bounce-back season filled with a renewed level of durability and a reminder of his immense skill, his team's management incited another conversation about the size of his contract. A better public-relations move would have been sending out a news release reading: ''Plenty of good tickets available as Twins pursue 100 losses.''

On a day that should have been reserved for the celebration of the franchise landing the 2014 All-Star Game, we heard jokes about whether Mauer will have to commute from Boston.

If the team placed Mauer on revocable waivers simply as a matter of standard operating procedure, the Twins were naively ignoring the realities of modern media. It's not their fault that so many in the national media misunderstood the implications of revocable waivers, or ignored the presence of Mauer's no-trade clause, but they should understand, as a franchise trying to sell tickets to disgruntled fans to watch an awful team, that perceptions matter.

If they were trying to gauge trade interest in him, the news for the franchise was even worse. No team claimed Mauer, meaning no team wanted to take the risk that the Twins would let Mauer go just to jettison his contract, and that no other team even wanted to use a waiver claim to start a conversation about trading for him.

That might have come as a shock, considering that Mauer has performed to his career standards this year.

Last year, Mauer failed his team. He worked out incessantly while refusing to take the field. He initially balked at playing positions other than catcher when his team was desperate for help.

This year, Mauer has done his job. As of Thursday morning he ranked fifth in the American League in batting average, second in on-base percentage and sixth in batting average with runners in scoring position. He's appeared in 122 of 131 games.

He's a valuable player who is slightly overpaid because he doesn't hit for power and doesn't catch every day. Employing a slightly overpaid player is not an uncommon or terrible thing in major league baseball. It's just something you don't want to remind your fans of when you're supposed to be celebrating an announcement about the All-Star Game.

''My buddy Walleye texted me, asking, 'What's this Mauer thing?' " Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. ''I told him, 'Go back to work.' "

Gardenhire said pretty much the same thing to Mauer.

''I knew when I came here we'd just talk about it real quick and get it out of the way,'' Gardenhire said. ''We talked to Joe. He wasn't concerned, to tell you the truth, but we talked to him and said, 'Believe me, you've been through this before, just nobody talked about it.''

These days, Gardenhire said, players hear that they've been placed on waivers immediately.

''There are no secrets in the game,'' he said. ''You put a player on a waiver wire, he knows it, just like that.

''It's intense, to say the least.''

This week was a little more intense than the Twins intended. Placing Mauer on waivers, and having the news circulate Wednesday, was the right move only if they actually are willing to trade him.

Here's the thing: Maybe they are.

Twins GM Terry Ryan dislikes long-term deals. He didn't sign Mauer to his current contract; Bill Smith did. Twins ownership has made it clear to many in the organization that the contract is a constant annoyance.

Maybe Ryan would like to right a perceived wrong. If that's the case, a couple of days of lousy PR would be a small price to pay to discover Mauer's trade value, even if the news turned out to be bad.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2 p.m. on 1500-AM. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

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