From the moment he was drafted No. 1 overall in 2001 to the time he made his Twins debut in 2004 through what quite possibly was his last major league at-bat Sunday, Joe Mauer has filled an undeniable role as a face — often the face — of the Twins organization.
That role might have diminished in recent years as Mauer’s production waned and new Twins players tried to fill the void, but in looking ahead to a potentially Mauer-less 2019 season this much is obvious: The Twins do not have someone ready to take his place in that face-of-the-franchise role.
Brian Dozier was starting to grow into that territory, but he was traded at the deadline. Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton have been pushed by Twins marketers into that area, but the regression of both in a disastrous 2018 season means neither can be counted on for such a thing in 2019.
Eddie Rosario is a viable candidate, but on a great team he’d be in a supporting role instead of a starring role. Jose Berrios? Same as Rosario.
“Face of a franchise” might be a slightly overrated and abstract concept, but it becomes more noticeable in its absence. It speaks to a team’s identity, and as anonymous as this 2018 Twins team felt, it could be even more so without Mauer in 2019.
• As Jimmy Butler continues to sit out while awaiting a trade from the Timberwolves and Justin Patton remains sidelined by more foot problems, this observation from e-mailer Jim is apt: The Wolves had nothing to show, at least on the court, from last summer’s blockbuster Butler trade when they defeated the Warriors in their preseason opener Saturday night.
The Wolves shipped Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the No. 7 pick (Lauri Markkanen) to the Bulls for Butler and the pick that became Patton. Those are a lot of missing resources.
• Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The Wild opens the season Thursday as a fringe playoff team but not one of the favorites in the Western Conference.
The consistency of making the playoffs beats the alternative — just ask the Timberwolves, who had eight years in a row in the playoffs, including seven straight first-round losses, and then a 13-year absence — but it’s hard to envision a different postseason outcome for the Wild even if they make it back.
• A common refrain after the Vikings laid an egg against the Bills last weekend (and trotted out again when they lost Thursday to the Rams) was that any concerns might be mitigated by a relatively easy division.
The Bears had started 2-1 but didn’t look impressive on offense in the process. The Packers looked discombobulated in losing to Washington last weekend and are still nursing Aaron Rodgers back to health.
Those of us who bought (or even sold) that idea are backpedaling a little after Sunday’s outcomes. The Mitchell Trubisky-led Bears put up 48 points in a rout of Tampa Bay, while the Packers did what the Vikings should have done and shut out the Bills. The Lions lost, but the Vikings are still third in a division that might offer more resistance than it seemed.
• Speaking of the Bears, new linebacker Khalil Mack had another sack and forced fumble against the Buccaneers — the fourth straight game he’s done that. You think that might be an issue when he faces fumble-prone Vikings QB Kirk Cousins twice later this season?
• Cousins’ fumbling problem is troubling, but it could be worse. The Vikings could have put their faith (and money) in Sam Bradford, who not only has already been benched by the Cardinals after three games but was demoted to third string and was inactive against the Seahawks on Sunday.