1. Well played, Mauer.
Joe Mauer officially said goodbye in November and on Saturday at Target Field the Twins put No. 7 up in the rare air above the limestone in left field. Twins fans already had their chance to say goodbye so this weekend felt more like a celebration of Mauer’s career in Minnesota.
I remember thinking, when he hit that opposite-field double in what turned out to be his final MLB game, ‘Wow, that’s a pretty Joe Mauer way to go out, if that’s his last hat tip.’
It wasn’t long before he topped that – and who could forget the electricity when he walked out of the dugout in catcher’s gear one last time? With that moment and tearful goodbye, he erased any doubt that it was in fact his last day in a Twins uniform, wearing No. 7. As it turns out, that was the last day that anybody will wear No. 7 in a Twins uniform, since that digit is now proudly displayed up there next to the other numbers that need no introduction: Nos. 42, 3, 6, 10, 14, 28, 29 and of course 34.
I didn’t know until this weekend the story of how Mauer came to wear No. 7 – that it was randomly assigned to him during his first pro season after the Twins drafted him. It wasn’t his high school number (6 and 16), and it wasn’t the last jersey number he wore throughout the minors. But after the Twins traded A.J. Pierzynski, clearing the way for Mauer to take over as the big league catcher, he remembered that No. 7 from his first pro season and decided that was the one he wanted to wear in the big leagues.
Anyway, I thought the weekend was an A+ event from the Twins, and Mauer did his part. It was cool to see Rod Carew, Tony Oliva, Bert Blyleven, Tom Kelly and Kent Hrbek walk in together from beneath the left field bleachers to the infield grass. That round of applause could have gone on longer, if they had let it. And how about having Hall of Famer Johnny Bench show up, along with dozens of Mauer’s former teammates, and T.I. recording a congrats-to-Joe video? Just a cool pregame ceremony.
It also gave us an opportunity to revisit his great career with the Twins, and to remember that teary-eyed goodbye in his mask and catcher’s gear from last September. In the grand old game of baseball, it’s hard to imagine a more cinematic goodbye than the one Mauer enjoyed.
The Twins’ lumbering third baseman catches some heat for his defense at the hot corner, but to my eye Miguel Sanó is halfway decent at the position. The error he was charged with Sunday was a rocket shot off the bat, and you’re going to have a number of misplays over a 6-month season.
His arm will keep him in plays, so to speak, that other third baseman in the big leagues wouldn’t dare to make. He reminds me a little of Manny Machado in that sense. Not with the range, of course, but you get what I mean.
One good play that I think will get missed came in the second inning Sunday. Nicky Lopez tried to bunt forward a pair of teammates, and Sanó at third base charged the ball, opened his hips and shoulders to the middle of the infield and fired to second base to retire the first-base runner and keep the double play in line.
One play that showed an opportunity for growth came later in the game, with one of baseball’s fastest men, Billy Hamilton, up to bat and two teammates on base. Sanó tried to start a 5-4-3 double after fielding a ground ball – only teammate Jonathan Schoop knew there was a plus-plus runner streaking toward first base, so he instead tried to return fire to third base to have Sanó attempt to tag out the lead runner. Sanó wasn’t on the bag, in position to receive that throw, and it just seemed like Schoop was one mental step ahead of his teammate in that case.
All told, I like what the Twins are doing with keeping Sanó at third base and working with him regularly to improve at the position. It will either pay dividends in the long run, or at the very least it will provide a large enough sample to say whether he can do the job at this level in a way that makes you happy.
Oh, and he can do this with a bat.
Sanó’s stat line – 2-for-4 with a walk and a home run — should have been better, actually, because he was called out on strikes in the 5th inning on a 3-2 pitch that looked like a pretty bad call.
The Mariners have been informed that they’re out of the race, apparently, and so over the weekend they agreed to trade Edwin Encarnacion to the New York Yankees. That trade impacts the Twins for two reasons. One, an American League contender just got more powerful, and once they get back some bats, the Yankees will have a case that they’re the second best lineup in the league; and Two, it means that the trade windows are open.
Sellers, get to selling. Contenders, get your prospect wallets ready. It’s trade season in Major League Baseball.
I also appreciate that the Yankees, who should look to add arms, just added a bat to create a logjam of a lineup with abundant power. Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton should return soon, and Brett Gardner looks like he could be a 4th outfielder.
— SKOR North (@SKORNorth) June 16, 2019
It’s a puzzle to figure out, but in a way it’s not terribly unlike what the Twins did when they added Marwin Gonzalez. They knew there will be X number of plate appearances in a year, and the starting 9 don’t just divide those up evenly and call it a year.
Jorge Polanco leads Minnesota with 304 plate appearances, which is 11.3% of the team’s trips to the plate this year. It makes sense. The switch-hitter doesn’t get subbed out very often, he’s the leading All-Star vote getter at shortstop in the A.L., and he hits near the top of the lineup every night.
After that, it’s Eddie Rosario (10.5%) and Max Kepler (10.4%) cracking the 1-in-10 mark. Several other regulars – C.J. Cron, Marwin Gonzalez, Jonathan Schoop, Byron Buxton and Nelson Cruz — are between 7% and 10% of the team’s plate appearances. Mitch Garver, who missed time with a high ankle sprain, is just less than 5%, and on down the list are guys like Jason Castro, Ehire Adrianza, Willians Astudillo and Miguel Sanó, each at fewer than 1-in-20 of Minnesota’s total trips.
That’s more good hitters than can fit in a starting 9 every day, and Rocco Baldelli and Co. seem to have done a superb job of managing that imperfect balance.
You’ve heard or read on rumors sites that the Twins will be looking to add pitching. GM Thad Levine has said that the Twins will do their duty, which is to monitor ways to supplement the current group as it tries to punch its ticket to October.
Here are a couple of updates on guys that I would try to target if I ran the Twins.
Mets starter Noah Thor Syndergaard left Saturday’s game with a strained hamstring, according to reports. But reporters also added that Mets manager Mickey Callaway called it a low-grade strain after MRI results came back Sunday.
Indians starter Trevor Bauer, who has a history with Twins CBO Derek Falvey, pitched a complete-game shutout Sunday against the Tigers. In 9 innings the righty struck out 8 Detroit hitters, he gave up 4 hits and didn’t walk anybody. That’s more like the form that had Bauer looking like a lead candidate for A.L. Cy Young a season ago before he got hurt (hit by a line drive).
Who knows if the Indians, currently a half-game back in the Wild Card, would even entertain trading Bauer. And who knows if they’d trade him to the Twins. It’s not the craziest thing to consider. And if he’s available and I’m the Twins, I’m making the phone call.