At this point Minnesotans analyze every Joe Mauer sneeze to determine whether it makes him more or less likely to re-sign with the Twins, so the reaction to this news will be interesting:
IMG, the premier global sports, media and entertainment company, today announced that it has signed the 2009 American League Most Valuable Player, Joe Mauer, for marketing, sponsorships and endorsements.
What does that mean, exactly? Well, here’s a quote from IMG senior vice president Alan Zucker:
While Joe’s on the field activities will continue to be his primary focus, as one of the game’s most talented and popular players we expect that Joe will be of great interest to companies and brands that want to associate with excellence and a proven winner to help grow their businesses. With his trademark sideburns, great popularity and amazing performance on the diamond we believe there is a great opportunity to create and grow a personal brand for Joe.
In other words, IMG has been hired to get him a bunch of endorsements deals.
Mauer is an amazing player with huge popularity in the upper Midwest. He’s also a favorite among female fans and known for, as Zucker mentioned, “his trademark sideburns.” However, in terms of endorsement opportunities his lack of an apparent personality may prove to be an issue. Mauer is a man of few words, and what he does say is typically delivered in a sort of aw-shucks monotone. For an example, check out the less-than-captivating video from his MVP press conference last week.
Plus, according to Sports Business Journal a recent survey found that less than one-fourth of the country can identify Mauer by face or name. By comparison, Derek Jeter and Brett Favre were recognized over 80 percent of the time. Still, if hiring IMG nets him a few more commercials perhaps Mauer won’t be so eager to pursue the largest possible long-term contract. Or so Twins fans can hope. The other good news for Twins fans is that Mauer has not switched “on-field agents.”
He’ll stick with Ron Shapiro to handle any contract negotiations. Shapiro previously represented Twins star Kirby Puckett and has a history of big-name clients who stay with their original teams, which Minnesotans have latched on to for optimism. Shapiro has represented Mauer since the St. Paul native was the No. 1 pick in the 2001 draft and apparently recommended that he find “someone who could manage his marketing needs on a full-time basis.”
For the first time in major league history, both pitchers in a playoff game have struck out at least 11 batters, per MLB.com’s Paul Casella. Mets starter Jacob deGrom has pitched just a hair better than Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw overall. deGrom has blanked the Dodgers over six frames on five hits and a walk. Kershaw made one mistake, resulting in a solo home run to Daniel Murphy in the fourth inning. He’s allowed four hits and four walks total in 6 2/3 innings.
The last time opposing starters each struck out 10 in a post-season game was back in 1944 in Game 5 of the World Series when Mort Cooper of the St. Louis Cardinals struck out 12 and Denny Galehouse of the St. Louis Browns struck out 10.
Mets outfielder Michael Cuddyer has already made a pair of mistakes in left field and he’s only four innings into the first game of the best-of-five NLDS against the Dodgers.
Leading off the second inning, Justin Turner sent a well-struck liner to Cuddyer which was quite catchable, but the ball clanked off of the veteran’s glove. Turner was credited with a double. Mets starter Jacob deGrom was able to work around the misplay, striking out Andre Ethier, A.J. Ellis, and Clayton Kershaw to close out the frame.
With two outs in the third inning, Corey Seager sent a fly ball down the left field line. Cuddyer took an inefficient route and the ball bounced about a foot inside the foul line, then into the stands, giving Seager a ground-rule double. To add insult to injury, Cuddyer ended up tumbling over the fence. deGrom, again, worked around Cuddyer’s mistake, striking out Adrian Gonzalez to end the inning.
Because he bats right-handed, Cuddyer got the start in left field over the left-handed-hitting rookie Michael Conforto against Kershaw, a southpaw. Conforto mustered only a .481 OPS against lefties this season compared to Cuddyer’s .698. Despite the batting disparity, one wonders how short a leash manager Terry Collins has on Cuddyer given his defense.
Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy broke a scoreless tie in the fourth inning, belting a solo home run to right field at Dodger Stadium off of starter Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw threw a 2-0, 94 MPH fastball and Murphy didn’t miss it.
Both teams’ starters are pitching quite well overall. Kershaw has allowed the one run on three hits and a walk with six strikeouts. Jacob deGrom started off the game with six consecutive strikeouts and has struck out seven total while blanking the Dodgers on three hits and a walk in three innings.
Kershaw doesn’t have the most impressive post-season track record, owning a career 5.12 ERA across eight starts and three relief appearances spanning 51 innings. Aside from the homer, the lefty appears to be putting that notion aside.