Joe Mauer is good at everything

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Bob Nightengale has a lengthy article on Joe Mauer in USA Today, um, today, painting a picture of a regular guy who, it seems anyway, wouldn’t quite know what to do with $200 million:

On his way to the Sony Computer Entertainment studio in San Diego to do motion-capture work for the video game, Mauer’s Lincoln Town Car rolls up to an In-N-Out Burger in El Toro, Calif. The window rolls down, and from the passenger seat, he orders a Double-Double with fries. When you’re an unassuming kid from St. Paul, why
bother with expensive seafood or steak on a three-day trip to
California when you can order from one of your favorite fast-food

Then again, Mauer passed on a luxury vehicle
when he got a $5.15 million bonus in 2001 for signing out of high
school, and he now drives a truck. His only indulgence is a cabin north
of the Twin Cities, a ranch with batting cages, bowling alley, movie
theater, recording booth (yes, he sings), hockey/fishing pond and
plenty of hunting land . . .

. . . “He just hangs out, plays videos and beats us in anything. He’s a great
golfer. He bowls with two hands. Good ping-pong player. He’s a great
skater. He can dance like Michael Jackson. We haven’t found anything he’s not good at. It’s kind of annoying.”

Big ups to Mauer on the Double-Double with fries — and how nice it is to hear that none of his family and friends see him leaving Minnesota — but anytime I hear stories like this about ballplayers — about how unassuming they are and all of that — I’m taken back to that thing Bill James once wrote about Dwight Gooden. About how when ballplayers come up and have a lot of early success, how they’re always talked about as being such fine young men.  James said that sportswriters — “either despite their cynicism of because of it” — are desperately want to believe that athletes are heroes and saints until the very moment that they prove not to be, and then they feel betrayed.

This stuff about Mauer is less about him being a hero than merely a nice, sensible young man, but the dynamic is the same. Why else do you travel to Minnesota to talk to his friends unless you’re doing it to push the “Mauer would never leave Minnesota for more money” story along?  What will the story look like if the Twins decide to lowball him and he bolts for Boston next year?  Will we still hear about his ranch, his video games and his Double-Doubles, or will we hear more about Joe Mauer, Inc., moving to the East Coast?

For what it’s worth I think he will stay in Minnesota, but if he does it will almost certainly be because it makes good business sense for him, not because of some inherent goodness in him that renders the same considerations every other ballplayer makes somehow irrelevant. 

Astros stave off AL West elimination, beat the Diamondbacks

Colby Rasmus, Gary Pettis
AP Photo

Facing an elimination number of one, the Astros staved off elimination in the AL West by beating the Diamondbacks on Friday night by a 6-1 margin. The Rangers suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Angels on Saturday afternoon, which temporarily put the Astros’ fate in their own hands.

Colby Rasmus hit a pair of solo homers and Jose Altuve added a solo shot of his own. Starter Collin McHugh tossed seven innings of one-run ball, limiting the Diamondbacks to six hits and a walk with six strikeouts. Reliever Will Harris allowed a solo home run to Paul Goldschmidt in the eighth, but Luke Gregerson closed out the game with a scoreless ninth.

The Astros trail the Rangers by one game in the AL West and lead the Angels by one game for the second AL Wild Card slot. The Rangers can clinch the AL West on Sunday afternoon with a win or an Astros loss. The Astros can clinch the second AL Wild Card on Sunday afternoon with a win or an Angels loss.

The Yankees lost both ends of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Orioles and lead the Astros by only one game for the first AL Wild Card slot.

If the Astros win and the Rangers lose on Sunday, they will play an AL West tiebreaker in Texas. The winner will win the second AL Wild Card if the Yankees win on Sunday, or the first AL Wild Card if the Yankees lose on Sunday.

If the Astros lose and the Angels win on Sunday, the two teams will be tied for the second AL Wild Card. They would play a tiebreaker in Houston, and the winner would play the Yankees in New York in the Wild Card game.

Video: Kelby Tomlinson slides in for an inside-the-park home run

Kelby Tomlinson
AP Photo
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Giants second baseman Kelby Tomlinson looked more like Ladainian Tomlinson the way he was running during Saturday afternoon’s game against the Rockies. In the first inning with one out against starter Chris Rusin, Tomlinson hit a fly ball into the right-center field gap at AT&T Park, a great place to go if you’re in the mood for an inside-the-park home run.

Neither Carlos Gonzalez nor Chris Dickerson could corral the ball before it rolled all the way to the 421-foot marker at the fence. Tomlinson motored around the bases, but Gonzalez made a strong throw into cut-off man D.J. LeMahieu, and LeMahieu made a great throw in to catcher Tom Murphy, but Tomlinson slid in safely just ahead of the tag.

It was an exciting play and the hit proved important as the Giants eked out a 3-2 win against the Rockies.