Playing the "what if" game with Joe Mauer

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Mauer bat.jpgIt’s Mauer day. In addition to this morning’s piece, USA Today ran a scary “what-if” article about the 2001 draft when, as most of you know, the Twins had to choose between Mark Prior and Mauer, with most people at the time thinking that Prior was the better choice. That’s certainly changed now:

The Twins made the pick that perhaps forever changed franchise
history. Mauer won the American League MVP last year and is a
three-time batting champion and two-time Gold Glove winner. He is
considered one of the finest players in the game. Prior won 41
games his first four seasons with the Cubs, but just one game since
2005, and is now out of baseball. He still is battling shoulder woes
and is home in San Diego trying to resurrect his career . . .

. . . “You look back, and wow, it would have been a whole different things
going on if we had not taken Mauer,” [Mike] Radcliffe said, “and taken the
other guy. I don’t want to think about what would have happened if we didn’t.”

Hindsight obviously makes the choice a no-brainer, but hindsight could make it less of one if we think about it a bit. For example, what would have happened if the Twins had taken Prior and, instead of abusing him like Dusty Baker and the Cubs did, they brought him along slowly and carefully?  Maybe he still gets hurt — we’re still kind of guessing what pitcher abuse truly means — but maybe he turns into that Tom Seaver v.2.0.  Likely? Eh, probably not, but the point is that every point of historical divergence throws hundreds if not thousands of variables into play.  Think George Bailey not being born times 1000 and then cut Mark Prior some slack.

But if you insist on living in a what-if fantasy world when it comes to Joe Mauer, you can just start reading the Colorado Springs Gazette, because they’ve got the market cornered on that stuff:

Imagine Joe Mauer catching and hitting in the middle of the Rockies
order next to Troy Tulowitzki for the better part of the next decade. Crazy talk? Yes. It is wild speculation and, as far as I know, a
thought that hasn’t been entertained by anyone in the Rockies front
office. But it’s not as far-fetched as it seems . . .

You can probably guess where that’s heading. It’s the flipside of what Yankees and Red Sox fans say about the guy. Instead of expecting to get him because they’re entitled, the writer here thinks they should get him because, gosh, wouldn’t that be great!

Please, Minnesota, sign Mauer already and return us to the land of certainty.

NL Wild Card Game: Cubs vs. Pirates lineups

Jake Arrieta

Here are the Cubs and Pirates lineups for tonight’s Wild Card game in Pittsburgh:

CF Dexter Fowler
RF Kyle Schwarber
LF Kris Bryant
1B Anthony Rizzo
3B Tommy La Stella
2B Starlin Castro
C Miguel Montero
SS Addison Russell
SP Jake Arrieta

Cubs manager Joe Maddon wanted Tommy La Stella in the lineup over Jorge Soler or Chris Coghlan, so he starts at third base and Kris Bryant shifts to left field. Bryant started just four games in left field all season, compared to 136 starts at third base. Also of note: After batting Addison Russell ninth–behind the pitcher–116 times this season Maddon has him in the more traditional eighth spot tonight.

RF Gregory Polanco
3B Josh Harrison
CF Andrew McCutchen
LF Starling Marte
C Francisco Cervelli
2B Neil Walker
SS Jordy Mercer
1B Sean Rodriguez
SP Gerrit Cole

Pedro Alvarez started 119 games at first base for the Pirates and with right-hander Jake Arrieta on the mound he was the presumed starter tonight, but instead manager Clint Hurdle has benched the 27-homer slugger in favor of utility man Sean Rodriguez. Alvarez is vastly superior to Rodriguez offensively, especially versus a righty, but he’s also very shaky defensively. During the regular season Rodriguez started a grand total of one game at first base against a right-hander, so this qualifies as a hunch by Hurdle.

The Cardinals are optimistic about Yadier Molina’s status

St. Louis Cardinals' Yadier Molina celebrates as he arrives home after hitting a solo home run during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the San Francisco Giants Monday, Aug. 17, 2015, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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Jenifer Langosch of reports that Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina‘s bum thumb responded well after participating in baseball activities Tuesday, including catching, hitting, blocking balls and the like.

This morning Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said that he’s now even more optimistic that Molina will be on the NLDS roster. The Cards’ first game will be Friday against the winner of tonight’s Cubs-Pirates tilt.

Having Molina would obviously be a boon for the Cardinals on the field. For a look at what Molina means to the Cardinals off the field, however, take some time to go read Derrick Goold’s excellent story about what Molina’s teammates think of him. Short version: the world. It’s worth your time, even if you’re not a citizen of Cardinals Nation.