Ron Gardenhire reiterates Joe Mauer isn’t changing positions

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There’s still no timetable for Joe Mauer’s return from the leg problems traced back to offseason knee surgery, but manager Ron Gardenhire reiterated yesterday that whenever Mauer does come off the disabled list it will be as the Twins’ catcher.

Ever since Mauer suffered a season-ending knee injury as a rookie in 2004 a certain segment of Twins fans have clamored for a position switch and his latest injury has dramatically increased the number of people who think he’d better off not catching, but so far at least none of the Twins’ decision-makers seem to agree. Here’s Gardenhire:

He signed an eight-year deal to catch in the big leagues for the Minnesota Twins. So we’re trying to get him back as a catcher. If it doesn’t work out when he comes back, then we’re going to have to figure somewhere else. And that’s a lot harder than everybody makes it out to be, because we have some corner people that are pretty good baseball players.

He could play anywhere. He played the infield as a young player. We can make him the tallest shortstop since Cal Ripken. Right now, he’s a catcher, and that’s where he’s going to be until Joe says, “I can’t do it anymore,” or we deem him not physically able to do that. But we believe he is. He just needs to get healthy.

Mauer has repeatedly made it very clear that he intends to remain a catcher long term, but in the short term his stay on the disabled list will be longer because he needs to be game-ready on both sides of the ball and right now he’s been limited to designated hitter duties at extended spring training.

I’ve always felt very strongly that Mauer should remain behind the plate, because as a catcher his bat is Hall of Fame-caliber but as a first baseman or corner outfielder his bat is “only” All-Star-caliber. With that said, obviously an All-Star in the lineup is better than a Hall of Famer on the disabled list, and at some point the injuries may simply force the Twins’ hand. I don’t think we’re quite there yet, though.

Must-Click Link: Do the players even care about money anymore?

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Yesterday I wrote about how the union has come to find itself in the extraordinarily weak position it’s in. The upshot: their leadership and their membership, happily wealthy by virtue of gains realized in the 1970s-1990s, has chosen to focus on small, day-to-day, quality of life issues rather than big-picture financial issues. As a result, ownership has cleaned their clock in the past few Collective Bargaining Agreements. If the union is to ever get back the considerable amount of ground it has lost over the past 15 years, it’ll require a ton of hard work and perhaps drastic measures.

A few hours later, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan dropped an absolute must-read that expands on that topic. Through weeks of interviews with league officials, agents and players, he explains why the free agent market is as bad as it is for players right now and why so many of them and so many fans seem not to understand just how bad a spot the players are in, business wise.

Passan keys on the media’s credulousness regarding teams’ stated rationales for not spending in free agency. About how, with even a little bit of scrutiny, the “[Team] wants to get below the luxury tax” argument makes no sense. About how the claim that this is a weak free agent class, however true that may be, does not explain why so few players are being signed.  About how so few teams seem interested in actually competing and how fans, somehow, seem totally OK with it.

Passan makes a compelling argument, backed by multiple sources, that, even if there is a lot of money flowing around, the fundamental financial model of the game is broken. The young players are the most valuable but are paid pennies while players with 6-10 years service time are the least valuable yet are the ones, theoretically anyway, positioned to make the most money. The owners have figured it out. The union has dropped the ball as it has worried about, well, whatever the heck it is worried about. The killer passage on all of this is damning in this regard:

During the negotiations leading to the 2016 basic agreement that governs baseball, officials at MLB left bargaining stupefied almost on a daily basis. Something had changed at the MLBPA, and the league couldn’t help but beam at its good fortune: The core principle that for decades guided the union no longer seemed a priority.

“It was like they didn’t care about money anymore,” one league official said.

Personally, I don’t believe that they don’t care about money anymore. I think the union has simply dropped the ball on educating its membership about the business structure of the game and the stakes involved with any given rule in the CBA. I think that they either so not understand the financial implications of that to which they have agreed or are indifferent to them because they do not understand their scope and long term impact.

It’s a union’s job to educate its membership about the big issues that may escape any one member’s notice — like the long term effects of a decision about the luxury tax or amateur and international salary caps — and convince them that it’s worth fighting for. Does the MLBPA do that? Does it even try? If it hasn’t tried for the past couple of cycles and it suddenly starts to now, will there be a player civil war, with some not caring to jeopardize their short term well-being for the long term gain of the players who follow them?

If you care at all about the business and financial aspects of the game, Passan’s article is essential.