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Trying to put a Giants-related spin on the Mauer contract

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The Joe Mauer deal is insane. Don’t the Twins know that with that money, they can buy a Barry Zito and an Aaron Rowand? Let’s do the math:

One All-Star (Rowand in ’07) + One All-Star (Zito, three times!) > One All-Star (Mauer, three times)

Heck, for the $180M the Giants are paying, they’ve already had one more combined All-Star appearance. This kind of waste is why the Twins haven’t been competitive at any point in the past 15 years, so I feel sorry for them.

Ahem.

Seriously, though, good for the Twins. It’s a risk – the same contract given to this guy would have been quite a financial hurdle around 1980 – but it’s a risk the Twins had to take. If they aren’t going to spend money on a homegrown golden boy who is also a Minnesota native, on whom will they spend money? Every time a Twins fan saw Mauer in a Yankees uniform, it would have been a disincentive to care about whatever young talent the Twins were trying to promote in the post-Mauer era. Maybe someday there will be a Cesar Cedeno who signs a Mauer-type deal and becomes a cautionary tale. Until then, it’s hard not to be happy for the Twins and their fans.

Mauer is one perfect example of what a franchise player should be: homegrown, local, and great. It’s not the only example, of course. There’s also purchased at market rates, local, and great. There’s also homegrown, locked up six days after his MLB debut, and great. And there’s always the classic: paid above the market rate, loosely affiliated with a different part of the larger region, and good-though-overrated.

When franchise players are forced, bad things happen. Well, maybe not bad things, necessarily. In Zito’s case, pleasantly mediocre things have happened. Hey, that’s better than bad! But the Zito contract seemed like a preparing-for-post-Bonds panic move at the time, and it’s just looking worse in retrospect. The Giants wanted so desperately to have a Vice-Face of the Franchise ready to step in when Bonds left. Three years later, and the Giants have two face-of-the-franchise types, but Zito isn’t even close to being one of them.

Everyone knows this now. A lot of folks knew it then. The Zito contract is a head-on-a-pike warning for franchises thinking of paying for a marketing scheme instead of a player who comprises 4% of a baseball roster. Franchise players almost always happen organically. So I thought this was a good time for the yearly laugh ‘n’ sob about the Barry Zito contract. Zito’s been a worthy starting pitcher during the first three years, which is a good thing. It’s not as if he deserves to be out of the rotation, so give credit to him for that. It could have been much worse. Hey, it still can be. I’ll shut up now. 

Comment starter: The yearly laugh ‘n’ sob. Let’s take the jubilant news of a favored son’s commitment to his organization, and turn it into pity-filled navel gazing. Will Matt Cain leave because the Giants can’t pay him and Zito both?