Monday, October 26, 2009

The Joe Nathan Question

Everyone is asking the the question: What to do with Joe Nathan?

Opinions are fairly easy to come by. Trade him. Keep him. Sacrifice him to the baseball gods and hope they reincarnate him into a closer who can beat the Yankees.

There is only one person whose opinion should matter in this question, however. That person is Joe.

No, not Joe Nathan, but Joe Mauer.

I say this, not because of my infatuation with the man, but because who knows better than Mauer if Nathan still has what it takes to close? Who knows pitchers better than their catcher?

I'm not suggesting Mauer should run the organization, or even make any organizational decisions. Ultimately, Bill Smith obviously has to make the decisions. In the matter of Nathan, however, why not at least ask Mauer if he thinks Nathan is still capable of closing?

Maybe Mauer's decision shouldn't be the deciding factor in trading or keeping Nathan, but it should at least weigh in the decision.

Mauer is inarguably the most important player the Twins have. Everybody knows this. He must be signed to a long term contract. Mauer also says he wants to play for a winner. Well, building a winner starts with current personnel.

Yes, asking your star player about personnel decisions can set a dangerous precedent, but isn't ignoring that same star's concerns equally dangerous?

At the very least bringing Mauer in for a one-on-one discussion with Bill Smith about the future of the organization, and the construction of the current roster, seems like a logical step. If the main factor to a long-term Mauer deal is the competitiveness of the Twins moving forward, Mauer should be at least made privy to some of the organizationl plans.

That brings us back to Nathan.

He struggled down the stretch. He antagonized fans. And, maybe worst of all, he single handedly rejuvinated Alex Rodriguez's playoff career.

But do the players still have confidence in him?

One of the most important factors for a dominant closer is confidence. Mariano Rivera is great because he knows you can't hit him. He throws essentially one pitch, but he knows you won't hit it. He knows you can't hit his cutter.

And so do his Yankee teammates.

Do the Twins players have the same confidence in Joe Nathan?

Who better to answer the question than Mauer? The star player, the face of the franchise, the man who needs to be signed to a long term contract.

Everybody has an opinion on Nathan. It is easy to form an opinion. It's hard to figure out whose opinion to take seriously.

Joe Mauer is someone whose opinion should be taken seriously.

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