Jack Morris into Baseball HOF, Zucker gets his new Wild deal done

Marc Elliott

No Minnesotan will ever forget this  late October 1991 night
No Minnesotan will ever forget this late October 1991 night

CLOQUET LAKE… With the world of hockey in its mid-summer lull, I have turned a bit towards my 2nd favorite sport, baseball. I have been watching my 3 favorites, the Twins, Cardinals and Cubs as much as possible and have by and large been enjoying the summer. I hope that you have been too. Today I was able to view the annual Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies and I was glad that I watched. This year’s inductees Chipper Jones, Alan Trammel, Trevor Hoffman, Jack Morris, Vladimir Guerrero and Jim Thome were all worthy of the call of the Hall. The 1991 World Series hero Morris is not only from my hometown of St. Paul, he is also from my home neighborhood of Highland Park. It’s kind of crazy to think that within about a 6 to 8-mile radius, (if that) 3 guys within it would grow up to be HOF members. Dave Winfield, Paul Molitor, and now Morris are all enshrined in the hallowed museum.

While watching the ceremony I had to have an internal debate as to whether current Twin Joe Mauer would be the 4th St. Paulite to get in (also from within that same area) and if he would have the necessary credentials when his playing days were over. Honestly, that is a very tough call. Briefly, Mauer has 3 AL Batting titles. an AL MVP award, 6 time All Star, 3 Gold Gloves as a catcher, 5-time silver slugger award, 4 MLB records as a catcher, he has over 2,000 hits and a career batting average over .300. The Twins have not had an ALCS or WS appearance during his tenure, but notched 3 Central Division titles, although they lost all 3 resulting playoff appearances, as well as losing one Wild Card showing. So, does Joe have a shot? Based upon the usual contortions of the voters who enshrine the players deemed worthy of it, I would say that he is probably on the fence. Pretty darn good, but not good enough for the Hall. It’s that tough, but I’ll hold on to some hope. 

While the Twins had a tough trip to Boston over the weekend, later in the evening, while waiting out a Cardinals rain delay prior to their game versus the Cubs, Cards former 3rd baseman Mike Shannon, who is the color man for the team’s radio broadcasts, was featured on an old taping of an interview with the late Cub great Ron Santo and they chatted about their minor league days. Shannon and Santo talked about how a player could actually make more money as a minor league star way back when then they could on a big-league team. He also talked about making more money selling cars in St. Louis in the offseason then he made playing and that one year he told the team because of that he wasn’t coming back for spring training! Eventually something was worked out and he returned. For some reason, probably due to Morris’ Hall induction and his 91’ World Series heroics, I thought back to the inarguable star of that team, Kirby Puckett, and the contract he received in December of 1992. It was a $30mil deal paid out over 5 years and there were teams willing to pay more then he took from the Twins. 

Contrast that with the deal Mauer signed before the 2010 season, taking effect in 2011 calling for $184mil over 8 seasons. And as before, there were other teams willing to exceed that deal to take Mauer from the Twins. At that moment a fairly wry smile came over my face as I listened to Shannon and Santo talk about the salaries of their era. It’s mind boggling. Like many fans, I used to question whether these guys were worth that or what their “value to society” was and the like, but somewhere along the line I realized that these guys were doing something that a select number of people on the planet could do at a specified level, and were doing it better then anyone else, and that is what their profession determined it was worth. So…

I thought Chipper Jones gave the best speech of the day, especially when he told about the time when, as a very young player, the great Willie Stargell took him aside during a batting practice and asked how “light” the bat was that he was using. I think he said that it was 31 ounces. Willie told him to ditch it and start working his way up with bat weights until he got to the heaviest one he could swing and still maintain his bat speed. He told of how Stargell taught him to use a pitcher’s power against him, and in watching the game of today with more then a few flamethrower-power pitchers out there, you can tell which players have figured that out. 

I thought Morris gave the next best speech of the day, and of course, the best overall days of his career were with Detroit, as a teammate of Trammel. They were great times, they were difficult times, Morris wasn’t always easy to get along with. He referenced his love of Minnesota effusively and in a touch of irony upon returning to his seat post-speech, the first man with his hand out was Bobby Cox, the all-time great skipper of the team Morris beat in that World Series Game 7, the Atlanta Braves. Cox was seated right behind Morris. Thome’s speech was my next favorite and he too, spoke many times and very warmly of his stint in Minnesota. I won’t soon forget the night he got homerun’s number 599 and 600 versus Detroit at Comerica Park. That was special. When Hank Aaron was introduced prior to the event, he drew a standing O, and you could see some fans dabbing their eyes… just like me. That’s baseball royalty right there. One day, 5 years back, I went right past the front door of the Hall in Cooperstown, but couldn’t stop in. The next time? I’ll be racing to the front door…

JASON ZUCKER signed a 5 year, $27.5mil deal last Wednesday when his agent was in town, avoiding an arbitration hearing that would have been last Saturday. Given his overall body of work and considering the great year he put up for the 17-18 season, I feel that this contract was a fair deal for him and for the club. The annual salary cap hit will be its average, or $5.5mil, while it will payout $5mil for the 18-19 season, then $6.25mil/19-20, then $4.8mil/20-21, then $6.25mil/21-22 and finally $5.2mil/22-23. There were a few fans on hockey sites that said he left “money on the table”, but I don’t agree. I think this was the right deal for this player as I had mapped out in last weeks edition. See you next week! PEACE