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Hayden Goethe, Published January 24 2010

Goethe: Twins have Target, now must sign Mauer

The Minnesota Twins wanted to be treated like a major league team. Now, it’s time for them to act like one.

There’s a week left in January, and little has been said so far regarding a contract extension for their American League MVP, Joe Mauer. The only AL catcher in big league history to win a batting title – by the way, he’s won three of them – has just the upcoming season left on his contract.

The Twins have long been known for their thrifty ways. And the late Carl Pohlad – who owned the Twins for 25 years until his death in 2009 – often played the role of a punching bag for Twins fans who complained about the franchise’s inability to keep up with the Joneses.

I won’t defend Pohlad for flirting with the idea of selling the team to another man who would move the Twins to North Carolina in the late 1990s. Nor will I defend him for offering it up for contraction almost 10 years ago.

But as far as his spending ways, it’s easy to understand why the Twins operated the way they did. Since the team moved to the Twin Cities before the 1961 season, it had never had a stadium built for it.

That’s not big league. It’s bush league.

While competing teams were getting stadiums built for them and their own TV networks, the Twins were left languishing in the Metrodome, home of the Minnesota Vikings. The Twins made a push for their own TV network a few years back, but to no avail.

The Twins have that stadium now. Target Field will be ready for major league play this season.

And fans are buying tickets fast. The Twins are reportedly among the major league leaders in season tickets sold for the 2010 season.

The total cost of the stadium project was about $400 million, though the good taxpayers of Hennepin County will be paying for most of that bill.

Former Minnesota Twins great Tony Oliva said during Monday’s Winter Caravan stop in Fargo that the players have no excuses not to play well with a stadium that nice.

Oliva, of course, made that statement in jest. But as far as ownership and management go, the statement should ring true.

The Twins are expected to generate $40-50 million more each year in their new digs, so it shouldn’t take too long for the Twins to make back their investment in the new stadium.

Keeping Mauer in Minnesota is good business for the Twins. If they don’t want to do it for themselves, how about giving back to those Hennepin County taxpayers? It’s the only way those taxpayers will get something for their stadium investment.

Readers can reach Forum Assistant Sports Editor Hayden Goethe at (701) 241-5558 or hgoethe@forumcomm.com