Controversy erupted in Twins Territory on Thursday, as Joe Mauer claimed he was moved from catcher to first base not due to concussions, but rather because of his long-standing public support of 2% milk as the "best milk" and skim milk as "the worst milk."
"I was a major league catcher until I was moved to first base by two cowards and an anti-2% milk bigot."
The All Star says the cowards are Ron Gardenhire and Terry Ryan, and the bigot is Scott Ullger.
"2% milk is my favorite milk," exclaimed Mauer in a conference call with reporters. "Skim milk is my least favorite. I don't think some people liked to hear that." The Twins have had a long-standing corporate partnership with the Kemps dairy company, which sells many varieties of milk, including skim, throughout the upper midwest.
Mauer, who has long been public about his pro-2% milk enthusiasm, said he can't prove that this was the reason for his position switch, "but I'm pretty confident it was."
"Gardy pulled me into his office last summer and asked if I was going to keep talking about how I liked 2% milk better than other milks, and I was like, yes, sir. I like milk," said Mauer. "Gardy responded that, 'a ball guy once told me there are two things you don't talk about in this business, and that's politics and dairy preferences.' I told him that I wasn't going to stop speaking my mind, and he said, 'If that's what you feel you have to do.' He didn't add an extraneous 'y' to my name or tell me to go battle my tail off, so I knew there was some tension there."
Mauer noted that Twins owner Jim Pohlad came up to him the next day to talk about going to the milk booth at the Minnesota State Fair. "Jim said he had a tall, ice-cold glass of 2%, and it was about the best thing he'd ever tasted. I was like, 'Duh.' We both laughed and he encouraged me to keep spreading the word."
The trouble escalated in August and September, according to Mauer, when bench coach Scott Ullger repeatedly made derogatory remarks about 2% milk and that the only true milk was "lean, low-fat, easy-drinking skim milk."
"He said it in a semi-joking tone, and I responded in kind, saying 'Hey, now' and stuff," said Mauer. "I felt very uncomfortable during these conversations, because skim milk is gross. It's too watery."
Mauer says the breaking point was a pitchers and catchers meeting in mid-September, when Ullger came up to the group and said, "We should round up all the 2% milk, send it to an island, and pasteurize it until it glows."
"Who says things like that? It's insane," said Mauer. "If anything should go, it's skim milk first and then that raw milk junk. Don't get me started on that flavored holiday milk garbage, pardon my French. Snickerdoodle milk? Geez Louise."
After the season ended, Mauer claims he received a text from Terry Ryan, asking him to "please fly under the radar please." Mauer continued to publicly express his preference for a thick-but-not-too-thick milk like 2%, while allowing that some may prefer whole or 1% types. "Whole or 1% aren't for me, but who am I to tell you those are wrong? Those choices don't affect me. But skim milk is a bunch of hooey."
Then, on Monday, November 11th, the Twins announced that Mauer would be moved from catcher to first base, to lessen the chance for another concussion like the one that ended his season on August 19th. Mauer appeared to go along with the move, but now, he said he needs to speak up about the real reason for the switch.
"My catching numbers were in line with my career numbers last season. I know the move means a lot less wear and tear on me and no more foul tips off my noggin, but I also know that $23 million a year for a first baseman who isn't a typical power threat is a lot of money. They could replace me at the drop of a hat now and say milk had nothing to do with it. But I know better than that."
Mauer was reminded that MLB contracts are guaranteed, unlike some other professional sports, like the NFL.
"Oh, never mind, then. Skim milk is still really bad, though. Why wouldn't you just drink water? I don't get it."
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