Seven days from today, the Twins will hold their first official workout for pitchers and catchers, and spring will be under way. It'll be long hours of PFP (pitchers' fielding practice, for the uninitiated), of guys with jersey numbers in the 90s, and of sunny days that make us long for spring.
That is, of course, assuming that Joe Mauer signs in the next seven days. If not, it'll be nothing but a nonstop barrage of questions from every corner. Mauer will have to answer about the negotiations. Justin Morneau will have to recount every conversation the two have had. Every other player will be asked to judge Mauer's mental state, his body language, and any other verbal or nonverbal communiques they might have received from the catcher, regarding his contract status.
It will, in short, be a distraction - the one thing that Mauer has repeatedly said he is keen to avoid. And this is why I believe Mauer will officially sign on the dotted line this week.
Mauer could not be described as "fiery;" he appears in few local advertisements, his interviews seldom progress past "banal," and his temperament never seems to waver much beyond the occasional smile or frown. Yet he's not robotic, like his only peer, Albert Pujols; he's simply quiet. Boring. Minnesotan.
(WARNING: THE FOLLOWING IS BASED ON UNINFORMED, ARMCHAIR PSYCHOLOGY. DO NOT ATTEMPT UNLESS YOU ARE A TRAINED PROFESSIONAL ONLINE WRITER, OR NEWSPAPER COLUMNIST.)
Have you ever tried to compliment a Minnesotan? It's like trying to bathe a cat. "I liked your ravioli hotdish at the potluck," you might say, to which the receiver of the compliment will say, "Oh, that? That's not much, really, just some ground beef and noodles and tomato sauce, I guess. I'm just lucky anybody ate any of it, we'd have leftovers for a week."
Do not make the mistake of arguing with this Minnesotan. You will enter into a vicious cycle of compliments and denials, one that will end with you offering to tattoo the recipe on your forearm, it was THAT GOOD, while the complimentee offers to cut out his or her tongue as a gesture of unworthiness.
We Minnesotans don't mind recognition, so much, but we hate attention. We'll accept the award but we don't want to make a speech. We'd rather sit in the back of the room, thanks.
That's why I think Mauer will get the contract done before spring training. He doesn't want the attention. He doesn't want to be Brett Favre. He doesn't want to have the media hanging from the rafters - and he knows that the media pressure will increase each day he doesn't sign, starting Monday and ramping up every day for the remainder of spring training (and for the rest of the season, should it come to that). Every beat writer from every city will feel the need to ask him about it when the writer's team swings through Fort Myers or Minneapolis. ESPN will hound his agent daily. Mark Rosen will pump out reports via Twitter every afternoon.
If he signs, he can go back to answering questions about what kind of car he drives. I think he'd rather have that.
So allow me to officially kick off "Wait for Joe to Sign" week. We will watch Target Field for smoke signals. (Preferably non-garbage burner-related smoke signals.) Seven days to go.