By Joe Christensen
Sports Illustrated turned yesterday upside down for me. La Velle handed me the reigns, and I was all set to write the game story between the Twins and Yankees. But then came word that SI had a “league source” saying Johan had broken off contract talks with the Twins. Pretty juicy stuff. Except, it just isn’t true. La Velle, Souhan and I started working our sources and came to realize just how off-base the SI report was.
In the end, it felt like we spent a lot of time and energy chasing a non-story. La Velle had to relieve me on game story duty, so I could focus on getting the Johan story right. But at least we gleaned some new insight, listening to Johan’s 11-minute interview yesterday. I tried to get something on this blog quickly, “to ease the nerves of Twins fans everywhere,” as one e-mailer nicely wrote to me overnight.
For a more polished version, please read the version we ran in our first editions. Souhan also did his early column on Santana (before switching to the Mauer angle), and since those early columns are often lost on our metro readers, here are some telling quotes from Johan in that original Souhan Q&A-style column:
If you were running a team with a two-time Cy Young Award winner, would you lock him up long-term? “Oh, definitely. It all depends. I’d have to work on my budget, too. You have to be smart, and you have to know exactly that you’re going to have enough money to lock up the players that will help you win a World Series.’’
Do you think you’ll pitch in the Twins’ new ballpark, scheduled to open in 2010? “I wish and I hope, but you get to a point where you don’t know. That would be one of the best moments of my baseball career, but at this point, I don’t have an answer because it’s not up to me.’’
Do you think the Twins will be willing to invest 20 or 25 percent of their payroll in one player? “If you look at it from a financial point, then I guess I won’t be here then because that’s the way it goes. That’s just being honest. If that’s the way they see it, then I guess there’s no reason to talk. … But this is business, but I guess that’s the sad part, you get in an atmosphere where you’re pretty comfortable, and all of a sudden you have to go away. … ’’
Have you talked to former teammates playing elsewhere? “Yeah, they say it’s different. Some say it’s nicer, and some of the guys say they miss this clubhouse. But that’s about it.’’
Ever wonder about wearing the Yankee pinstripes? “If they trade me I guess, I don’t have a choice. I don’t know. I don’t really know. Whatever team, whatever uniform I have to wear, I guarantee I’m going to do my job, and I’m going to make people feel proud of seeing me wear whatever uniform I wear. Right now I’ve got the Twins uniform, and that’s all I worry about.’’
As a former Rule V draftee, are these good problems to have? “Nothing wrong with that, that means you’ve had a lot of success … I don’t even think about the way people see it, whether they put me on the top or whatever, I’m just the same guy, a guy who just wants to get better.’’