Save the griping about Mauer's contract and consider this: Two notable players in Twins history finished their years at age 29 hitting for high-average and modest-slugging numbers at a crucial defensive position noted for rarely producing great hitters. One of them shifted to first base, a position expected to produce far more home runs than the hitter had traditionally shown, but he made up for it by putting up some of the best numbers in the league for a succession of underachieving Twins teams, including an eye-popping MVP campaign in 1977. The other player, the one who isn't Rod Carew, may someday follow his position change, and Mauer could very well replicate Carew's gaudy late-'70s stats. He's also a lot less likely to be traded to a contending team for scrap-heap parts. If Mauer, a perennial fixture in the AL's batting average/on-base percentage leaderboard, can follow No. 29's lead and maintain his hawk-eyed finesse well into his late 30s, he'll not only be a key player to rebuild around but a permanent franchise icon who can help lead his team back to the top once all the prospects start fulfilling their potential. The way things are going in front offices across Major League Baseball (what's up, Dodgers), that $25 million a year will look mighty affordable by then.