What a difference a decade makes

There is no shortage of storylines following the eight-year, $184 million contract extension signed by Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer.

But for someone like myself, I can’t help but think about how much things have changed for the franchise just in the last 10 years.

Turn back the clock to January of 2000. Once everyone got over our Y2K concerns – funny, ain’t it – for those who were hardcore Twins fans during the lean years of the 1990s, things looked bleak.

Mauer will make $23 million per season once his new contract kicks in for the 2011 season. Well, USAToday.com – which has a great Web site for looking up payrolls and salaries over the last 20 years or so - has the Twins’ payroll as dead last in the year 2000 at just over $15 million.

The highest-paid Twins player on that 2000 squad was Brad Radke, who earned $3.5 million that year. Only five Twins were millionaires, and it’s a pretty interesting group of players: Radke, Matt Lawton, Ron Coomer, LaTroy Hawkins and the unforgettable Sean Bergmann.

But a couple years later, new manager Ron Gardenhire would have the team in the playoffs despite concerns over the franchise’s future after then-owner Carl Pohlad had reportedly offered his team up for contraction. Pohlad was frustrated after years of failed attempts to land a new stadium.

Now, the Twins are moving into that new stadium, and they have one of the highest-paid players in the game. Quite a turnaround for a franchise that looked doomed just 10 years ago.

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