Give Joe Mauer a Break

I hear a lot of people trashing Joe Mauer. I understand why they do it, but I don’t like it. Sure, he only hit a measly .287 in 2011, even with the flu, pneumonia and some weird leg-something ‘r other.  He’s not worth $22 million a year, they say. Worst mistake the Twins ever made, they say. He has no power, he’ll never last at catcher, I even heard one theory that claimed his upcoming marriage would somehow destroy his production at the plate.

Joe Mauer is the worst…player…ever.

People can say these things, I don’t care. Fact is Modest Joe is a once in a generation, home grown ballplayer who has won three AL Batting Titles before the age of 30. The Twins have had him in their organization for 8 years and have him until at least 2018, maybe even for a bit longer if his health holds up. He won’t get to 3,000 hits but he will continue put up +.800 OPS seasons while being one of the hardest outs in baseball.

In his worst year ever, 2011, his OBP (on-base-percentage) was .360. That same year, beloved Face of Baseball Derek Jeter (fyi, he’s the Yankee Captain) had an OBP of .355. The year before, Jeter was at .340. Mauer was at .402. Yeah, it doesn’t make sense to compare these two except for the fact that it makes perfect sense. Jeter is a once-in-a-generation player and for Twins fans, Mauer is too.

He’s OUR Derek Jeter. Multiple batting titles, an MVP and 4 All Star appearances. And he’s not even 30. Figure 4 more years of healthy Mauer and he’ll start approaching a place where Jeter already has a golden shrine: the Hall of Fame. He’s already won 3 batting titles. I’m willing to bet all the money this blog post earns from click-traffic that Mauer wins at least one more.

But Jeter won 17 World Series rings and hands out gift baskets to vanquished ladies!

Oh yeah? Well here are 10 Ways The Twins Have Bested the Yankees Over the Years, so chew on that.

Enough about Jeter. Back to Mauer. He’s good. Very good. A once in a generation ballplayer who when all is said and done will have been with us for more than 15 years. We’d love to see him win a World Series, but doing so would not make him a more talented player. A great hitter and solid defensive catcher who throws out 35% of base runners (not bad), he is the face of the Twins franchise and will be until the next great player emerges, probably 20 years from now.

The Twins had Puckett in the 1980′s and ’91, Carew before him and the Killer long ago. Mauer is the next one of those guys, and all those guys are in the Hall of Fame. Mauer could be there too one day. As long as he stays healthy and continues to perform. And I see know reason why he won’t. Except that, yeah, he’s getting married.

Sometimes when you go to a game you see Mauer go 5-5 with 2 double and a bunch of offense. We cheer like crazy and realize we’re witness to greatest. So when he goes 0-5, remember it’s five at bats out of 7,500. And you’re still witness to greatness. Mauer is not going to hit a double every time he bats, and he’ll be injured here and there and will continue to frustrate. But he’ll put up solid numbers, sometimes elite numbers. Better numbers than Jeter. And damn it people, he’s one of the best players of this era.  He’s once in a lifetime. Enjoy this ballplayer! He’s likely to be remembered as one of the greats.

Mark McGinty is the Author of The Cigar Maker and Elvis and the Blue Moon Conspiracy. His work has appeared in Maybounrne Magazine, Germ Warfare and Chrono Chaos.

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