wadE: not for the next gambit… but for Mauer to take grounders at first base.
Reports have been leaking out that the baby Jesus (or as I tried to name him, \”the baseball Jesus\”) has finally started taking some grounders at first base during pre-game warm ups. Although Joe Mauer has been as forceful as he can be about being the \”catcher\” for this team, it\’s not feasible to pay a guy 23.5 million per year and have him sit out 2 out of every 7 games. The Twins need his bat (such as it is these days) in the lineup every day. If that means playing a little third base, outfield, or first base… so be it. The hometown boy\’s shine has started to wear off (the team being 32-45 will do that). Even Shecky Souhan has started to rip into Mauer. Even Sid seems to be down on the golden boy . The Twins latest run started to make a previous gambit look bad, but never fear… this season is truly over.
I think most of the recent hang-wringing over Mauer is short-sighted and reactionary, which is not uncommon to our times, but it is a little bit out of character for Minnesota sports fans. Mauer\’s in his 8th season, and if we write off this season as one affected by injury, that means he\’s been able to be productive about 75% of the time for 8 years. In 3 of those other 6 seasons, he was outstanding – one of the best players in the game, and certainly the best catcher. In the other three, he was merely the best catcher. If (and I\’ll grant you, it\’s a BIG if) he produces at the same rate over the life of his current contact, all of this season\’s lather is gonna look pretty silly.
Note: I DO think it\’s fair to wonder if any player in this market is worth as much money as Mauer is going to make, but it\’s kinda too late to have that discussion, unless you want to wait a few years for him to return to being a superstar, build up his trade value, and THEN trade him… and yeah, see how well that goes over.
A lot of vitriol surrounding our boy Joe in the local media these days. While I understand, I can\’t help but think that it might be misplaced. Is it Joe\’s fault that:
– the team is underperforming as much this year as it overperformed last year? It can be argued that his presence in the lineup would certainly have helped the team win more games this season (we\’ll assume his batting average would be higher than .200 if he\’d played the entire season.) However, he can\’t be blamed for the seemingly unending series of injuries to the rest of the lineup.
– we traded away both of our backup catchers who were able to able to hit a lick? It\’s nice having Matt Capps at the back end of the bullpen, to be sure, especially with Joe Nathan still recovering. But did we really need to trade away someone of Wilson Ramos\’s caliber for a closer, when this team has proven numerous times that we can \”create\” closers (Nathan, Guardado, Aguilera)? Did Bill Smith take a look at Mauer\’s injury history and think \”eh, he\’ll be fine, we don\’t need to have a quality backup catcher\” when the Nationals said they wanted Ramos for Capps?
– he seemingly got some bad advice from the team\’s trainers about coming back at the beginning of this season, instead of staying in Florida longer to get his body back in game shape?
– people in this state have unrealistic expectations when it comes to a player\’s performance after he inks a big contract? Joe is still the same guy– a catcher who has an amazing knack for making contact the baseball but (let\’s face it) is a little fragile– in 2004 (making $300k) as he is in 2011 (making $23,000,000). If nothing else, we should expect more injuries like this as he gets older while playing the most taxing position on the field.
I believe we\’d be hearing none of this if the Twins were 45-33 instead of their current 33-45. The front office made bad decisions, injuries have struck every player in the lineup save for Cuddy and Valencia, and team has played badly. Fans want to lash out, even if it\’s not aimed at the right target.