The Minnesota Twins have been able to watch a great baseball player in Joe Mauer, but his contract has clouded many fan’s perceptions of him.
The Minnesota Twins for the past 14 years have been graced by one of the better baseball players in MLB history. From a number one overall pick, to a star catcher, and now a defensive stalwart at first base with an offensive resurgence, he has been great for his hometown club. The problem is that Mauer signed an 8 year, $184 million contract and that has ruined his public reputation with many fans.
After Mauer hit his 2,000th hit it became clear once again that Mauer is judged more based on his contract than his performance. It is time to look at Mauer for who he has been and celebrate that. For the 15th season in 2018, we as Twins fans have been able to cheer on a great baseball player and that deserves a deep sense of gratitude.
As a catcher, Mauer has clearly been the best catcher to have ever put on a Twins uniform. When looking at WAR, Mauer owns the top five spots in Twins history for season WAR. In ranking career WAR among Twins catchers, it isn’t even a competition, Mauer is clearly the best.
Mauer has six all-star appearances, three Gold Gloves, and three batting titles. Not to mention he has was 2009 MVP. He is the only catcher to win three batting titles. He also owns the 5th best season of WAR for a player who spent at least 50% of their time at catcher with a 7.8 WAR in 2009. If Mauer stayed at catcher we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation.
Of course, the problem was after 2013 Mauer had to shift to first base because he suffered a brain injury. And yes he took a step back a bit in his ability to hit. Even though his brain clearly was relearning how to hit a baseball, he was still a better major league hitter than many who give it a try.
Comparing Mauer to his teammates, if we look at just those “bad” seasons of 2014-2016, out of players who played at least 80 games Mauer had the 5th (2014), 11th (2015), 13th (2016) best season batting averages. Same parameters but switching to OBP Mauer was 3rd (2016), 4th (2014), and 9th (2015). If we take the 2016 season, Mauer was 30th among qualified batters in OBP.
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In what many fans would consider one of Mauer’s worst seasons he was still one of the best players in baseball at getting on base. Yes, Mauer lacks in the power department. He has now moved to a position where power is usually the staple. He is still providing value in other areas.
In 2017, Mauer was 17th among qualified batters in OBP at .384. He was also arguably one of the best defensive first basemen in the majors. An aspect of Mauer’s defense that still gets overlooked is how much he helped to cover up a lot of inefficiencies around the diamond in his ability to pick throws out of the dirt.
Mauer’s start to the season has only affirmed many of those positive attributes. He is off to one of the best offensive starts on the Twins, only rivalled by that of Brian Dozier. Mauer owns a .333/.475/.438 slash line along with 5 doubles and 6 RBIs. His value to this team is unquestionable.
It is time Twins fans to put aside the hate of Mauer and his contract. He has earned every dollar. It seems pretty clear that his contract never inhibited the Twins from making financial moves. This may be our last season as fans to recognize how great of a hitter and player Mauer is. Let’s take advantage of it.