On Sunday afternoon, the 2012 MLB All-Star rosters were announced for the American League and the National League. There were a few different candidates that had the opportunity to be selected to be the Twins representative. Joe Mauer is near the top of the AL in a variety of batting categories and he plays a premium defensive position. Josh Willingham started off the season on quite the run and he might be the team MVP to this point. Since his promotion at the beginning of May, Scott Diamond has been the ace of the Twins pitching staff. Glen Perkins and Jared Burton have been dominant in their appearances out of the bullpen.
In the end, the Twins will have one representative for the second year in a row. Joe Mauer was selected to his fifth career All-Star Game and he is the lone representative for his team much like Michael Cuddyer last season.
There are three catchers on the AL roster so Mike Napoli of the Texas Rangers and Matt Wieters of the Baltimore Orioles will join Mauer. Napolit gets the start and Mauer and Wieters will be used in relief on a night where the temperature is suppose to be in the high 90s.
When the announcement of the teams was made on Sunday, there was an uproar across the social media world that Mauer would get the only spot on the All-Star team for the Twins. Fans looked at Willingham and his high home run total and team-leading RBI total and they made the case that he should be on the team over Mauer. For the first month or so of the season, it looked like Willingham would be the only choice from the Twins roster. A rough month of May where he batted .220 brought his numbers back down to earth and might have pushed his first All-Star appearance out of reach.
The outrage towards Mauer was painful to read in the moments following the announcement of the team. Twins President Dave St. Peter was left to defend Mauer
in a few different tweets to angered fans.
It seemed like fans were attacking a player for his rough season in 2011 and not looking at the numbers that he has put up so far in 2012. He leads the entire AL in OBP and he ranks fifth in the AL in batting out of the players that have qualified for the leaderboard. According to FanGraphs version of WAR, Mauer has been equal to Willingham but Mauer is ranked number one among catchers. In comparison, Willingham ranks ninth among outfielders and the only outfielder with a lower WAR than him to make it was Curtis Granderson.
For the second year in a row, the Twins are off to a poor start and it would be hard to imagine the team getting more than one representative to the Mid-Summer Classic. It would take a couple of magical seasons from Twins players to get more than one representative. If the Twins had gotten better starting pitching for the duration of the season, there is a good chance the team would be out of the cellar in the AL. This could mean that players like Willingham and Diamond could have joined Mauer in Kansas City. Even Mauer himself told reporters that he was upset that he would be making the trip from Minneapolis by himself
During the 2012 season, it has been disappointing to read and hear the hatred toward Mauer even though he is in the midst of a very good season. There have been plenty of double play balls hit to second base off of the bat of Mauer as he enters the second year of his monster deal. Only 35 of his 69 games have been spent behind the plate and he doesn't hit many home runs or rack up a ton of RBI. So for some people that consider themselves "fans" of the Twins, there will continue to be things to pick apart for the $23 million man.
In a season that might already be lost, there is a long list of things to be frustrated about for the Twins and Mauer shouldn't be anywhere near the top of the list. The American League needed to fill a catching spot on the roster and the Twins had a player that was more than deserving of a place in the All-Star Game. If there had been some holes to fill in the outfield, the same case could have been made for Willingham. There seems to be a portion of fan base for the Twins that don't appreciate the greatness of the player they have the privilege to witness.
Mauer deserves to be an All-Star even if a faction of the fan base doesn't think he should be there.