A Milestone For Minnesota And Mauer
Image courtesy of © Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY SportsIn a Twins broadcast early during the 2018 major league baseball season, Dick Bremer stopped and offered a comment to his partner Bert Blyleven. He noted that with Joe getting close to such a monumental mark, he will definitely make sure to give the achievement its due. Carrying more weight than those words themselves, Bremer noted that the reasoning behind it was him having called Kirby Puckett’s 2,000 hit. The last Twins great to eclipse the 2,000 mark was well on his way to 3,000 and it seemed all but a foregone conclusion. Given that we know how that story ended, Bremer’s purpose was to never again overlook something that could take a lifetime to repeat itself.
Having grown up on the Metrodome, and eventually settling into Target Field, Joe Mauer is as synonymous with Minnesota baseball as Puckett himself was. While Kirby was the Chicago native who the state embraced as the every-man type player, Joe is the milk-drinking, yeah-sure-you-betcha type who has shown that talent is best utilized when forced to work hard. He’s the only catcher ever to win three batting titles, he’s got an MVP award to his name, and there was a time that looked as if Mauer would be looking up only at a man named Bench.
Although Puckett’s great injury took away the game he had made a career of, Joe’s sapped him out of a position he’d revolutionized. Despite having to relearn the game at the age of 31 from an entirely new position, Mauer took it all in stride. He’s no doubt heard the unfair criticisms regarding his pay or availability, and yet there’s been no slowdown in regard to the way he attacks each opportunity.
After trudging through three years of disappointment, Mauer returned to a form he had once patented. Tallying 412 hits from 2014-2016, Joe put up a 160 hit season in 2017, and donned a shiny .305 batting average. Having played 141 games, it seemed the a regular mix of rest as well as exploiting ideal opportunities, were a solid recipe for success as he continued into his twilight years.
We don’t have any idea what’s left for Joe Mauer at this point in his career. He’ll be a free agent at season’s end, and despite it seeming like there’s more in the tank (and potentially a Gold Glove or two left on the table), it will come down to whatever decision he feels is best for his family. Should Joe return and give this organization a few more years, it’s more than likely he’d eclipse the 2,304 hits Kirby currently can claim as the team record. We’ve been down this road before however, and the reality is that nothing is ever guaranteed, and looking on to the next great thing generally has us missing what’s right in front of us.
I’m sure Dick Bremer will be cracking a wide smile as he exuberantly exclaims that Joe has done it. It may come on the heels of a two-hit night, in the midst of a 10- game hitting streak. It may also not come until the weather decides to cooperate with the game of baseball. No matter when it comes though, the man in the booth, the one standing on the base and the guy up above will probably all know that this moment is something special.
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