Mauer’s Myths: The Hero Minnesota Didn’t Deserve
Image courtesy of Brad Rempel-USA TODAY SportsI’ve had some frustrating conversations with friends and colleagues over the last few weeks as it became ever more apparent that Mauer’s career was coming to an end. In fact, Sports Illustrated looked into the reasons some Twins fans dislike Mauer. Let’s dispel some of those myths.
The Money Myth
Baseball’s pay structure is set-up so young players are relatively cheap for owners. At the beginning of a player’s career, they are forced to build up service time and go through the arbitration process. Typically, players enter the prime of their careers near the time they are entering free agency. This forces teams to overpay for a player’s prime and be saddled with a declining player at the end of the contract.
Joe Mauer was overpaid at the end of his career, but he was vastly underpaid at the beginning of his career. From 2004-2009, the Twins paid Mauer $21,525,000. According to FanGraphs valuation system, he was worth $151,700,000 during those same seasons. Minnesota signed him to an 8-year, $184 million contract following the 2009 season. Over those eight seasons, Mauer was worth $126,000,000 in total value.
For his career, the Twins paid him $218,025,000 and he repaid the organization with $307,700,000 in value.
The Anti-Clutch Myth
Mauer will forever be associated with Twins teams that struggled in postseason play. Teams he was on seemed to always run into the Damn Yankees before failing to advance. He famously had a double negated at Yankee Stadium in what became a turning point in the series. However, there are only certain things Mauer can control when it comes to pressure situations.
This season Mauer led all of baseball in batting average with runners in scoring position. He hit .407 in those situations. That’s not a typo and it wasn’t a one season anomaly. Mauer's career .334 batting average with RISP is second among all active hitters with at least 750 plate appearances, behind only Joey Votto at .336.
Mauer was great with players in scoring position and that might be one of the most clutch things a player can do.
The No Power Myth
Mauer was never going to live up to his 28-home run outpouring from his MVP season in 2009. That season was a season for the ages where Mauer cemented his place as one of the all-time best hitting catchers. Even though the home runs might not have continued at a record pace, there was still power on Mauer’s resume.
Minnesota’s team history stretches back to the early 1960’s. There have been multiple Hall of Fame players (Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, Kirby Puckett) who spent large chunks of their careers with the Twins. None of them have hit more doubles than Mauer. Among all-time catchers, he has the third highest OPS.
The power was there but it just didn’t always come in the form of home runs.
I don’t know if I ever fully appreciated Mauer during his playing career. I understood how good he was but it’s easy to see how he could have been misunderstood after looking back on his career. Casual fans don’t understand the type of value and production he was able to produce over his 15-year career.
He was the hero Minnesota didn’t deserve.
- Carole Keller, Puckett34, Oldgoat_MN and 7 others like this