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Cutting Out Collisions Could Help Mauer

One of the questions facing the Minnesota Twins and their fans this offseason is the future of Joe Mauer. The All-Star catcher and face of the franchise didn't play a game after August 19th because of concussion-related symptoms. With the Twins heading for their third straight 90-loss season, there was no need to rush Mauer back to the field.

Attached Image: Mauer_Joe_AtThePlate_US_720.jpg When the Twins head to Florida this spring, there will continue to be questions about how much time Mauer should play at catcher. Catchers are in the line of fire when it comes to repeated foul tips and collisions at home. In the past, Mauer has repeated his desire to keep catching but one has to wonder if Minnesota can continue to allow this to happen.

Two home plate collisions in the American League Championship Series brought out continued concerns about the men wearing the protective gear. As concern, especially in sports circles, is increasingly raised about concussions and head injuries, reports have some baseball officials believing home plate collisions could be banned this offseason.

Moving forward the Twins might be more likely to let Mauer spend time catching if the front office knew the play at the plate was banned. Both of the Twins catchers from the Opening Day roster, Mauer and Ryan Doumit, missed time this season because of concussion issues. Their symptoms were brought on by foul tips to the mask and/or helmet so even cutting out collisions might not be enough to keep Mauer catching.

In the last month of the season, the Twins used a combination of Chris Herrmann and Josmil Pinto at catcher. Pinto was impressive, batting .342/.398/.566 with nine extra-base hits. His shoulder had been a concern throughout the minor league season but he fought through this issue to have an impressive September. Herrmann batted .204/.286/.325 with 11 extra-base hits over 157 at-bats this year.

If there are any concerns with Mauer's concussion-related issues heading into spring training, the Twins will be forced to make a decision about his catching future. Even if collisions are out of the game, foul tips will continue to impact catchers until face mask and helmet technology can be improved. Minnesota has Mauer under contract until 2018 and they can ill-afford to have him on the disabled list for extended periods of time.

Because of baseball's extensive history, it can be tough to change something, like collisions, that have been part of the game for so long. The time is right to ban collisions before another player gets seriously hurt. Catcher can be one of the most important positions on the field and it's time to protect them from future head injuries.


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