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Top Twins Players Not in the Hall of Fame: Joe Mauer

Joe Mauer’s career seemed like it started with a storybook beginning as he became the first overall pick in the MLB Draft by his hometown team. While his career didn’t exactly follow the perfect path, he was able to do many things that had never been seen from the catching position. Concussions and a position switch later in his career will impact his Cooperstown case, but he might be the best Twins player not yet in the Hall of Fame.
Image courtesy of © David Berding-USA TODAY Sports
Case for Induction
There are currently 19 catchers that have been inducted into the Hall of Fame and Mauer is clearly above the threshold set by previous backstops. According to JAWS, Mauer ranks as the seventh best catcher all-time with all six players ahead of him already inducted and the four players behind him also enshrined. Mauer’s WAR, seven-year peak WAR, and JAWS total are all above the average of the Hall of Famers at his position. He topped the .400 mark in on-base percentage in six of his seasons as a catcher, a total exceeded by only four other catchers, none of whom started their careers after 1930.

Since MLB began tracking Win Probability Added in 1974, Mike Piazza is the lone catcher ahead of Mauer in the WPA rankings. Mauer also does well when it comes to Clutch because he was able to compile a .943 OPS in nearly 850 plate appearances with two outs and runners in scoring position. Plus, he is the only AL catcher to win a batting title and he did it three times.

Case Against Induction
Mauer played 15 big league seasons, but the last five came after concussions forced him to move from behind the plate to first base. Many Hall of Fame catchers end up changing positions in the later parts of their careers, but its usually a gradual shift instead of the abruptness that came with Mauer’s change.

Another knock against Mauer’s resume is the fact that he retired at the age of 35. All the other catchers ahead of him when it comes to JAWS played more seasons than Mauer. To put this in perspective, Nelson Cruz is three years older than Mauer. Longevity is something Hall of Fame voters appreciate because it allows for a player to accumulate some of the counting stats (3,000 hits, 500 home runs, etc.) that are usually guarantees of induction.

Prediction
Mauer will become eligible for the first time in 2024 and he has a very strong case to be elected. Some writers don’t feel that he will be a first ballot electee, because of his relatively brief career. However, the voting electorate continues to change with the possibility of these younger voters using a more analytics-based approach. Mauer will get elected but it might take a few years of being on the ballot.

Do you think Mauer should be a first ballot selection? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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11 Comments

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tony&rodney
Dec 01 2020 04:30 AM

Jaffe presents the case for anyone to understand and see - Mauer is a first ballot HOF player. Jaffe and Jaws aside, Mauer is a first ballot Hall of Fame inductee. Phenomenal athlete and baseball player, he was underrated by too many.

    • Seth Stohs, mikelink45, DocBauer and 3 others like this
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Nine of twelve
Dec 01 2020 06:32 AM

 

Mauer is a first ballot HOF player. 

I agree, but the same should have been true for Blyleven. HOF voters don't always get it right.

    • Rigby likes this

yes, he's a Hall of Famer. I suspect he won't get in on the first ballot, in part because there's still a bundle of voters that haven't been purged yet that believe in not voting for guys on the first ballot unless they meet some other undefinable characteristics for being in the "inner circle".

 

I wish he'd gotten that deserved Gold Glove for one of his seasons at 1B; that last piece of hardware would have sealed it for some voters, especially because it's one of those things that doesn't happen, guys winning a GG at 2 different positions.

 

But the hardware is there, the batting titles are there, the MVP & all-stars...the decline was sudden, but he was still productive at 1B. It wasn't like he stopped contributing, and the 2018 season was pretty darn good.

 

The only thing guys like Bill Dickey or Mickey Cochrane have on Joe is rings; the only thing Gabby Hartnett has on him is longevity (and Mauer's peak was definitely higher) and all of those guys are deserving Hall of Famers. Piazza was a bigger slugger, but Mauer did everything else as well if not better, making them about equal as well. Heck, Mauer was right in the same lane as the immortal Yogi Berra excepting post-season heroics.

 

Mauer is in the same class of players as Dickey, Cochrane, Hartnett, and Piazza. That's an easy Hall of Fame player. If the rule is you don't get in unless you're Johnny Bench or Pudge Rodriguez...then you're not electing another catcher for a very long time, if ever.

 

Mauer was fantastic by any test and should go in first ballot. I can't penalize him for not having the rings; that was a team failure. Mauer did everything that was asked of him and was a wonderful player. He even turned into a terrific clubhouse leader in his later years mentoring a young team. 

 

I'm on Team Joe, always will be.

    • DocBauer, hugelycat, Nine of twelve and 1 other like this

Yes - his problem is that he was not HOF worthy at 1B and that is what many will remember since it was most recent.

 

But Tony Oliva and Jim Kaat will still rank 1 and 2 as the best that did not get in. 

    • USNMCPO and Nine of twelve like this

The BBWA are a bunch of hypocrites. They argue some players only hung around long enough to achieve the counting stats, even if their final few years were below average, but then they look at a successful career, and say “he didn’t play long enough”.the HOF should be reserved for those with achievements that need to be recognized. Mauer’s counting stats do not reflect or warrant HOF. however, only C with 3 batting titles and a MVP, 6x AS, 3x Gold Glove... National spokesman for Head and Shoulders, Pepsi, PlayStation.. first ballot will all be determined on who else is on it. 

The HoF has two purposes: to recognize fame that was created by performance, and to confer fame because of performance. When you look at his body of work as a catcher, Joe's an easy Yes for me on both counts.

    • DocBauer and wsnydes like this
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Dennesey55347
Dec 01 2020 08:24 PM

I've wrestled with this topic for years because unlike many other inductees, Joe's candidacy worthiness is actually a question rather than a given. Accolades mentioned in this article obviously can't be argued. Many personal accomplishments. Percentages we've rarely seen from his position. Then I look at his production stats: season averages in pretty much every category qualify as mundane (or worse). Even his career production numbers are meh. I remember some of his personal highlights but not a terribly high number of game-clinching, dominant performances. Also, career post-season numbers: .275/.341/.300, with 1 run and 1 RBI in 44 plate appearances. Yikes.

Love Joe, but no way is he a first-balloter. MAYBE eventually, but I’m not yet convinced. I’m open to it, but not quite there yet.
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tony&rodney
Dec 02 2020 09:01 PM

If someone is among the top ten at their position in the history of the game .... how are they not a sure-fire first-ballot hall of famer? I'm going to defer to Jaffe to argue this one for me. I get really confused why Joe Mauer doesn't get the proper recognition he deserves for his career. No matter what your age, it is unlikely the Twins ever have another catcher in your lifetime that matches his skills and performance level. 

    • DocBauer likes this

First Ballot. I'm not biased at all. ;) Anywho, I think he has a lot of the off the field/character stuff that the old-timers want in HOF inductees. He was very charitable and did a lot for promoting the game as well. Plus, as you said, his stats at his prime are untouchable. 

(btw, this is my first comment since the loss. I guess I am finally over my end-of-season blues.)

I believe Joe is deserving of induction (as are, IMO, Oliva and Kaat). But guys like Dimaggio, Killebrew and others didn’t get in first ballot. Joe DiMaggio had to wait, Joe Mauer should as well. First ballot induction should be rare, reserved for the Aaron, Mays, Mantle,Griffey,jr, and Maddox types.


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