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  • Anatomy Of A Mauer Boo

    I’m not particularly fond of how Minnesota treats its sports stars. The Puckett-like love affair is rare. More often, we pick nits. Kevin Garnett doesn’t score enough, or isn’t clutch enough. Joe Mauer doesn’t hit for enough power or doesn’t show enough leadership. Fran Tarkenton can’t win the big one, Harmon Killebrew is too quiet, Rod Carew is self-absorbed … the list goes on and on.


    (There are forces at work here that are slicker and far more powerful than subjective analysis. It feels like it has to do with the human need for entertainment, or drama, or our self-identity forcing us from one side to the other to find our niche. I have to believe some bright person has studied this – the ebbs and flows of fame in a celebrity culture. If anyone knows of any books on this, I’d love to hear about them.)

    I’ve defended Mauer consistently throughout his career. Most recently, it was an ongoing topic on the Gleeman and the Geek podcast for most of this offseason. The last time I wrote extensively about fan reaction to Mauer was just before his breakout 2009 season, in a story titled “I Was Promised Superstar.” If you have a minute, I think it’s worth the click. It recaptures the Mauer debate four years ago, and it’s funny how it has changed and how it hasn’t.

    What hasn’t changed is the “health” debate. That was a concern eight years ago, and it’s a concern now, though the early returns this year appear positive. Whatever preparation or medical treatments Mauer has undergone are paying off, but I wonder if the important change wasn’t one of philosophy. Prior to this year, there was a “Iron Horse” stubbornness about how often Mauer should play catcher, certainly fromh Mauer and possibly with the organization. Catching wears down a player. (In fact, we studied how that hurt Mauer’s performance a couple of years ago.) This year, he’s playing every day, but “resting” at first base and designated hitter. And the overall results have been good.

    The other debate that might benefit from a change in philosophy is the “power” debate. It seemingly went away in 2009 when Mauer hit 28 home runs on his way to the AL MVP award. It came back in 2010 when the Twins moved to Target Field and opposite field home runs became the stuff of fairy tales. In 2009, most of Mauer’s power was opposite field home runs. He’s hit just 14 home runs since the move to Target Field, and only two within its confines. To change that trend would require pulling the ball, a change that the uber-patient Mauer seems reluctant to even attempt.

    It’s also worth noting that while it’s fun to cite “Games Played” statistics and what he’s batting with runners in scoring position, the overall impact numbers like WPA show that the fans know better than stats. Mauer hasn’t had a particularly positive impact on games this year. Friday night’s game (in which he demonstrated some power with a double and triple) was what finally lifted him to an impact above “historically mediocre.”

    If you’re wondering why fans have booed Mauer, that might be explanation enough. He generated enormous expectations, cashed in on those enormous expectations, and in what should be his prime years he isn’t living up to them. Add to that a reluctance to change his philosophy, whether it be pulling the ball or swinging at a first strike. Finally, he’s also the face of a franchise – another role which he signed up for and for which he is richly compensated – which appears to be exiting its golden era.

    Add that up, and you get frustration, and frustration, not ignorance, is why fans boo.
    This article was originally published in blog: Anatomy Of A Mauer Boo started by John Bonnes
    Comments 49 Comments
    1. Kneelb4zerg's Avatar
      Kneelb4zerg -
      Wow. You lost me at "Mauer hasn't had a particularly positive impact on games this year." I know what you are getting at but this is silly.
    1. YLT's Avatar
      YLT -
      If you know what he's getting at then how were you lost? His WPA has been mediocre at best for the season thus far. I also don't agree with booing Mauer but that doesn't mean we can't look analytically at the situation and call it what it is: he's a great hitter but he hasn't impacted games the way he should be for a guy making >20% of the team's payroll and the "face of the franchise." Again, I would never boo Mauer and I think they paid him what he was worth but lets really look at his impact this year.
    1. Jim H's Avatar
      Jim H -
      This is a good article and I agree with your basic points. My frustration is not with Mauer, but with a good portion of the Minneapolis media. They seemily have been down on Mauer from the time he was drafted(Prior anyone). A good part of the Mauer is soft, he needs to be a better leader, he needs to hit more home runs, comes from a vocal part of the media.

      Now, the notion that anyone who plays catcher is soft, almost requires a break with reality. There is no other position in baseball that takes anywhere near the beating a catcher does. The call for more home runs is more understandable, even though Hrbek should be a good warning. Hrbek went from being a good all around hitter with good gap power and occasional home runs, to a thirty home run guy with holes in his swing.

      I think the real problem the media has with Mauer is that the media likes guys like Hunter. Guys who are always good for a quote, who occasionally throw teammates under the bus in charming ways, who have a flare for the dramatic and self promotion, even if the production really doesn't quite match the flash.

      Mauer is not flashy, but he is a great hitter. When he is hitting well, the gap power will generally make up for the lack of home runs. I suspect that his supposed lack of leadeship is more of a media thing than an actual thing.

      Personally, I am glad we have a talent like Mauer to watch. Much like watching Killebrew, Carew, Santana and others who have performed in Minnesota, it is fun to watch true professionals with unique skill sets.
    1. jeffk's Avatar
      jeffk -
      If you know what he's getting at then how were you lost?
      Because, especially looking at a small sample size, WPA is as much about opportunity and luck as anything (although it a kinda fun statistic). I'm more concerned that guys hit. If they hit, decades of data show that runs will come.
    1. Ultima Ratio's Avatar
      Ultima Ratio -
      You nailed it John. Insightful analysis. The apologists need to understand that the frustration and criticism with Mauer is not unique nor personal. Capps underperforms for the money, Nishioka the same, Cuddyer for years was criticized for having a great contract year, then underperformed and was hurt during most of those big pay years. These players and more have been understandably and correctly criticized for failing to live up to the expectations of their contract. Heck, I'm sympathetic with Yankee fans who begrudge the Pavano contract with the evil empire. None of this is controversial, mean-spirited, or out of place. Of course, health problems and their impact on performance and living up to a contract cannot be known with certainty at the contract's inception, but when healthy and a player still underperforms commensurate with his contract, then criticism is not only natural, it's deserved -- as is a substantial measure for the front office.


      Living in Pittsburgh, you hear the Steelers philosophy which is part of the team, corporate and fan culture of Steeler nation: The bar is where the bar is. If a guy get's hurt, his replacement is expected to play at the same level as the starter, who was expected to play at or above expectations. It's all about accountability, setting the bar high and demanding it be met no matter who is in the game. It's amazing how different the fans, team and players hold themselves and their team accountable. Amazingly, the Steelers get results.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Ultima Ratio View Post
      You nailed it John. Insightful analysis. The apologists need to understand that the frustration and criticism with Mauer is not unique nor personal. Capps underperforms for the money, Nishioka the same, Cuddyer for years was criticized for having a great contract year, then underperformed and was hurt during most of those big pay years. These players and more have been understandably and correctly criticized for failing to live up to the expectations of their contract. .
      Mauer, Capps and Nishioka got booed by Twins' fans. For some reason Cuddyer, even though he could never even dream about performing as good as Mauer has on a bad season, was spared. So has the manager for some reason that escapes me... Maybe it is the same reason.
    1. Steve Lein's Avatar
      Steve Lein -
      See my post from last week if you need specific numbers in situations as to why fans are frustrated, but the point of my post was also to say that booing Mauer is stupid. There's much more going on with this team that fans should be frustrated about. If the Twins record was 16-6, or even 11-11, I don't think we'd hear any boos, but that would probably also mean Mauer has been a big part of those extra wins. I like this take on the situation a lot. Fans don't want to see a bad baseball team (and face it, the new generation of Twins fan doesn't know what losing is), and are frustrated. So, there has to be scapegoat, right? The starting pitching staff is a much better choice for that, however.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Steve Lein View Post
      . Fans don't want to see a bad baseball team (and face it, the new generation of Twins fan doesn't know what losing is), and are frustrated. So, there has to be scapegoat, right? The starting pitching staff is a much better choice for that, however.
      I will actually say that the new generation of the Twins' fans do not really know also what real winning is (and I mean World Series) so they are complacent with winning divisions every other year or so... So they like mediocrity and boo when it drops below the mediocrity level. Ultima Ratio said it well above when he gave the Steelers' example: A winning organization sets the bar high. All the way high. The Twins do not do that and the fans are used to it...
    1. whydidnt's Avatar
      whydidnt -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jim H View Post
      This is a good article and I agree with your basic points. My frustration is not with Mauer, but with a good portion of the Minneapolis media. They seemily have been down on Mauer from the time he was drafted(Prior anyone). A good part of the Mauer is soft, he needs to be a better leader, he needs to hit more home runs, comes from a vocal part of the media.

      Now, the notion that anyone who plays catcher is soft, almost requires a break with reality. There is no other position in baseball that takes anywhere near the beating a catcher does. The call for more home runs is more understandable, even though Hrbek should be a good warning. Hrbek went from being a good all around hitter with good gap power and occasional home runs, to a thirty home run guy with holes in his swing.

      I think the real problem the media has with Mauer is that the media likes guys like Hunter. Guys who are always good for a quote, who occasionally throw teammates under the bus in charming ways, who have a flare for the dramatic and self promotion, even if the production really doesn't quite match the flash.

      Mauer is not flashy, but he is a great hitter. When he is hitting well, the gap power will generally make up for the lack of home runs. I suspect that his supposed lack of leadeship is more of a media thing than an actual thing.

      Personally, I am glad we have a talent like Mauer to watch. Much like watching Killebrew, Carew, Santana and others who have performed in Minnesota, it is fun to watch true professionals with unique skill sets.
      I think you hit a homerun with this reply. I agree that people focus more on what he hasn't done that all the good he has. I include myself in this, because I get very frustrated watching him hit another grounder to 2nd or watching him take the first pitch even thought it's a fat one right down the middle. My frustration isn't so much that he hasn't been good, because he has, it's that I think he could be better if he'd be willing to make adjustments. I mean isn't that what separates the truly great from the very good? When guy comes up and has a fast start, don't all the "experts" tell us to wait until the second time through the league, to see what kind of adjustments are made and how the player adapts? It's seemed at times Joe AND his manager have been too willing to say, "it's working, don't mess with it" instead of "let's see if we can take this to the next level".
    1. Steve Lein's Avatar
      Steve Lein -
      Quote Originally Posted by thrylos98 View Post
      I will actually say that the new generation of the Twins' fans do not really know also what real winning is (and I mean World Series) so they are complacent with winning divisions every other year or so... So they like mediocrity and boo when it drops below the mediocrity level. Ultima Ratio said it well above when he gave the Steelers' example: A winning organization sets the bar high. All the way high. The Twins do not do that and the fans are used to it...
      Also good points.
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      To add to what I said in the "blog" commentary section (I wish there was a way to integrate that and article comments),

      I think that the Mauer boos last year were directed at Mauer but my gut feeling is that this year while still somewhat directed at Mauer, they are also directed at the organization as a whole.

      How often does Jim Pohlad come out on the field? Or Terry Ryan? Or even Gardenhire in a boo-able situation?

      Mauer is the most visible symbol of the franchise as a whole. The highest paid player. The "deity" who was idolized by fans. I don't find it surprising that his miscues are booed -- and I suspect many of those boos are directed what is happening with this team as much as they are directed at him.
    1. CDog's Avatar
      CDog -
      Quote Originally Posted by Ultima Ratio View Post
      You nailed it John. Insightful analysis. The apologists need to understand that the frustration and criticism with Mauer is not unique nor personal. Capps underperforms for the money, Nishioka the same, Cuddyer for years was criticized for having a great contract year, then underperformed and was hurt during most of those big pay years. These players and more have been understandably and correctly criticized for failing to live up to the expectations of their contract. Heck, I'm sympathetic with Yankee fans who begrudge the Pavano contract with the evil empire. None of this is controversial, mean-spirited, or out of place. Of course, health problems and their impact on performance and living up to a contract cannot be known with certainty at the contract's inception, but when healthy and a player still underperforms commensurate with his contract, then criticism is not only natural, it's deserved -- as is a substantial measure for the front office.


      Living in Pittsburgh, you hear the Steelers philosophy which is part of the team, corporate and fan culture of Steeler nation: The bar is where the bar is. If a guy get's hurt, his replacement is expected to play at the same level as the starter, who was expected to play at or above expectations. It's all about accountability, setting the bar high and demanding it be met no matter who is in the game. It's amazing how different the fans, team and players hold themselves and their team accountable. Amazingly, the Steelers get results.
      First, I'm wondering why being a fan of someone and enjoying watching him play baseball makes someone an apologist. People who get off on being miserable and holier than thou throw that around with the Kool-Aid idiom so often it pains me. God forbid someone actually think differently than you.

      Secondly, the quoted post made me wonder if it was written as an exercise in point-counterpoint or maybe by two different people. Or possibly someone just wants to be complain about something, so to cover the bases decided to complain about two different and opposite things. The first paragraph is devoted to the concept that Mauer, Capps, Nishioka, and Cuddyer are rightfully booed because they make too much money (without well-demonstrating that). The second paragraph says that the expectation placed on the players should have nothing to do with who they are or outside factors: only their performance matters. Which is it?
    1. BD57's Avatar
      BD57 -
      @ Jim H ...

      Amen to all that.

      Mauer is a catcher and one of the best hitters in baseball - a rare combination.

      As far as "contribution in 2012" ....

      Joe's been in the lineup, he's hitting .325, 2nd in OBP, 3rd in slugging, 2nd in OPS, 2nd in RBI .... the only thing he's not doing with the bat is hitting HR's. And we've just finished the first (short) month of the season.

      Is Mauer any good at all? Let's see - - - there's a HOF guy who hit .338 (Mauer's only batting .324 for his career) who hit less than 7 HR a season (Mauer's averaging 10 or so), OBP .388 (Mauer, .404), SLG .459 (Mauer .470), OPS .847 (Mauer .874), OPS+ 132 (Mauer 134) ... WAR 68.4 over 20 (Mauer 40.3 over 7) ...

      And Mauer's a catcher ... the HOFer wasn't.

      At some point, folks need to understand that Mauer is DAMN good ... and players who are DAMN good get paid.
    1. Ultima Ratio's Avatar
      Ultima Ratio -
      Quote Originally Posted by CDog View Post
      First, I'm wondering why being a fan of someone and enjoying watching him play baseball makes someone an apologist. People who get off on being miserable and holier than thou throw that around with the Kool-Aid idiom so often it pains me. God forbid someone actually think differently than you.

      Secondly, the quoted post made me wonder if it was written as an exercise in point-counterpoint or maybe by two different people. Or possibly someone just wants to be complain about something, so to cover the bases decided to complain about two different and opposite things. The first paragraph is devoted to the concept that Mauer, Capps, Nishioka, and Cuddyer are rightfully booed because they make too much money (without well-demonstrating that). The second paragraph says that the expectation placed on the players should have nothing to do with who they are or outside factors: only their performance matters. Which is it?
      I use the term apologist as a defender, as in Plato's "Apology" -- The trial of Socrates and his defense. If you think this is insulting, it is not. I don't know why you feel attacked. Perhaps you don't take others' arguments well in stride, taking disagreements personally and writing sarcastic and snarky comments to get back them for not seeing things as you do. This is a petty exercise.

      You charge me with (further) demonstrating that Nishioka is worth 3million/year, Cuddyer's 24 million/3year contract was a great deal for Cuddy, no so much the Twins, that Capps has pitched below expectations of a setup/closer making 5 million/year? It isn't a question of whether Mauer or anyone above make too much money, it's a matter of not performing at the level the market valued your production to be when you signed the contract. Do you think there's ever been a bad contract (for the team, I mean)? I suggest that Nick Punto was overpaid for his production on his 2 year/8 million contract. I also submit that Mauer is thus far being overpaid for his performance. I given the numbers several other places. Mauer's career/season OPS+ is between David Wright and David Ortiz... they are both making 14-15 million/year. Someone else gave Jaun Pierre's season stats lines and they were very similar to Mauer's. He does catch and is the fan favorite, yours too I'd guess. So this may increase the salary, but not to the level that he's producing. The point I'm making (demonstrating, very well thank you) is that there have been several other players who've not performed commensurate with their pay. Is this something you wish to argue? I don't find that controversial at all.

      Last, separate paragraphs indicate separate topics (usually) and this is true for my separation. The point here is that some sports franchises noted for winning and getting good results from players -- and their fans -- hold their players accountable, such that when they are not performing to a level commensurate with their pay or the internal expectations of the team for each player at each position no matter who it is.... they are roundly critiqued, and correctly so. So, if you think Mauer is has performed at a level that is commensurate with his pay and beyond critique, by all means shout it from every hilltop, just don't misrepresent or insult your detractors.
    1. CDog's Avatar
      CDog -
      Quote Originally Posted by Ultima Ratio View Post
      I use the term apologist as a defender, as in Plato's "Apology" -- The trial of Socrates and his defense. If you think this is insulting, it is not. I don't know why you feel attacked. Perhaps you don't take others' arguments well in stride, taking disagreements personally and writing sarcastic and snarky comments to get back them for not seeing things as you do. This is a petty exercise.

      You charge me with (further) demonstrating that Nishioka is worth 3million/year, Cuddyer's 24 million/3year contract was a great deal for Cuddy, no so much the Twins, that Capps has pitched below expectations of a setup/closer making 5 million/year? It isn't a question of whether Mauer or anyone above make too much money, it's a matter of not performing at the level the market valued your production to be when you signed the contract. Do you think there's ever been a bad contract (for the team, I mean)? I suggest that Nick Punto was overpaid for his production on his 2 year/8 million contract. I also submit that Mauer is thus far being overpaid for his performance. I given the numbers several other places. Mauer's career/season OPS+ is between David Wright and David Ortiz... they are both making 14-15 million/year. Someone else gave Jaun Pierre's season stats lines and they were very similar to Mauer's. He does catch and is the fan favorite, yours too I'd guess. So this may increase the salary, but not to the level that he's producing. The point I'm making (demonstrating, very well thank you) is that there have been several other players who've not performed commensurate with their pay. Is this something you wish to argue? I don't find that controversial at all.

      Last, separate paragraphs indicate separate topics (usually) and this is true for my separation. The point here is that some sports franchises noted for winning and getting good results from players -- and their fans -- hold their players accountable, such that when they are not performing to a level commensurate with their pay or the internal expectations of the team for each player at each position no matter who it is.... they are roundly critiqued, and correctly so. So, if you think Mauer is has performed at a level that is commensurate with his pay and beyond critique, by all means shout it from every hilltop, just don't misrepresent or insult your detractors.
      Wow, talk about misrepresenting! In no particular order, 1) I made no claim about any of those contracts, and certainly not any of the assertions that you asserted that I asserted. 2) Are you really claiming that catching MAY be more valuable than DH'ing? As in not for certain? Even taking two fielding positions and thinking they are the same is ridiculous. Stretching that to a DH is absurd. 3) In what crazy world are Mauer's and Pierre's numbers similar? The 130 point OPS difference? The 60+ point wOBA difference? 4) For what it's worth, fangraphs estimate of value for Punto's $8M seasons was $13.3M. Cuddyer outperformed two of the three years of his final contract and totaled $30.1M. I think those tend to be a little high, but still bears mentioning.

      I'm sure I could go on. BUT...the main point of my post that you quoted was none of that. It was that your first paragraph made the point that the contract leads the expectations. Your second paragraph made the point that only performance matters and that everyone should have the same expectations. Putting them in different paragrpahs doesn't change that the post in general is clearly self-conflicting. But I'm glad you took that in stride.
    1. Paul's Avatar
      Paul -
      I believe the anatomy of a mauer boo is, just like any other boo, a pure emotional response. It's not analytical or thought out. I happen to believe people are entitled to enjoy their emotions, as long as the outbursts don't infringe on the rights of others. Some are prone to emotional behavior. Some are not. Some seem to live their lives totally driven by their emotions. Some are seen as "cold fish" by others because they seem emotionless. From my observation, it seems our society encourages the higher emotions of enthusiasm, exhilaration and love while rejecting the baser emotions of hate and hostility. I think this is right as the higher emotions promote betterment while the baser emotions tug the opposite way.

      Anyway, I find the booing annoying as hell.
    1. Paul's Avatar
      Paul -
      Oh yea, John. What does the Works Progress Administrion have to do with this?
    1. Ultima Ratio's Avatar
      Ultima Ratio -
      1. Mauer's WAR in 2009 was 7.9
      2. This 2009 production was valued at 23million/year
      3. Mauer's WAR in 2011 was 1.6
      4. Mauer's WAR in 2012 is 0.6 (interesting that this number is lower, though healthy)
      5. Mauer's production in 2011 and 2012 was much lower than in 2009
      -----------
      6. Therefore, Mauer's value in 2011 and 2012 is and has been much less than the 23 million/year he made in 2011 and 2012

      I've put the argument in standard form so it's super easy to follow. Now, this is a deductive argument, so you have to show that one of the premises is false in order to show that the conclusion is false.

      Now the inductive argument: I think the booing/frustration/criticism of Mauer is undeniably linked to the argument above as well as the team's performance. I also think this criticism is understandable and warranted. This goes for any player that is underperforming and not an myopic attack on Mauer.

      On an ancillary note: I don't care for narcissists or sycophants. Beat it geek.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      It's only going to get worse, or maybe not. The only people in the stands this summer will be the hard core fans, so maybe the booing will drop. Becauase the booing is not just about Mauer, but the whole team....
    1. CDog's Avatar
      CDog -
      Quote Originally Posted by Ultima Ratio View Post
      3. Mauer's WAR in 2011 was 1.6
      4. Mauer's WAR in 2012 is 0.6 (interesting that this number is lower, though healthy)
      .
      I have no idea what the point of the rest of your post was, but this part made me chuckle. It's good to have documentation that you have no idea what WAR is attempting to measure. Or don't have a calendar.
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