Jim Souhan wrote the comparison of the two Twins greats.
Jim Souhan wrote the comparison of the two Twins greats.
Kind of eerie the numbers in their first ten years. I'd still give it to Puck for his leadership and durability prior to Dennis Martinez plunking Puck in the head. He is my favorite twin by far, however, I was only three when Harmon retired. The more I heard of him as a person and a player may have made comparison closer. Harmon was a better run producer and Puck a better defender. Carew also was a better player in my mind, kind of prickly though, so I'd put Joe 4th, although 4 batting titles is hard to top
Everything Joe does seems so blah. I sure that Mauer plays just as hard as Puck did, but without the infectious smile and personality. Heck, even Herbie had the bravado that Joe lacks. I still think he is a great player, but the lack of personality makes him not as revered by the fans in my opinion.
Darn, I really miss having Puck and Harmon around though.
Souhan uses OPS, WAR & discusses prime positional value?
Wow. Basement geeks win!
This is good stuff and definitely these guys were (Puckett) and are (Mauer) the faces of the franchise in up (mostly) times. Puckett is the guy who is mostly associated with 87 and 91 and Mauer the one who mostly is associated with the improved Twins in this millennium. Hard to compare them otherwise.
A couple of interesting things that Souhan did not mention: Mauer has the highest BA of any active player right now, while Puckett has the 4th highest post WWII BA of any RHB, behind DiMaggio, Pujols and Cabrera. Given the contracts of the last 2, and the fact that DiMaggio's best seasons were before WWII, Kirby can easily to this list in 2-3 years..
The comparison of their perceptions is, more than anything, a story of timing and of the fickleness of the public's love.
Kirby was charismatic with his grin and outgoing personality. Before 2011, Joe was also charismatic albeit in a quiet, midwestern way. How quickly we forget that he was the "hometown hero".
But after Kirby signed his record contract, he went on to lead the team to a 2nd world championship. Even after that, the Twins had another really good season before tailing off. I have to wonder if Puckett would have maintained the same level of love as the losing seasons mounted up. But there is always charisma in a career cut short -- especially in the way that Kirby's was.
After Joe signed his franchise record contract, the team had one more good season before things went in the dumps. And Joe was injured, too, but it wasn't career ending. His legend probably would have held up better if the "bilateral leg weakness" had been some well-defined, career ending injury.
There's no question that Puckett was more charismatic (I've often mentioned that as a non-Minnesotan, I couldn't understand the Mauer love prior to 2011) but perception is also based on recent events and accomplishments and with Puckett, a bit on nostalgia (and a willingness to overlook some of his faults, too).
Perception of both players will continue to change over time. The lucky thing for Joe is that he still has time to do some building on his legacy.
If Souhan is going to focus on personality, he's guilty of giving Puck a free ride for the shenanigans he pulled after retirement. Hard to imagine Mauer being less than a model citizen.
Mauer is to the Twins what John Cena is to the WWE (for you wrestling fans). The kids and casual fans (especially locals) love them. But many hardcore fans have trouble rooting for the "goody-goody" - and Mauer's "aw-shucks" demeanor doesn't create a spark for that section of fans looking for something that's "cool". A universal fan favorite doesn't have to be a "bad boy", but a little brashness and flair doesn't hurt. That's why so many fans loved Kirby and, recently for the Vikings - Jared Allen. It ain't bragging if you can back it up, and they did. But don't expect brashness from Joe, who will never be a "Say it ain't so Joe". He's just "Say Ya-know Ya-know Ya-Know Joe". Someday he'll be in the Hall of Fame as one of the two or three best catchers ever to play the game, and most of today's haters will claim to remember how much they loved to watch him play!!!!
Puckett's personal life has nothing to do with this topic, and I doubt there's even proof of alot of his extramarital accusations. Denigrating Puckett in this manner to prop up Mauer really comes across as wrong to me. He was a good man.
I love Mauer. Are we debating who is the greatest Twin of all time? Then Mauer and Puck are miles behind Killebrew. If we are counting general contributions to the organization, I would even put TK in the mix for all he has done. If raw batting average in comparison to peers is what's most important, Mauer is your guy. If getting an A on the chemistry mid-term is what's important, Puck is your man. A little something for everyone! I think Souhan leaves it a little ambiguous to stir up debate.
It really is possible to love Mauer and appreciate his greatness as one of the best hitting catchers ever, and probably the very best, and still not elevate him as the greatest Twin or even ahead of Puckett. (or Kelly.) jmo.
If you count WAR, here is the top 10 (11 actually because the last 2 are so close) hitters in the franchise (and this is not career WAR is franchise-only WAR) :
1 Harmon Killebrew 66.3
2 Rod Carew 56.9
3 Sam Rice 50.3
4 Joe Judge 45.6
5 Kirby Puckett 44.9
6 Joe Mauer 44.0
7 Goose Goslin 42.2
8 Tony Oliva 40.7
9 Buddy Myer 38.9
10 Kent Hrbek 37.6
11 Clyde Milan 37.5
and here are the top 10 pitchers.
1. Walter Johnson 123.9
2 Bert Blyleven 57.9
3 Jim Kaat 50.2
4 Camilo Pascual 47.8
5 Brad Radke 44.5
6 Dutch Leonard 37.5
7 Johan Santana 34.8
8 Frank Viola 30.0
9 Dave Goltz 28.3
10 Kevin Tapani 24.7
So, undeniably, the best franchise player is the one who (for some weird, unfortunate and disturbing reason) does not have a statue outside Target Field... And Killebrew is miles behind him :)
Mauer does have a HOFer behind him in the list, but Goslin's career WAR (add Browns and Tigers) is 64.
I don't like the idea of having to pick between which player is better or worse when the metrics say they are almost exactly equal. Gun to my head, Joe Mauer is more talented, as WAR per 600 PA would bear out, but Puckett gets the nod due to the 2 World Series titles.
Yes, I do realize that baseball is not an individual sport that can be taken over by 1 player. Joe Mauer was one of the very best players in the world at the time the Twins were going to the playoffs, but there were 24 other guys (and a coaching staff) that had to pitch in in the playoffs as well. Same for Puckett--yes he won the WS, but had the 24 other guys flopped, he wouldn't have.
Using the idea of leadership to nitpick Joe Mauer bothers me too. It's a personality thing. Mauer may not have the type of personality to speak up. If that's the case, his teammates know it, and if he were to start trying to vocally lead, it would be awkward. Cuddyer, Torii Hunter were leaders and Mauer kept his head down and was the best player. That's fine. People seem to want to blame Mauer for the playoff losses and the failures of the past 3 years, which is the most misguided thing in the world. Joe Mauer is not the problem. When I hear people criticizing Mauer at the game or at a bar, etc, I really don't put any stock in their opinions on baseball. That's the smell test between if they're a rube or if they know what they're talking about for me.