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Thread: Article: Why is Joe Mauer Such a Lightning Rod?

  1. #321
    Twins Moderator MVP USAFChief's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cmathewson View Post
    Of course you can. No one said you can't . But you're not the audience we're talking about. Those who exaggerate his deficiencies and diminish his contributions contrary to science are. You started to go there when you analyzed a single at bat as a paradigm case of his deficiencies. I don't think it's all that helpful to look at one at bat in which the team is down by three runs and down to its last out as all that instructive. Especially his second walk of the day in which he went 2-5 with an RBI.

    Pick a larger sample. Look at tendencies. But most of all, put it into context. Even the best hitters make an out 60% of the time. The fact that Mauer has a better percentage than the best hitters almost every year, and from the catching position is not a sign of weakness. It's a sign of strength. So he's not a home run hitter. Many of the all-time greats weren't either.

    The Twins ruined their relationship with Rod Carew by insisting that he hit homers. So one year he swung for the fences a lot, struck out more than normal, and had his other numbers suffered. They were more critical of him after the second year (as were the fan), and traded him. Mauer is similar. You can add homers, but you'll make him more strikeout prone and he'll roll over more balls to second. His OBP will drop below .400 and he'll be less productive overall.

    It's a zero sum game. Stop trying to fix what is not broken. Start appreciating the history you are witnessing. That is all.
    1. Mauer did not have an RBI yesterday.

    2. "Contrary to science?" Please.

    3. A larger sample like the data above showing Mauer to be the least
    likely player in MLB over the past 25 years to swing 0-0?

    4. Carew's relationship with the Twins had nothing to do with homers. It had lots to do with money and Calvin's racism.

    5. As noted above, you have no idea if trying to hit for more power would seriously lower his OBP. You're speculating, as am I. It's worth noting, however, a couple data points: many great hitters hit for both power and OBP, and more importantly Mauer's best career OBP year came in the year he posted his highest SLG. His second best OBP came in the year he posted his second best SLG.

    It would seem if anything, perhaps the idea that increasing his slugging will decrease his OBP is contrary to science, or at least contrary to history.
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    Quote Originally Posted by LaBombo View Post
    That situation aside, a single is more valuable in general when considering only the offensive outcome. It moves non-consecutive baserunners and exploits the possibility of error.

    But the tangible cumulative effect that walks have on starters in the age of hard pitch counts can be devastating. Math avoiders, avert your eyes:

    Pitches/IP = 7.626 (K%) + 15.678 (BB%) + 13.518

    It's from Fangraphs, not the Bureau of Weights and Measures, but the methodology looks sound and it makes intuitive sense: If a starter walks lots of guys, pitch count will catch up to him even if runs allowed doesn't.

    Putting Mauer into the equation, his walk rate means that on average, a lineup of nine Mauers means the opposing starter will throw two more pitches per inning than if he put the ball in play. Big deal, right?

    Except that two more pitches per inning means that the average starter probably leaves the game an inning sooner. That's huge.

    Yes, I get that Mauer isn't single-handedly chasing starters. But adding to opposing starter pitch counts is a valuable and tangible skill.
    Thanks I should have read that before I posted again. I am learning new things in this thread. There is a lot more math in this game than I ever figured there would be.

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    Senior Member All-Star crarko's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by USAFChief View Post
    1. Mauer did not have an RBI yesterday.

    2. "Contrary to science?" Please.

    3. A larger sample like the data above showing Mauer to be the least
    likely player in MLB over the past 25 years to swing 0-0?

    4. Carew's relationship with the Twins had nothing to do with homers. It had lots to do with money and Calvin's racism.

    5. As noted above, you have no idea if trying to hit for more power would seriously lower his OBP. You're speculating, as am I. It's worth noting, however, a couple data points: many great hitters hit for both power and OBP, and more importantly Mauer's best career OBP year came in the year he posted his highest SLG. His second best OBP came in the year he posted his second best SLG.

    It would seem if anything, perhaps the idea that increasing his slugging will decrease his OBP is contrary to science, or at least contrary to history.
    Of course, you and I and everyone else posting in this thread aren't going to increase or decrease diddly; only Joe can do that. The same Joe that still may be recovering from a recent head injury. There is science involved there as well, and that has been singularly ignored by just about everybody here, on either side of the coin.

  6. #324
    Senior Member All-Star cmathewson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by crarko View Post
    The first part; I think Calvin behaving like a 19th century plantation owner had something to do with it, too.

    As for the second, I don't see that as true at all. Improvement in one area does not require diminishment in another to offset the gain.
    I don't think it's necessarily a zero sum game. But in Mauer's case, I think it is. He's 31. He's tried a lot of different ways to increase his power production. None of them have produced more results than his usual approach. Most of them led to slumps. 2009 was an aberration, fueled by an incredible May in which he hit like 12 homers into the first row to left field in the Dome. Target will never let him get there. More likely, it will frustrate his attempts to hit homers. So I'm content to let him have an OBP of .420 without complaint, and let the other numbers take care of themselves. I always hope for more, but I don't expect it.
    "If you'da been thinkin' you wouldn't 'a thought that.."

  7. #325
    Senior Member All-Star cmathewson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by USAFChief View Post
    1. Mauer did not have an RBI yesterday.

    2. "Contrary to science?" Please.
    "Mauer just hits bloops." "He has no interest in driving in runs when it counts." "He looks frail, like he could break at any time." "He lacks leadership." Bah. All of those opinions lack evidence.

    When he takes a hack at the first pitch, it's because it's straight and right down the middle. Of course he hits well in those cases. But they are exceedingly rare. OBP's relationship to runs scored is as close to science as there is in baseball.

    Quote Originally Posted by USAFChief View Post
    4. Carew's relationship with the Twins had nothing to do with homers. It had lots to do with money and Calvin's racism.
    You're opinion. Calvin's racism had something to do with it. But every year, salary negotiations with Calvin focused on why he thought he shouldn't pay the guy as much as he deserves. In short, they focused on the negative. After one of the years he won the batting title, Calvin proposed a pay cut because he wasn't hitting enough homers. So Carew went into camp the next year with the mission to hit more homers. "I'll show you." was the attitude. It didn't work. You doubt this story? Read the archives.

    Quote Originally Posted by USAFChief View Post
    5. As noted above, you have no idea if trying to hit for more power would seriously lower his OBP. You're speculating, as am I. It's worth noting, however, a couple data points: many great hitters hit for both power and OBP, and more importantly Mauer's best career OBP year came in the year he posted his highest SLG. His second best OBP came in the year he posted his second best SLG.

    It would seem if anything, perhaps the idea that increasing his slugging will decrease his OBP is contrary to science, or at least contrary to history.
    I am not speculating. They would interview him, and he would say he was trying to pull the ball more. I'd watch his progress. He would regress into a string of 4-6-3s. Then he'd go back into the cage and start looking to drive it to the opposite field, and he'd start hitting again. It's kind of the story of his career. His 0-12 to start the year is the most recent case in point. I knew he was close to breaking out of that slump when he lined out to left field twice in one game. Since then, he's hit .400.
    "If you'da been thinkin' you wouldn't 'a thought that.."

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    Quote Originally Posted by USAFChief View Post
    I do believe great hitters alter their approach in some ABs based on the needs of the team at the time.
    I believe this is far less frequent that you imply. It is very difficult to perfect pitch recognition and swing mechanics -- not unlike pitcher mechanics, really. I might guess too that "great hitters" vary their approach and swings even less than mediocre hitters -- the risk of losing what works for them (and what has already made them "great") is probably greater than any possible marginal benefit.

    I am sure batters have different expectations based on pitcher, count, situation, etc., but that probably affects more what they look for, rather than how they swing. And for some hitters (perhaps Mauer), even what they look for and when they swing might be a necessary part of the routine to be effective.

    Just because Mauer is a great hitter doesn't mean he can simply will himself to be better, or even just arbitrarily trade a little OBP for SLG.

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  11. #327
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    Can I add a reason to like Mauer? He chose baseball over football. (Yeah, baseball offered the more immediate payday, but he still made the choice.)

    Not only that, from ages 14-30 at least, he chose the most "baseball" of baseball positions: catcher. I know some have said he could have played more/longer at other positions, but you gotta admit, it's pretty cool he chose to be the unglamorous, always-crouching catcher, even long after his hitting talent would have allowed him to choose almost any other position on the field.

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    Quote Originally Posted by spycake View Post
    Just because Mauer is a great hitter doesn't mean he can simply will himself to be better, or even just arbitrarily trade a little OBP for SLG.
    Maybe people want him to start taking PEDs. Then our team can make national headlines too.

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  15. #329
    Originally Posted by USAFChief
    4. Carew's relationship with the Twins had nothing to do with homers. It had lots to do with money and Calvin's racism.



    You're opinion. Calvin's racism had something to do with it. But every year, salary negotiations with Calvin focused on why he thought he shouldn't pay the guy as much as he deserves. In short, they focused on the negative. After one of the years he won the batting title, Calvin proposed a pay cut because he wasn't hitting enough homers. So Carew went into camp the next year with the mission to hit more homers. "I'll show you." was the attitude. It didn't work. You doubt this story? Read the archives.

    Not sure where you get the "It didn't work", I believe Carew had his 3 largest home run total during that time and increased his RBI from 50's into 80,90 & 100. Looks like he showed Calvin he could.

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    Twins News Team All-Star TheLeviathan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spycake View Post
    Just because Mauer is a great hitter doesn't mean he can simply will himself to be better, or even just arbitrarily trade a little OBP for SLG.
    Well, he could certainly will himself to try a bit more often. I think that's the crux of the issue.

    If had spent a stretch trying, failing, and went back to what worked - ok. But part of the issue people have with him is his staunch refusal to break his strict tendencies no matter what the situation/role dictates. As someone who thinks he gets criticized too much for being an elite hitter....I'd be lying if that didn't irk me. And it does seem to be irking me more as his career goes on and his role has expanded.

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    Twins News Team All-Star TheLeviathan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by D. Hocking View Post
    This thread really shows how you can dissect hitter in a multitude of ways and 1,000,000 different stats that can be looked used in a baseball argument.

    I am a bit in awe of people's passion to continue their debate and coming up with new numbers and statistics (although I think I would be scared to meet some of you in a dark alley, esp. if you were armed with a calculator).

    I also suspect some of you are going to have to agree to disagree.
    I won't agree to that.

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    Senior Member All-Star Willihammer's Avatar
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    Out of curiosity, does anyone go to batting practice? Is Mauer hitting moonshot after moonshot at BP like Ichiro?

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    [QUOTE=cmathewson;213662]"Mauer just hits bloops." "He has no interest in driving in runs when it counts." "He looks frail, like he could break at any time." "He lacks leadership." Bah. All of those opinions lack evidence.

    I agree with CMAT and I wanted to address these types of comments and the notion that anyone who criticizes Mauer is "burned at the stake".

    I can only speak for myself, I feel like anyone can criticize anyone and that is fine.

    In the case of Joe Mauer, just please add a smidge of perspective. A full time catcher has won a batting title six times. Joe has three of those. The first since the 1940's. In the last 50 years, five catchers have one an MVP. Joe was one of those as well. All before he was 30 years old. As of last May, he had the highest batting average of any active player (not sure if he is #1 or #2 now).

    Here are a few comments just on pages 1-4 of this thread, with no mention of the accomplishments to date:

    "At 1B Joe is nothing more than an overpaid James Loney"

    "Talent without leadership is the same as leadership without talent"

    "Joe is not the type of player to lead a team to a championship"

    "Joe is a guy that will lead the league in LOB", which of course is not accurate.

    One last point, Joe provided the most value as a catcher and it was him who insisted on staying there. He could have moved to 1B or 3B, or LF two years ago but he put up with the punishment in order to provide more value to the team. It wasn't until a doctor convinced him that his health and career would be impacted if he stayed there. I have not seen anyone bring this up when questioning his work ethic, durability, leadership, or toughness, etc.


    http://www.bringmethenews.com/2012/1...batting-title/

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/catchers-and-the-mvp/
    Last edited by tobi0040; 04-11-2014 at 09:52 AM.

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  22. #334
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    Quote Originally Posted by JB_Iowa View Post
    You are trying to understand this based on facts and figures. The term "lightning rod" brings to mind an emotional reaction NOT a logical one. If you are trying to understand negative reactions to Mauer by trying to understand facts, figures and logic, you will never get it.


    He may actually be better able to swing the emotional reaction back his way as a first baseman than he could have as a catcher. That is ironic because from a logical standpoint, he was more valuable as a catcher.

    But if he can stay healthy and produce at the plate at a near-average level for his career, he can probably swing the emotional pendulum back his way a little (although it would help substantially if the team would start winning). But just BEING on the field every day would be helpful in repairing his image -- don't you remember all the comments about people who felt cheated because they could never see Mauer play on a getaway day or in a day game after a night game?

    Most fans aren't going to sit and analyze Mauer's performance based on WAR or any other logical factors. They are going to make their judgments based on how his performance makes them feel and based on what they see (that's why being on the field is important) and what is memorable.

    You can argue for days based on facts and figures but that will never get you to the reason that Mauer is a lightning rod
    JB I am inclined to agree with you. I know from personal experience that he elicits an emotional response when batting. I can't count the number of times I have screamed at my screen after Joe takes a meatball first pitch down the middle of the plate. It makes my stomach turn knowing he won't see a pitch that good the rest of his at bat. Only to see him eventually draw a walk, get a single or double later in the count. Granted I have also seen him strike out on three pitches far too much as well. So I get the angst and understand that piece of criticism but it breaks down once you look at his over all stats and realize he is one of the best hitters in baseball.

    If Home runs or a more aggressive approach = leadership then I don't think Joe Mauer is going to live up to those expectations. I know lots of people think he should because of the money he makes and being the face of the franchise but he can't seem to hit home runs and his approach to hitting is what it is and may land him in the hall of fame. For me personally I don't think he has to be the home run guy on this team to be successful or for the team to be successful. Do we need home run hitters, you bet but it doesn't have to be Joe.

    So can we criticize Joe for the things he can't do, sure. My problem though is what is the point. Every player in baseball has a weakness in some area if you look hard enough. Why nitpick over the things Joe doesn't do well when there is so much more that he does better than anyone else in all of baseball? That is where my emotion or push back comes from. It seems like some go out of there way to blame him for all the teams problems and I don't think that is true or fair.

    If only Joe mentored or was a leader then this team would be better. If only he swung at the first pitch the team would be better. If only he hit more HR's this team would be better. None of that is true. Baseball is a team sport. There are 12 or 13 guys that have to do their part for the team to have a chance to win. Joe can't play all 9 positions.

    There are only two players that I can think of who appeared to be able to single handedly win games for there teams. Pujols and Cabrera come to mind and the reason they could impact games is because they had great pitching staffs which kept them in games until the end where a home run or timely base hit could be the difference. Joe hasn't had the good fortune of good pitching in quite some time and he is not Pujols or Cabrera with the bat. He isn't going to single handedly rescue this franchise. He will need a supporting cast for the team to be successful.
    Last edited by Dman; 04-11-2014 at 10:56 AM.

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  24. #335
    Senior Member All-Star JB_Iowa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dman View Post
    So can we criticize Joe for the things he can't do, sure. My problem though is what is the point. Every player in baseball has a weakness in some area if you look hard enough. Why nitpick over the things Joe doesn't do well when there is so much more that he does better than anyone else in all of baseball? That is where my emotion or push back comes from. It seems like some go out of there way to blame him for all the teams problems and I don't think that is true or fair.
    This thread invited that type of nitpicking. Overall I don't see nearly as much venom toward Mauer on TD as on a variety of other forums although this thread did get a little more heated than I expected.

    It seems to me that the Twins have 4 lightning rods: The Pohlads; Terry Ryan/Front Office; Gardenhire/Anderson and Mauer.

    You'll note that Mauer is the only one of those that is a player. I can't think of any other player that would be a lightning rod. Oh, if Nolasco doesn't pick it up or if Perkins is a big failure, they might cause a minor splash but the "blame" is more likely to be placed on the front office than on the player.

    But pre-2011, Mauer was, in some ways, bigger than the game (and especially with Morneau injured, bigger than the rest of his teammates combined). When I think back to the majority of comments when his contract was signed, he had attained near god-like status. There were a few precautionary warnings but overall, he was expected to be the face of the Twins for years to come.

    And when you are the very visible face of something that then has repeated failures as an organization, you become a lightning rod.

    2011 was the turning point. It was the turning point for the team in going from overall success to abysmal failure in the blink of an eye. It was the turning point in the way many people viewed Mauer. He went from hero status to someone who was viewed as soft, lacking leadership and overpaid especially when people look at what he is paid for every AB. He was made even more of a lightning rod when familiar faces associated with the Twins' success went elsewhere in free agency.

    Now we are looking at a team with 90+ losses for 3 consecutive years -- and quite possibly headed toward making it 4 years. Those 4 "lightning rods" mentioned in my 2nd paragraph will all be getting additional scrutiny and additional blame.

    It isn't logical to expect Mauer to carry this team on his own but he will be the symbol of the players' portion of the failure. That's why he will continue to be a lightning rod regardless of how he produces.

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    Senior Member All-Star cmathewson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
    Well, he could certainly will himself to try a bit more often. I think that's the crux of the issue.

    If had spent a stretch trying, failing, and went back to what worked - ok. But part of the issue people have with him is his staunch refusal to break his strict tendencies no matter what the situation/role dictates. As someone who thinks he gets criticized too much for being an elite hitter....I'd be lying if that didn't irk me. And it does seem to be irking me more as his career goes on and his role has expanded.
    I think that is the issue. I think he has tried often, and it hasn't worked, so he reverted to his usual approach. You might disagree. I don't see a way to break that impasse.

    I have just watched him very carefully since I lived behind Cretin and frequently walked over to watch him hit. What impressed me initially was his opposite field approach. That is rare for high school kids who hit against guys throwing 70. Most guys in high school can't wait like that.

    In the majors, it is even tougher to pull the ball for hits. That's because pitchers are constantly trying to exploit that weakness. Every time I see him pulling off the ball a little bit, he starts to slump. It's a thing. He does have good opposite field power. And I hoped he would be able to pull it more with the fresher hands that come from not catching. But so far, that hasn't happened. Like I said, I hope for more. I just don't expect a 31 year old to change the way he hits and have the same rate of success.
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
    Well, he could certainly will himself to try a bit more often. I think that's the crux of the issue.

    If had spent a stretch trying, failing, and went back to what worked - ok. But part of the issue people have with him is his staunch refusal to break his strict tendencies no matter what the situation/role dictates. As someone who thinks he gets criticized too much for being an elite hitter....I'd be lying if that didn't irk me. And it does seem to be irking me more as his career goes on and his role has expanded.
    What other player has changed to fit their "role", though? It's not like Pujols or Cabrera came to camp one year and decided to be a slugger, because their team needed it more. Jeter/Suzuki/etc didn't suddenly try to hit more HR when Yankee sluggers were going down last year.

    Players change, but it's almost 100% due to skills and health, I think (and natural variability, of course). Coaching plays a role in the development and application of the skills too. But I don't think anyone at the MLB level -- certainly nobody above Jason Bartlett level role players -- is willing themselves to be different in their mechanics because of something as silly as an amorphous "role".

    (That said, I would be a little disappointed if Joe has personally resisted moving out of the #3 spot in the order, when his skills look better at #2 or even #1 on this team. But evidence suggests he's at worst only a co-conspirator in that department, the team has always wanted him there.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by USAFChief View Post
    Maybe not burned at the stake, but there have been a few zingers tossed in this thread, no?

    From my perspective, one discussion is centered not on one PA, but on a lack of power, which I think hurts his production and therefore the team, and his perceived unwillingness to try to change that...despite my belief he could. Some cite this one PA as one example. I think it's a fair example, although I would prefer to cite something like his extreme reluctance to swing early in counts.

    I do believe great hitters alter their approach in some ABs based on the needs of the team at the time. Down three, with two out and two on, in the bottom of the last inning, is an obvious example of such a situation, particularly for a hitter often cited as a HOFer...I believe he should be looking for a pitch to hit over the fence, and if he gets it, should take a shot at the RF bleachers. It's fair to say he often lets such pitches in such situations go by. Some cite this particular PA as an example.

    Obviously he'll sometimes make an out by doing so. I would never criticize him for trying. I think it's a fair criticism that he seems reluctant to try.
    Sure, but the zingers are being volleyed both ways, no use one side crying foul.

    I get what you're saying Chief and maybe I partly agree, would I love to see Mauer hit for more power? Sure, do I think he can do it by altering his approach at the plate? No. I think he would have to alter not only his approach but also his swing mechanics and I don't think that would would ultimately net better results than his current swing does, which on average is pretty impressive.

    The other thing is, I think people are hung up on the type of plate appearances that occurred the other day, yes it was a high leverage situation but to judge the approach I think is unfair to any player. How many times has Mauer decided he might try to alter the possible outcome of a game earlier by trying to yank a pitch only to turn it over for a GB to 2nd? It's really difficult to know that but I don't think you can discount it, as we all know the margin for error is pretty thin.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JB_Iowa View Post
    This thread invited that type of nitpicking. Overall I don't see nearly as much venom toward Mauer on TD as on a variety of other forums although this thread did get a little more heated than I expected.

    It seems to me that the Twins have 4 lightning rods: The Pohlads; Terry Ryan/Front Office; Gardenhire/Anderson and Mauer.

    You'll note that Mauer is the only one of those that is a player. I can't think of any other player that would be a lightning rod. Oh, if Nolasco doesn't pick it up or if Perkins is a big failure, they might cause a minor splash but the "blame" is more likely to be placed on the front office than on the player.

    But pre-2011, Mauer was, in some ways, bigger than the game (and especially with Morneau injured, bigger than the rest of his teammates combined). When I think back to the majority of comments when his contract was signed, he had attained near god-like status. There were a few precautionary warnings but overall, he was expected to be the face of the Twins for years to come.

    And when you are the very visible face of something that then has repeated failures as an organization, you become a lightning rod.

    2011 was the turning point. It was the turning point for the team in going from overall success to abysmal failure in the blink of an eye. It was the turning point in the way many people viewed Mauer. He went from hero status to someone who was viewed as soft, lacking leadership and overpaid especially when people look at what he is paid for every AB. He was made even more of a lightning rod when familiar faces associated with the Twins' success went elsewhere in free agency.

    Now we are looking at a team with 90+ losses for 3 consecutive years -- and quite possibly headed toward making it 4 years. Those 4 "lightning rods" mentioned in my 2nd paragraph will all be getting additional scrutiny and additional blame.

    It isn't logical to expect Mauer to carry this team on his own but he will be the symbol of the players' portion of the failure. That's why he will continue to be a lightning rod regardless of how he produces.
    Yeah looking at it from that perspective frames things in a significantly different way than I think about it. I look at it from a stats and player comparison point of view. Not based on the height of his and the teams success and popularity.

    After he won the MVP he had me thinking he was going to hit HR's almost as well as Morneau and that would have made him a truly amazing player so I guess I can see why some people feel a little bit shafted on the contract vs production issue.

    It just irks me that someone as good as he is has so many (maybe not on this board but certainly others) blasting him for either things he doesn't control or to change who he is as one of the most successful hitters in baseball. I agree with other posters who think he has tried at times to hit more HR's but his swing just doesn't have quite enough umph to punch it out.

    I guess there is no way around the emotional effect he has on people. Like I said he makes me crazy with that first pitch sometimes and creates more angst and second guessing if the at bat goes bad from there. However, if you think or look at him logically then you have to admire the player that he is.

  30. #340
    Senior Member All-Star JB_Iowa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dman View Post
    However, if you think or look at him logically then you have to admire the player that he is.
    I absolutely agree with that. And I think that even some who are arguing most vehemently from the negative side have a great deal of admiration for what he has achieved.

    (In all honesty, i think you could put a lot of superstar players in place of Mauer in Minnesota the last few years and that player would be a lightning rod. The criticisms might be different but with such stunning team failure, any star player would probably become a lightning rod. But you usually don't see a team with such an abysmal record over 3 years with a true superstar on their roster.)

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