Mauer is like the Lyoto Machida of baseball. Machida is a one time light heavyweight champ, currently ranked #4 in the world (as a middleweight).
What Machida does is dance around the ring for the first 4:45 of every round dodging blows and avoiding contact. Then in the final 15 seconds he picks a spot, and takes down his opponent or sticks him with a hard kick to the body, and ends up winning the round with the judges. He repeats this for the next 2 (or 4) rounds, and wins all his fights by decision. His fights are long and unexciting, but Machida is extremely successful with this strategy. But fans disdain him becuase they want to see knockouts, not smart tactics.
Likewise, fans want to see Mauer, and players in general, hit home runs. Strategy be damned. Mauer obviously doesn't do that, he takes long at bats and then walks or singles (or rolls over a soft ground ball to 2nd base). Its an equally successful approach. Just, not very entertaining.
I am inclined to agree with you Willie. I think Mauer suffers more from being not interesting than anything else. Comparing him to Kirby makes the contrast almost unpalatable. The large contract versus expectations (ie more homeruns) doesn't help many fans perception of him either.
The thing is he is one of the best catchers to ever play the game and the only one with 3 batting titles. He consistently hits 300 every year and is usually top 5 in OBP. A lot of teams would like to have a player with those kinds of problems. In my opinion it seems unfair to criticize a guy who is that consistent year in and year out.
For me personally I like Joe's approach and his Zen attitude. He doesn't need to light a fire under anyone to impress me or to be a good example. I think Cola mentioned him in an article and liked the way Joe carried himself and tried to emulate some of the things he does. I agree with others that Joe is just a good scapegoat for a bad team and particularly a team with bad pitching. Not much he can do about that.