I don't typically find myself sitting down to write on a Sunday evening, but with my foot in a cast, and a level of frustration in tow, here we are. The first part of that formula is thanks to my achilles deciding to part ways with my foot, the second half is the fault of none other than the Star Tribune's Jim Souhan. On Sunday night, the Tribune Twitter account sent out Souhan's latest with this attached to the piece, "Affordable contract would keep Mauer in good standing with #MNTwins."
Prior to getting full blown defensive, I needed to dive in further. So, I hopped into an incognito window and got to reading.
There were some quotes from Twins President Dave St. Peter defending the $184 million deal that any team would've jumped at the opportunity to ink. There was some talk with Molitor about wanting him back, and then there was what Souhan added on his own.
The journalist quipped "Mauer’s desire to play probably will be based on his health. He has recovered from concussion-like symptoms to return to the everyday lineup, but is batting just .222 with a .556 OPS since his return. Before his injury, his on-base percentage was .404, ranking among the league leaders. His on-base percentage since is an uncharacteristically low .300."
From Mauer, Souhan went on to talk about Dozier. A late-bloomer that has an impending pay day ahead. The Twins don't look like they'll pony up, and there's baseball reasons for that (even aside from his typical slow start). He could end the piece without returning to Mauer however, in which he offer "the best thing Mauer could do for his image is to sign an affordable contract, to give the hometown team a break, and finish his career as a bargain instead of a financial burden."
Now that you've read as much as you need to, I'm sorry.
Over recent seasons, Souhan has been raked himself by plenty a fan of his poorly written pieces. Whether suggesting Phil Hughes as soft for not pitching through injury requiring surgery, or calling Miguel Sano out prior to him having an All Star caliber season. In both of those occasions however, you could argue the pieces had a level of journalistic integrity. Here however, Souhan comes out looking like more of a clown than he ever has.
In noting Mauer's production, Jim points to Joe's return from the disabled list. While noting his numbers, he fails to mention that's literally an eight game sample size (including Sunday). The .759 OPS and .404 OBP come in a 38 G span to open up the year. Had he been leading off during that stretch, the Twins offense may have benefitted even more (but that's another story). In a game that decides realities over the course of 162 games, cherry picking eight of them (and failing to mention it), is poor at best.
Should the idea that noting statistical production in an lackluster manner not bother you, Souhan then doubled down with his final remarks. Noting that Mauer should give the Twins a break, and not be a financial burden. If the brigade wielding pitchforks at the notion of Mauer's previous contract didn't already have enough poorly derived information, they've just been handed a bit more fuel for the fire.
The horse is so far dead, there's not even reason to beat it at this point. That being said, Mauer's $184 million deal was already a hometown discount. There isn't an organization in baseball that wouldn't have signed on that dotted line in a heartbeat. He was the best catcher in the game, and on pace to be among the best to ever play the position. He took less to stay home, and has been unappreciated by a fanbase that saw a living legend because a brain injury drastically altered his career.
With baseball being an uncapped sport, and the Twins rarely being in a position to land big fish over the course of his deal, spending to supplement Mauer hardly seemed to be the right move. In 2018, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine executed a near flawless offseason to bring in talent while pushing the payroll to an organizational record. The reality is that even the most sensible dollars don't always come together at the right time in terms of the on field product.
Given the current climate of free agents, and the new front office, I'd guess that Falvey and Levine would chuckle at the notion of giving Torii Hunter $10 million for a 2015 season at 39 years old. Veteran leadership is a great thing, but I'll be damned if suggesting it trumps performance on a good team makes any semblance of sense. Hunter was a defensive liability and on his last legs at the plate. It was a fine last hurrah, but the dollars didn't make sense. The beautiful part of it however, was that it didn't make a difference on the bottom line either.
A season ago, Joe Mauer was robbed of a Gold Glove that would've made him the third player to ever win one at multiple positions (and first catcher). At the present time, he's the best defensive first basemen in baseball, and it doesn't really matter if opposing managers are blind to that because of his lack of power numbers. Should Mauer want to return next year, Minnesota should jump at the opportunity. He can help Miguel Sano make that defensive transition, and earning something like $10 million is peanuts for the benefit he'd bring on the diamond.
When the dust settles on his career, Joe Mauer will go down as the best player to ever play in the Minnesota Twins organization not named Harmon Killebrew. Whether you can't come to grips with his contract, or the fact that a season of inflated home runs in the Metrodome didn't transform who he was doesn't really matter. Tonight Jim Souhan tried to summarize what Mauer has been, and can be going forward, while failing to do even a shred of journalistic justice.
It's a sad look for the Star Tribune, it's an expected offering from Souhan, and it's a reminder that Mauer has deserved so much better than what Minnesota has given him for far too long.