Is Joe Mauer The New Media Whipping Boy?

Marc Elliott

CROSS RIVER…. I am a bit amazed at how much I have been reading lately. I mean, I usually get in a few hours on most days, but man oh man. My mother started working on me at the age of 4 and I was doing some basic reading in the daily newspapers by the age of 5 and I have been immersed in it ever since. Sports and politics are favorite topics, but human interest and true life drama can get my interest as well. Not surprisingly as I was doing my daily reading of a popular Twin Cities paper I came across a post season article on the Minnesota Twins Joe Mauer. The scribe that originated this piece in my opinion ranges from thoughtful to sometimes downright smart in his observations to having an acidic viewpoint on the local pro sports teams and their players at times.

In this particular story, the headline and content aren’t too kind to the local hero. And of course, at this point in his career, Mauer’s immense contract is a frequent measuring tool as to what he should or shouldn’t be doing at this point in his career. In a way I suppose that is fair, on the other hand it is a personal agreement between player and team. I am supposing the club did their due diligence before offering the deal, and then negotiated until a signature was obtained. I would presume they understood the risk involved and have ways of measuring whether or not they have received full value utilizing a variety of factors, most of which the sporting public know little to nothing about.

Some owners will contemplate how many more tickets they will sell with a certain player on their roster, or how many more souvenirs and merchandise they will move. They may very well use that to value and/or justify signing a player to a certain type of deal. At any rate Big Joe is now 32. His baseball numbers don’t look like they once did and the scribe is twisting away considering the many factors and stats that the baseball world uses to decide if a guy can still play or not. He opines that Mauer is now holding the team back by taking up an everyday position over younger players that he believes could do a better overall job.

Well, he might be right, but then again he might not be. That is an equation that the team can’t answer without playing those younger guys at that position over time and in a consistent fashion. Baseball numbers and the games subtleties are amongst sports quirkiest “things”. Starting everyday over some spot duty is a whole other world and who can say if those guys could push Joe aside. Some guys play better with more time in and others have to work up to that level. Some players can keep putting up great stats into their late thirties and some can’t. I am reminded of a story by one of this scribes colleagues at the same publication from a few years back.

In the story he writes, and this was kind of on the forefront of the stats and analytics explosion we have seen over the recent past, that there are analytics that show most players will trend upward stats-wise until the age of 28 and then the numbers flatten out and eventually decline. Perhaps that’s where Joe is at right now. His BA is trending downward and his strikeouts are on the rise. There was one paragraph that was kind of an “assets and liabilities” listing if you will. Declining stats, age, contract, young guys behind him, it even made mention of “his wife is from St. Paul” as if by the remote chance that Mauer was up for a trade that his wife could be a potential sticky wicket in the proceedings. Yikes.

What I saw in Joe this past season was a guy who didn’t look the same to me as he had in the past. His bat speed seemed to be off and when he struck out, which he did the most times in his career, he didn’t look good. He basically struck out as many times the past five seasons (385) as he did in his first seven (387). I was left to contemplate if he was having vision problems and what kind of workout regimen he was on in-season and off. Does he need a complete physical inspection and reworking of his mechanics? His fielding stats were mid-pack and at the pro level there is not a lot of numerical difference between players.     

Well, I have seen nastier articles then the one disparaging Joe. And to be fair I think the scribe was trying to be somewhat objective in his analysis, but not all of it came across that way to me. Mauer is probably one of the top three high school baseball players the state has ever produced. He is a former American League MVP. Think about that. A guy that went to high school in my childhood neighborhood was an MLB American League MVP. That’s quite a ways up the baseball mountain. So Mr. Metro scribe, yes Joe is closer to the end then the beginning, and yes, he isn’t the same player anymore. And you can write that as you should, just don’t forget to work in a little bit of respect for this guy we all marveled at just a scant few years ago….

THE MINNESOTA WILD opened up the regular season with a little Rocky Mountain high beating the Colorado Avalanche 5-4 last Thursday eve. The club was behind 3-0 and 4-1 at various points in the tilt before storming back with a 4 goal 3rd period to best the Av’s on a Zach Parise hat-trick. In their home opener Saturday night they bested the St. Louis Blues by a 3-2 final in a fairly tight contest. Goaltender Devan Dubnyk didn’t look to be in form yet out at Denver but appeared to be more on his game versus the Blues. However, I don’t believe the teams usual defensive structure and schemes are at their peak yet. This team will be very good defensively, but it will take time to gel. I am quite glad we are underway though! Lets Go Wild! PEACE