Thursday, June 30, 2011

I Guess I'm Defending Joe Mauer

Let me start by saying...and this is something I've been afraid to admit...that I'm not really a Joe Mauer fan. I know, right? Gasp! Sure, I like that he's a good baseball player, and I love his swing. And, yes, I'm glad he's on the Twins and all that, but I'm not one of those crazy "marry me Joe" fangirls. I don't think he's particularly good looking, he has zero personality, and I just know he's one of those "perfect people" who have perfect lives and do perfect things that I just hate being around. Give me Cuddy or Ben Revere or someone who is slightly imperfect but can smile and make me smile, and I'll be happy.

But I digress.

My point is, I don't really care much about what Joe Mauer does, as long as he hits baseballs well. However, lately, he kind of isn't hitting baseballs as well as he usually does, which kind of sucks, but I think he's getting way too much grief about it.

He's getting grief from journalists, and fans on comment threads and on Twitter, and guys I work with, and random Target shoppers, and my husband. Among others.

I think all this sour energy really needs to stop.

He's getting grief for not offering to play first base until now. Why should he? He's a catcher, and if you think that makes him selfish, it doesn't. When he says things like "I signed to be a catcher," he's not being a pouty snot; he's mitigating expectations. He expects to play catcher for several years, because he's still pretty good at it, and that's what he does. Statements like those carry no more or less weight than Justin Morneau saying he signed to be a first baseman. It's just fact. And yes, right now, the Twins are in some rocky territory with Morneau, Kubel, and Young out all at the same time. So they need a little extra help. But guess what...he's out there practicing so he can give first base a shot once in a while. He just doesn't want anyone to believe that this is a permanent position change. And another thing, who we don't see is Jim Thome, or Carl Pavano, or Jason Repko taking scoops. Yes, I know Thome is 41 and "signed to be DH," but he used to be a first baseman and probably wouldn't be any worse than a catcher who hasn't played that position since he was 17. Why is everyone else above reproach, but not Mauer? (BTW, I was joking about Carl Pavano. The Twins certainly don't need his bat in the lineup).

He's getting grief about the contract. Yes, he makes a ton of money. Is he worth all that money? Really, who can say? Baseball contracts are subject the the laws of supply and demand, just like a lot of other things. A Coach handbag isn't really "worth" so much more than the one you can get at Target. The quality is somewhat better, but the desirability is way higher. Same thing with Joe. He got what the Twins were willing to pay. That's that.

He's getting grief about having a bad year. Guess what folks, Joe Mauer is a human being, even though he gets treated like (and gets paid like) he's some sort of demi-god or something. And, yeah, I accused him of being "perfect," but I know he's not. Every ball player has bad years. A-Rod and Derek Jeter have had bad years. Albert Pujols was having a bad year before he got hurt. Heck, even Harmon Killebrew had a bad year. It happens. It happens to everyone. Trust me, he's more upset about it than you'll ever be. No, really, he is.

He's getting grief about the injuries. First of all, the "bilateral leg weakness" label the Twins slapped on him was probably the sissiest thing they could've come up with, and it was probably less than accurate as well. He more likely had a combo platter of shoulder soreness and post-surgical knee soreness. He tried to battle through, he couldn't do it, and he became very weak because of it. He was legitimately hurt, and neither you nor I know the extent of it. And just because it's hard to name and figure out, it's still very real. Secondly, his bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, arteries, cells, or any other part of his body do not know that he makes $23 million a year. Nor do they care. A big salary isn't a magic shield against injury, and the expectation that he should play hurt should not be greater because of it. In fact, his big salary make is more likely that the organization will sit him in order to protect the long-term value of their investment.

So, the point is, all these nay-sayers and grief-givers and crap-shovelers all just need to simmer down. The whole team is having a hard time of things, so it's pretty unfair to pile all the vile on Joe.


Andrew said...

If what you say is true, then my wife has fooled me several times about Coach handbags. I was lead to believe that they were the highest quality of all of the handbags out there. I had better have a talk with the little lady.

Anonymous said...

"Trust me, he's more upset about it (his bad year) than you'll ever be. No, really, he is."

The question isn't whether he cares more than I do. The question is whether his "care", as reflected by his offseason conditioning efforts, his in season willingness to play through soreness and/or non-debilitating "nuisance" injuries, and his willingness to put team goals ahead of his own, is commensurate with his astronomical salary relative to the lesser salaries of his teammates and peers. With greater compensation comes greater responsibilities. Is he shouldering those responsibilities willingly, or just reluctantly, or simply not at all? Seems to me this is what people are beginning to question.

k-bro said...

Dear Andrew:
Oh, be easy on her. Coach bags are, after all, the Joe Mauer of handbags. ;-)

Dear Mr/Ms Anonymous:
I see your point. I agree that with great salary comes great responsibility. In fact, I really wish he was a little more leader-y. However, I am not willing to say that he isn't playing through soreness. It's just too hard to know how another person is feeling in order to make a proper judgment. And just because he doesn't really want to talk about how much he hurts, it doesn't mean it's any less real. I'm also not willing to believe that he doesn't work hard to be ready to play. In fact, some media members who have access to him during spring training (Phil Mackey of ESPN being one of them) say that no one works harder; he's out there early working hard every day.

But you're right; appearances are a bulk of how fans regard him, and right now, he appears kind of lame. I'm just trying to encourage folks to be patient with him; he'll come around again.

Thanks for reading.