Friday, June 17, 2011

The Return of Mauer

At long last, Joe Mauer is set to make his return to the Twins' lineup tonight. Sidelined since April 12, the franchise centerpiece is expected to bat third and start at catcher against the Padres. 

While I have no doubt that Mauer will receive a very positive reception from the crowd at Target Field, I wouldn't be surprised to hear a few boo birds mixed in with the predominant cheers. There are folks out there, even among the media and perhaps within the organization, who are legitimately angry with Mauer over this whole ordeal.

Such a reaction strikes me as irrational, yet understandable.

Confusion breeds anger, and there's been no shortage of confusion surrounding the ailment that has cost Joe Mauer nearly half of his 2011 season. In a press conference held yesterday to address the catcher's lengthy absence, Bill Smith gave the following convoluted, nonsensical description:
In its simplest form, bilateral leg weakness means he had weakness in both legs. The majority of that was due to the knee surgery he had in December, and if you take the extremes much further, to bilateral leg weakness, there’s a lot of very challenging results that can happen.
Ah, well then.

As with almost everything we've heard from Twins officials with regards to Mauer's injury, this quote doesn't actually tell us a thing. We get that Mauer had weak legs. We get that it was related to his offseason knee surgery. What we don't get is why a 28-year-old premier athlete needed seven months to get his legs back under him after a procedure that was deemed minor.

Now we wait apprehensively to see how his legs react to the rigors of regular catching after a nebulous rehab, and wonder whether he'll be able to recapture the explosiveness that followed his last extended layoff (he posted a 1.338 OPS with 11 homers in May of 2009 after missing all of March and April).

A similar explosion right off the bat seems unlikely. As Buster Olney noted earlier this week, Ron Gardenhire has "cautioned against immediate expectations."

Fortunately, the team's recent winning run takes a world of pressure of Mauer's shoulders. If the Twins were still slumping, fans would be yearning for him to gallop in like a white knight and singlehandedly reverse the club's fortunes.

With the starting pitching starting to click, the bullpen avoiding meltdowns (at least for the time being) and some key role players finally beginning to do their parts, all Mauer needs to do is come in and outhit the likes of Drew Butera and Rene Rivera, which he should be able to do handily even if he exhibits some initial rust and fatigue.

37 comments:

USAFChief said...

I think the recent winning makes it more likely that if Mauer struggles out of the gate, and the team simultaneously starts to play poorly again, it's going to get ugly quickly.

TwinsFan_John said...

If the starting pitching goes in the ditch with Mauer catching after performing the way they have the past two weeks, he will take heat for that. Rivera & Butera can't hit worth a crap but I think they have worked very well with the pitching staff.

Ed Bast said...

He should be booed. He decided to take a 2-month beach vacation while his team played some of the worst baseball in franchise history.

Also, he sure as hell better catch every game this weekend. He kept saying he wasn't going to come back until fully healthy and he "signed to play catcher". Well, here's his chance.

cy1time said...

My vote is to give Mauer the silent treatment. I don't think you boo the home team unless their stinking up the joint with poor, sloppy play. I don't like how the situation was handled with the injury and I won't be giving him an ovation, either. I certainly won't be booing the guy because he was hurt.

Anonymous said...

Yeah Mauer is a loser. Lets kick him out of town. I demanded he play right field! Demanded! It looks like he is going to play catcher still! Probably for the next 8 years! He only won 1 MVP and 3 Batting Titles! That's it. We better boo him or give him the silent treatment because he caught the most games of any catcher from 2006 through 2010. He isn't durable and he is weak. He obviously had a siesta for the last two months and wasn't actually hurt. If we start sucking again it's all on him. Witch! Witch!

Haplo said...

I agree with Anonymous. This whole line of conversation is autistic.

Ed Bast said...

"Autistic"? Classy. I'll bet you think that's really clever.

Anyway, for those who really think he was unplayably hurt for all of these 2+ months, how do you explain Josh Hamilton (broken arm) and Nishi (broken leg) getting back before him? How is it possible for a sore leg to be worse than a broken leg?

Otis said...

Anybody that thinks Mauer should be booed needs to get a clue.

Nick N. said...

Anyway, for those who really think he was unplayably hurt for all of these 2+ months, how do you explain Josh Hamilton (broken arm) and Nishi (broken leg) getting back before him?

They don't catch? You realize the considerable distinction there, right?

If Mauer wasn't conditioning himself to play catcher, he wouldn't have missed two months this year and might not have missed any time. But that's another ball of yarn entirely...

johnnyb said...

How do we react to the rumor that he was recently diagnosed with MS? Would the Twins release this information if it is true?

Anonymous said...

You realize the considerable distinction there, right?

You realize you're debating with the intellectual equal of Jack Steel, right?

Anonymous said...

Boo our best player at a home game?!?! Why would anyone with any morale character or integrity "boo" a hometown hero. Are people's memories so short that they can't see all the positive things he has done for the Twin Cities. He is a potenial Hall of Famer, a class act, a Minneosta Boy, and the Twins best player. He gave up millions of dollars to stay in Minnesota and fight for a championship. He is the best catcher in MLB and if he needs 2 months to get healthy, we need to give him the benefit of the doubt. What has Mauer ever done to give the preception that he doesn't want to play or that he is just in it for the money?? If you are a Twin fan and you "boo" one of the top 5 players to ever play for your team you are the worst kind of fan and probably a horrible human being.

Sidenote: When has "booing" your own team ever been effective? When does ignorant negativity produce a positive reaction?!?!?

Anonymous said...

Do you "nay-sayers" even know the whole situation with Joe. Look at his track record and all he has done and will do. Trust the system and that his injury was legitimate. Have some faith in the Twins organization and Joe Mauer.

USAFChief said...

For those who keep posting the meme that somehow Mauer is 'durable' and 'caught the most games from Tuesday through Thursday' and HAS to remain at catcher to have value, etc etc, here's a fun fact:

Since his debut, Mauer has been the starting catcher in less than 60% of all Twins games.

JB_Iowa said...

"He gave up millions of dollars to stay in Minnesota"

I didn't buy that argument last year and I don't buy it now. Mauer had (and has) more value in Minnesota than anywhere else. He knew it. The Twins knew it. And all the other teams knew it.

All the "chatter" last year about how much he could get from the BoSox or Yankees, etc. was just that - chatter.

Oh, and if you think Minnesota fans are being rough on him as a result of his latest injury, just ask Carl Pavano what New York fans would have been saying.

I hope he comes back and plays well. And I hope that the pitching staff doesn't have any trouble re-adjusting to his presence behind the plate.

Anonymous said...

Why would anyone with any morale character or integrity "boo" a hometown hero.

You're an imbecile for criticizing my "morale" character and integrity according to how I react to a professional athlete. Put another way, I might turn the slander around on those tens of thousands of Vikings fan (and probably you) who cheered a certain hopelessly self-absorbed Vikings quarterback who (at best) made aggressive attempts to cheat on his wife and who (at worst) sexually harassed massage therapists.

But never mind Favre. In fact, you and every other fan who has no personal interaction with your "hometown hero" knows next to nothing about Mauer's true character. Unless your measure of a man is how well he can hit a baseball or squat behind a plate or act in interviews when he knows cameras are on him. Is that your measure of a man? If yes, are you fourteen years old?

Mauer may be a dolt and a douchebag. Or not. I don't know. You don't know either. That makes your cheering as ignorant as my booing, and if one gesture ridicule or contempt, then so does the other.

Jesse said...

I'm a Twins fan. Mauer makes the Twins better. Therefore, I will cheer for him. It's that simple, and I don't know why any Twins fan would choose to boo their best player.

Anonymous said...

USAF -
60% because of 2004 where he only played in 30 games. But lets go with 60%. Do you have someone else who has played at any level near Mauer in the last 8 years that has played close to 60% of a teams games at catcher? There is none. Posada since 2004 has played about 63%. He sucks at the position. Yadier Molina, AJ and Brian Mcann catch at about a 70% clip. Not even in Mauer's league Ivan Rodriguez in his prime in the 90s caught at a 75% clip. Only Rodriguez compares to Mauer. That's good company. So yeah you want Mauer catching 60% of the time. Nobody can compete with the Twins at the position. Mauer's numbers blow all other catchers away plus he great defense at the spot for the amount of games he plays (A lot compared to most catchers) while obviously hitting at a obsurd level. If you get 60% of your games at catcher while he puts up the numbers he has you win games. You take away a guy who can play the position of catcher at a gold glove level while also getting great hitting. The argument is dumb though because Mauer is one of the most durable catchers of the last 10 years. Please someone name someone who has caught significantly more games at any level close to Mauer. There isn't anybody who has caught at a clip above 70%! So Mauer has caught 10% less than 2-3 guys in the majors in the last 8 years. Oh Buster Posey looks awesome, oh he is out for he year! That's how hard it is to play catcher buddy.

Sean

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, you are one dumb ignorant bastard.

Nick N. said...

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, you are one dumb ignorant bastard.


You only get this kind of comedy in comment sections. :)

Anonymous said...

The FO should just STFU. I don’t believe a word they say anymore. If Mauer comes back and commits zero errors, consistently picks dudes off who are trying to steal 2B and 3B, consistently blocks all the nasty dirt balls that Frankie pitches, consistently hits well above .300, all will be forgiven, and quickly. Hometown hero status resumed! If Mauer fails on any of those points he is going to have a tuff time earning his way back into the hearts of the local fans. Enough yakking! Play ball!

USAFChief said...

60% because of 2004 where he only played in 30 games.

And 2005...110 games started.

And 2006...116 games started.

And 2007...88 games started.

And 2009...105 games started.

And 2010...107 games started.

And 2011...10 games started if he makes it to home plate tonight.

That's how hard it is to play catcher buddy.

That's sort of the point, buddy.

Matt L said...

RBI in his first at bat, not a bad start.

Jay Hamilton said...

Hey Haplo ... "autistic"? What is your basic problem, other than not being very smart and being totally unable to please a woman (you know that's true, don't you?). Anyway, Joe Mauer is just a guy trying to do his best, as most of us are. It's a great game, but it is only a game. We will watch and Joe will do his best, and it will be a pretty good season. Now, as for Delmon Young on the other hand ...

Georgina Whill said...

It's entirely fair to be frustrated with Mauer. "Bilateral leg weakness" is a made-up term. It should have just been called "leg weakness". Bilateral sounds smart, because it has "bi-" in it, and human beings have two legs, so it voilĂ !: both legs hurt. In fact, it just comes off as inane and obfuscatory.

It's true that some people are hyperventilating about Mauer. There are those who have an anger-induced apoplexy over his absence, and there are those who have a conniption when he is upbraided. But as to the latter: saying that he gave up millions to play at home is a crock. How many millions? Two? Would the Yanks really have offered him more than 25m a year? I think not. If he had really been so willing to take a hit for the team, he'd have been fine with 15-17m a year.

To me, he's a dink for living in Fla and hiding in a tax shelter. In a time when MN has no money, he oughta be giving back to his homestate by paying his goddam state income taxes. Like a hometown hero would.

p.s. Good on ya, Bast.

Ryan Beuc said...

If we get a good bullpen arm at the trade deadline, this team is set!

Anonymous said...

Just so everyone is clear, USAChief's numbers are cooked. He left out 2008, when Mauer started 135 games. And even his cooked numbers show Mauer starting more than 60% of the Twins games. Reinforcing the point he was apparently trying to rebut by assuming no one would bother to do the math.

USAFChief said...

Just so everyone is clear, USAChief's numbers are cooked

As posted earlier, since his MLB debut, Mauer has been the starting catcher in less than 60% of all Twins games.

Mauer has 704 starts at catcher during that time frame, out of 1205 regular season Twins games. 58.4%.

Add the post seasons, and he has been the starting catcher in 713 of 1218 games, 58.5%.

There is nothing to cook.

USAFChief said...

Reinforcing the point he was apparently trying to rebut by assuming no one would bother to do the math.

Someone didn't do the math, but it wasn't me.

I guess that's why it was posted under 'anonymous.'

Anonymous said...

No, USAF leaves out 2008 because it looks better not to show 135 games at starter there to reinforce the point that somehow 58% of his starts at catcher not games played at catcher is poor.
He can't name a catcher that IS more durable than Mauer that plays close to his level.
The most durable catchers play only 5-10% more games at the spot. Again, this is like 2 other guys. AJ being one of them. Who sucks.
So to say Mauer isn't a durable guy at the spot is dead wrong. 58% is better than 90% of other teams catchers since Mauer has been in the league in 2004. Case closed.

Sean

USAFChief said...

No, USAF leaves out 2008 because it looks better not to show 135 games at starter there

Just to be clear, 2008 IS included in the "less than 60%" total.

Disagree all you want, the numbers don't lie.

Anonymous said...

"Just to be clear, 2008 IS included in the "less than 60%" total."

Right. Just be clear, so is the 2004 season.

Of course the specific numbers weren't provided to support the "less than 60% total". They were provided in apparent rebuttal of this claim:

"60% because of 2004 where he only played in 30 games."

When called on it, he reheats the numbers and changes the ingredients again.

The problem with these discussions is that some people are just interested in winning the argument, right or wrong.

Anonymous said...

" the numbers don't lie."

Classic example of the expression "figures lie and liars figure".

Nick N. said...

Come on Chief. If you discount all those instances where Mauer missed huge chunks of times due to injury, he's been a model of durability.

USAFChief said...

When called on it, he reheats the numbers and changes the ingredients again.

Called on what? I'm the only poster anywhere to actually put numbers to my claims. Since I'm a fairly regular poster here, I didn't feel the need to prove my claim until "anonymous" disputed them...without providing any evidence of his own, I might add.

What the numbers mean is certainly open to interpretation. However, The numbers themselves are factual. The only one questioning the number appears to be you, who when when proved wrong comes back with:

The problem with these discussions is that some people are just interested in winning the argument, right or wrong.

This is what might be termed "irony" by kind hearted folks, "LOL hilaripus" from everyone else.


Come on Chief. If you discount all those instances where Mauer missed huge chunks of times due to injury, he's been a model of durability.

You're right of course, Nick. My bad.

I'll rephrase: between the end of the 2007 season and the start of the 2009 season, Mauer has been the starting catcher in over 80% of all Twins games!

Anonymous said...

"I'll rephrase: between the end of the 2007 season and the start of the 2009 season, Mauer has been the starting catcher in over 80% of all Twins games!"

Right. And that is "factual" as well.

The point Anonymous was making is that Mauer's injury from 7 year ago might not mean very much about his "durability".

USAChief's numbers were apparently trying to rebut that, by suggesting that even if you didn't consider 2004, Mauer still wasn't very durable. But he had to cook the numbers to make that point.

Another "fun fact": after his rookie year in 2004 to the beginning of this season, Mauer started close to 70% of the Twins games at catcher.

Arguments about his lack of durability are mostly based on a missed season 7 years ago and two missed months this year. You can throw in 2007, but he still caught over half the Twins games that year.

Anonymous said...

"Another "fun fact": after his rookie year in 2004 to the beginning of this season, Mauer started close to 70% of the Twins games at catcher."

Looks like anonymous is the only one "cooking the numbers"