This past weekend, it was announced that Minnesota Twins C Joe Mauer has retired from the MLB after 15 seasons. Spending every year with the Twins, there is no debate that Mauer will go down as one of the best players in Minnesota of all-time. That being said, the real debate involves Mauer’s case to the Hall of Fame. With injuries hindering the end of his career, is this a player worthy of Cooperstown?
The Case for Joe Mauer
Since his entrance to the MLB in 2004, Mauer made an immediate impact for the Minnesota Twins. In just his third season, Mauer was elected to his first All-Star game, won his first Silver Slugger award, and even came in 6th in the AL MVP race.
Two years later, at the age of 25, Mauer was once again elected for the All-Star game, won another Silver Slugger award, came in 4th in the AL MVP race, and also secured his first Gold Glove award.
The following season, Mauer won the AL MVP award in a year where he led the league in BA (.365), OBP (.444), SLG (.587), and OPS (1.031). The list of Mauer’s accolades continue, as he totaled 6 All-Star elections, won 3 Gold Gloves, 5 Silver Sluggers, and received MVP votes in 5 different seasons.
There are 18 catchers currently inducted in the Hall of Fame, but the statistics and character of Joe Mauer are up there with even the most elite players the MLB has had to offer. The most recent inductees at catcher include Ivan Rodriguez (2017) and Mike Piaza (2016). For those who spent a majority of their time behind the plate and held 3,000+ plate appearances, Mauer ranks 5th in batting average and 3rd in on-base percentage.
While Mauer was one of the best defensive catchers of the modern era, through his numbers, we find that he has proven to emerge as arguably the best two-way catcher in the history of the game.
The Case Against Joe Mauer
It’s almost impossible to establish Joe Mauer as a pure catcher, because he wasn’t. Starting in 2011, the Twins placed Mauer at first base. As far as stereotypical first basemen go, Mauer simply wasn’t as powerful in the batter’s box as some of his colleagues.
If we are grading Mauer during his prime, surely he gets in. From the years 2006-13, Mauer had a stat line of .327/.410/.473 (139 OPS+). However, during his decline phase of 2014-18, Mauer held a stat line of .278/.359/.388 (105 OPS+). The difference can not be ignored.
With 546 starts at first base from 2014-18, this is where matters get complicated. Do we, as fans and the media, just “forget” about the struggles involving Mauer’s lack of ability to stay healthy and put up efficient numbers? Dealing with concussions and a series of other injuries, perhaps Hall of Fame voters will hold this against him.
Since 1955, the MLB has implemented a 5-year waiting period before a player can be inducted in the Hall of Fame. During that time span, perhaps voters will agree that the recent decline of Mauer does not play a large role in who he was as an overall player.
Is he a first-ballot Hall of Fame player? I wouldn’t say so. Never the less, Joe Mauer is a Hall of Fame-caliber player, and Cooperstown will have his name enshrined in the distant future.
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