The proverbial writing seemed on the wall when Joe Mauer said farewell to Twins fans at the conclusion of the 2018 season and, sure enough, . Thus concludes a 15-year career in Minnesota from the boy who was born in St. Paul and attended Cretin-Derham High School in the Twin Cities. Mauer was never able to be part of a World Series-winning team, but otherwise should go down as one of the most beloved figures in Twins history.
In fact, despite being a six-time All-Star, five-time Silver Slugger winner and the 2009 AL MVP, Mauer’s career is, at present, very underrated.
It is times like these when I realize just how important the five-year waiting period is before the Hall of Fame vote. Human beings are vulnerable to recency bias. It happens to me all the time, especially regarding movies and TV shows. The last thing I saw was the best ever … until I get some distance from it. I remember when my brother finished “Breaking Bad” and I immediately asked him where it ranked for him all time. He sensibly told me he needed to take time and get some distance from it. He’s always been better than me on this front. I immediately crown things in my mind.
On Mauer, we need that distance. What many people might remember at this point when it comes to Mauer would be the decline phase. From 2014-18, Mauer hit .278/.359/.388 (105 OPS+) with a 162-game average of 35 doubles, three triples, 10 homers, 69 RBI and 79 runs. It’s a nice line, sure, but that isn’t anyone who would get any sort of Hall of Fame consideration whatsoever.
Let’s remember that peak, though, before age, being a catcher and concussion issues caught up with Mauer.
From 2006-13, Mauer hit .327/.410/.473 (139 OPS+) with 162-game averages of 40 doubles, 15 homers, 90 RBI, 98 runs and more walks than strikeouts. He was an above-average defensive catcher who twice led the league in caught stealing percentage and secured three Gold Gloves. He won three batting titles, led the league in on-base percentage twice and slugging once, and took the 2009 MVP. He finished in the top 10 of AL MVP voting four times. The Twins won the AL Central three times in this stretch.
That’s one hell of a peak, no?
In totality, Mauer hit .306/.388/.439 (124 OPS+) with 2,123 hits, 428 doubles, 143 homers, 932 RBI, 1,018 runs and gathered 55.1 WAR in his illustrious career.
Among players who spent the majority of their time behind the plate with at least 3,000 plate appearances, Mauer ranks fifth in batting average and third in on-base percentage. Among catchers, he trails only Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, Ivan Rodriguez, Carlton Fisk, Mike Piazza, Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey in WAR. Only Carter, Bench, Piazza and Rodriguez top him in “peak” WAR score and Mauer sits above the average Hall of Fame catcher line in JAWS.
His resume screams Hall of Famer and, admittedly, right now it’s easy to feel like that doesn’t line up with what we got used to seeing over the past few years.
Distance. We just need distance.
In this next five years, we are tasked with remembering the Joe Mauer from 2006-13: An obvious Hall of Famer.