Columnist: Put ‘coddled’ Mauer behind the plate again

Pioneer Press columnist Bob Sansevere has lit up the Internet today with his assertion that the Twins should put Joe Mauer back behind the plate to catch.

He had 11 home runs in 2013, just four this season. He had eight more doubles and a .324 batting average in 2013. He hit .277 in this just-completed debacle of a season and injuries hijacked about a fourth of the games he could have played in if healthy.

Face it, the guy is brittle wherever you play him. So why not let him play where he’s happiest? Maybe he’ll get his batting average back over .300 if he’s not in sulk mode. And maybe that $23 million a year Mauer makes won’t be as much of a waste of money as it is when it goes to a middling first baseman. And — there’s no maybe here — he would be easier to trade if he’s behind the plate, even if it’s not full time.

As for current catcher Kurt Suzuki, give him a first baseman’s glove and he can rotate between first and DH with Kennys Vargas when Mauer is catching. Or just sit Suzuki when Mauer catches.

Bottom line here: The new manager has to stop the Mauer coddling and have him catch again.

Sansevere left out an important point, though. Mauer suffered a brain injury as catcher and that’s why he was moved to first.

Over to you,Aaron Gleeman.

Because he suffered a brain injury while catching and catching puts him at further risk to suffer more brain injuries. And perhaps Mauer had a hard time getting his batting average to its usual mark because he suffered a brain injury last season and dealt with headaches, mood swings, sensitivity to light, and other symptoms for months. Twins fans watched a concussion nearly ruin Justin Morneau‘s entire career. Also, “sulk mode” is made-up garbage.

So, to recap: Sansevere wants to move Mauer from first base/designated hitter to catcher and move the current catcher, Kurt Suzuki, to first base/designated hitter. What would that accomplish, exactly? They’d both still be in the lineup taking up the same two positions. And the one with previous brain trauma would be at the more dangerous position.

Sansevere’s column exposes the problem in trying to raise awareness of the problem of concussions: a willful ignorance by people whose livelihood depends on games.

  • Gary F

    How bout just telling Joe to swing on the first pitch, say maybe, 5 at bats a week? They throw him a straight fastball down the middle on the first pitch maybe 90% of the time.

    I am tired of him looking at a first pitch fastball and going 0-1 in the count at EVERY at bat.

  • Dave

    Weren’t they going to move him anyway? I mean, before the brain injury. He was getting beat up behind the plate for a long time.

    • Playing catcher is just brutal on one’s body.

      • DavidG

        So what’s changed from when players like Gary Carter, Carlton Fisk or Tony Pena played the position in the majors for decades?

        • You’re comparing Joe Mauer with some of the greatest catchers the game has ever had?

          • Several of those guys were only catching 120-130 games a year by late ’20s. Carter, who I loved, was playing a lot of different positions, though he was still primarily a catcher.

            The Mets didn’t have a lot of options with him, though, because Keith Hernandez was at first.

            Fisk was a total freak of nature. Still caught 25 games at age 45.

            The moving of Mauer’s made sense in that , in theory, it would be easier to keep him in the lineup. Unfortunately, it was hard for him to stay in the lineup even playing first. That is a troubling trend.

            But, as BROCK5 is based, the threat to Mauer is the liklihood that someone else will come along who can equal his statistics. That’s more easily done at first than catcher and I have a hard time believing the Twins wouldn’t have better options relatively soon.

  • Ron

    While any number of baseball people are concerned about Mauer’s durability and poor offensive productivity this year, it is important to identify the factors that contributed to that. One Star Tribune Sports Columnist recently assailed Mauer for entering the season not having worked out in the off season. What he failed to note was that Mauer was not able to train until after the first of the year because of lingering effects from the concussion he had last year. Putting him back behind the plate is the solution to that?

  • David

    why do we all care how much money he is making? it’s not our money, it also is not affecting the roster construction. Really, it isn’t. The Twins have money to make moves, they choose not to make those moves. They also claim they have to pay more on the FA market to get someone to consider coming to play here.. This last part, i totally believe.

    • Dave

      “it’s not our money”

      Tell that to anybody who pays sales tax in Hennepin County.

      • David

        You are making a pretty far leap from payroll spending to publicly financed ballparks, but okay.

        • Dave

          I don’t think it’s a leap at all. The team makes a lot more money now because the public agreed to pay for a two-thirds of the stadium’s cost. Some of that profit pays the players’ salaries.

          • David

            ok- I’ll agree with you on that generally speaking.
            But it is still not our money. We’ve already agreed (sort of, right?) to pay for the stadium. There are no clauses in the agreement that stipulate payroll, or ticket prices or anything that might help the public recoup their investment if we do not agree with the direction of the team. It’s the Pohlad’s money.

  • kcmarshall

    I’m consistently amazed by the low quality of sports columnists in MSP media. Frankly, if they were writing for the internet, we would dismiss them as trolls. They seem to be consistently uninformed and out of touch with mainstream thinking in sports.

    For greater sanity, do what I do: ignore the columnists. Read the beat writers – we’ve got good ones here in the Twin Cities. They travel with the team, attend all the press conferences *and* work tirelessly to forge connections with the coaches, athletes and execs to bring news to the fans every day. The columnists have nothing interesting to add to the conversation.

    • TT

      The beat writers are largely in the public relations business for the Twins and their players. Their livelihood depends on the Twins success and their careers depend on keeping their contacts happy to talk to them. They are a good source of first hand news, its just carefully filtered.

  • TT

    “Sansevere’s column exposes the problem in trying to raise awareness of the problem of concussions: a willful ignorance by people whose livelihood depends on games.”

    Actually it exposes the media’s natural avoidance of civil conversation in their determination to be the center of attention. Sansevere got what he was looking for as is demonstrated by this story here.

    Mauer’s concussion was only one factor in his move to first base. I I suspect if his professional career depended on his risking a concussion, as it does for a lot of lesser athletes, he would still be catching.

    Some folks with the Twins had the idea that without the rigors of catching Mauer would hit better. They also thought he would have a better chance to stay in the lineup. Neither of the those happened.

    In any case, Suzuki is a better catcher. But moving Mauer back to catcher, even if its just in a backup role, would certainly increase his value to team. And the added risk of a concussion probably isn’t all that high. Its not like the Twins catchers have had more concussions than players at other positions.