Why Joe Mauer won’t retire

Among my sadder boyhood baseball memories is seeing Harmon Killebrew in a Kansas City Royals uniform.

It never should have happened. He’d earned the right to go out with the Twins on his terms, but those were dark days for common sense in the Minnesota Twins front office.

Joe Mauer isn’t going to make that mistake and anyone who’s paid any attention to Mauer over the years knows it. So the news today that Mauer will consider retiring at the end of the year makes sense, even though I don’t think he will because the Minnesota Twins are too smart to let him.

Mauer is a St. Paul kid who never disgraced his hometown nor the team he played for. He has two young twin daughters and another child on the way, he’s got all the money he needs, and he’s still a (slightly) better than average player at his position.

I’m betting he signs a contract that won’t embarrass him, which will still free up a ton of money for the Twins to invest in improving a bad ball club, allow him to be home with his family for at least half the season, and still give him the chance to play a game he seems to love in a city that loves him right back. Good deal for everyone.

Here’s my take, which aired on All Things Considered this afternoon.

Here’s an interesting side note. Over the years, I’ve used Bill James’ old Brock2 formula spreadsheet (which I built using his formula), which for awhile was a pretty good way to predict the future.

When I wrote this article in 2013 — “If he doesn’t hit for more power, Mauer will be an average first baseman” — it included a prediction for each of his projected following years.

How did this five-year-old prediction for this season work out? It predicted he’d hit .284. He’s hit .274 with a few weeks to go in the season. It said he’d hit 6 home runs. He’s hit 6 home runs. It said he’d hit one triple. He’s hit one triple. It said he’d score 51 runs. He’s scored 47 so far. It said he’d have 52 runs batted in. He’s got 43.

RBI, by the way, is more reflective of the people batting in front of a player than it is the hitter. So, that’s at least a push.

It also predicted he’d be a very good player, until at least 2021. And there doesn’t look to be anybody coming up through the system at the moment who’s better than he is.

It’s worth keeping him around.

  • joetron2030

    That’s pretty cool that the stats from the spreadsheet for 2018 are as close as they are to reality.

    • Brock2 was a great little formula (which wasn’t that little, actually) that calculated what a player need to do to keep from losing his job to an up-and-coming players etc. I’ve written about various things over the years using it, including the proof that David Ortiz being a good ballplayer was entirely predictable.

  • frightwig

    He was a solid performer in 2017, but this year he’s a 1B with a 97 OPS+, worth 0.8 fWAR or 1.0 rWAR (pick your formula) with a few weeks to go, who had to sit out awhile because of “concussion-like symptoms” after diving for a ball. It would be nice if he could come back and show that he has at least one more good year left in him–but then players don’t often like to retire after enjoying that one more good year. It might be better for him if he gets out now, before he has any more concussions, before he slips all the way to replacement-level. I don’t want to see him have to quit in mid-season because he’s obviously washed up.

    • A + WAR doesn’t suggest he’s washed up. It means he average. So offer him an average deal. Either way, Twins are gonna have a ton of cash.

      • frightwig

        I would say that a 97 OPS+ and 1 WAR is getting close to the low end of an acceptable regular 1B. I’m not saying that he’s totally washed or embarrassing himself now, but he wouldn’t have to slip much more to get to that point. If they want to give him $10M to play another year while Rooker seasons at AA/AAA, fine. I’d rather not see him keep going until he’s a .250 hitter with no pop, or he’s helped off the field for the last time after sliding into 2nd and getting hit in the head, but I’ll hope for the best.

        What does the spreadsheet predict for him at age 36-37?

        • 0 would be average so he’s got a ways to go to be the low end

  • Postal Customer

    Mauer’s contract has got to be up there on the list of worst sports ROI of all time. They spent $184m and really have nothing to show for it. No pennant.

  • Erik Petersen

    Great player, I like watching him, and I hope he doesn’t retire. I don’t think he will.

    He earned his money. Suck it haters.

    As a somewhat advanced observer of the game he’s been paradoxical to me. Great hitter, but I depart from the conventional wisdom that hes got a great swing. I guess he does though, aside from what I think I see there. But its always looked slow and long to me.

  • ec99

    “Among my sadder boyhood baseball memories is seeing Harmon Killebrew in a Kansas City Royals uniform.”

    Or Carew in an Angels uniform. Or Bostock. Or Hisle. Or Kaat.

    • Kellpa07

      Favre in a Vikings uniform

      • Jay T. Berken

        I still cringe seeing pictures of that.

    • Jeff

      Page

  • Gary F

    I saw Harmon speak a few years before he died. He said he went up to Calvin’s office thinking he was going to be offered next year’s contact. Instead Calvin offered him a coaching contract. Harmon said he wasn’t ready to hang it up, signed with the Royals and played so-so. He looked back at it and wished he would of took it.

    Jack Morris said yesterday that if Joe can play two more years at the level he played this year he’s in the Hall of Fame. Now he’s a maybe. I sure wish he’d do it as a Twin. If he plays somewhere else, it just isn’t the same.

    He’s got a bad knee and a concussion history, so getting out while you are in one piece probably crossed his mind.

    If he plays a couple more years and eventually gets into the HOF, well, he could own this town.

    • Jim in RF

      I’ll take Morris’ sporadic talent but not his judgement. Joe was very very good for some years, but too many off years will color the argument. Still a 90th percentile player but that’s not HOF.

    • Not hall of fame material. He’s about 245th in all time hits at the moment and the players around him are excellent, just not HOF.

      • I don’t think Mauer will make the HOF, but I think he’s closer than most people realize. I liked this piece from Jay Jaffe from earlier in the year:

        “As for Mauer, his offensive decline since his concussion-necessitated move from catcher to first base after the 2013 season somewhat obscures the merits of his case, but what he did before moving makes for a strong resumé: six All-Star appearances, three Gold Gloves, three batting titles (the only catcher who can make that claim), 11 other top-five finishes in a slash stat, and an MVP award. The year he won that award, 2009, his .365/.444/.587 line made him the first (and to date only) catcher to win the “Slash Stat” Triple Crown: his batting average and on-base percentage from that season are the highest of any catcher since World War II.

        “Even with just 920 games behind the plate, Mauer’s 39.0 peak WAR is 4.5 wins above the standard for catchers (the average for all Hall of Famers at the position; players are classified by where they accrued the most value) and ranks fifth among backstops behind Gary Carter, Johnny Bench, Mike Piazza, and Ivan Rodriguez, all enshrined. (Yes, Mauer’s seven best seasons are all from his catching days.) His 54.5 career WAR ranks eighth among catchers and is a full win above the standard. His 46.7 JAWS ranks seventh, the highest of any catcher outside the Hall.”

        https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/joe-mauer-and-the-rule-of-2000/

  • John O.

    I will confess up front and say that I am not much of a baseball fan. I don’t hate the sport, I just don’t follow it much. With that said, the only two current Twins’ personnel I would recognize would be Mauer and Molitor. Any of the other current Twins players could come to my front door in street clothes, ring the doorbell, and I would shoo them away just like every other door-to-door sales person. Or politician.

    Mauer is as recognizable as the late Kirby Puckett, Tony Oliva, Rod Carew, Bert Blyleven or Kent Hrbek, for instance. Joe grew up here. Let him finish his career here with dignity.

    • Keep an eye on Eddie Rosario. I think he’s a great talent and will be a big fan favorite.

      • Dave Draeger

        Yep, provided Willians Astudillo doesn’t steal the spotlight. 😉

        • lusophone

          Hoping Willians can keep up his current success and as a Twin.

  • I hope you’re right. One of the few fun parts of this lousy season has been watching Mauer climb the ranks for all-time hitting stats, annoying the haters ever more with each step along the way.

  • crystals

    It was really neat to be there for his grand slam the other night. The reaction from the albeit pretty paltry crowd was electric.

  • Kassie

    He can’t retire because he is the only male professional athlete in Minnesota I can name. If he retires, I’ll have to learn a new one, and that sounds like a lot of work.

    • BJ

      Minnesota United FC has a couple worth looking at (Minnesota male athletes that have MN ties)…

      I’m a big fan of Brent Kallman (born in NE, grew up in Woodbury) – his soon to be brother in law Eric Miller (Woodbury) is also on the team. They also have another Ethan Finlay (Duluth, grew up in Marshfield, Wis) but he is out with ACL injury this year.

  • Nato Coles

    I genuinely wonder what it would take for him to play first base (occasional DH) for the Twins in 2019. Would he accept less than $10m? I suppose we’ll find out one day… either way, as it stands he is a first ballot member of the Hall Of Very Good, and better than a few players who are actually in the Hall of Fame (but who might not have been voted in by today’s standards… and Jim Rice).

  • Jay Sieling

    He knows the game so well, he is an incredible asset to the younger players. The video is gone now, but in October of 2009 against Detroit, Mauer doubled, then appeared to signal to Jason Kubel which pitch was coming from Verlander. He touched the ear hole of his helmet for a curve, touched his face for a fast ball. Kubel ended up getting a sac fly. I remember seeing it at the time. Great example of someone who knows and is savvy about the details of the game. The at bat for the grand slam the other night is an example of that too. He swung at exactly one pitch that at bat. Took two strikes and worked the count full without swinging or fouling off a pitch, then put one out in center field. HOF or not, he is a legacy and will always have value in MN