Joe Mauer has become the most polarizing figure on the Minnesota Twins. To half of the Twins fan base, Mauer is the greatest catcher of all time that has won three American League batting titles, is a five-time All-Star selection and the 2009 American League Most Valuable Player.
The other half of Twins fans see Joe as the guy who robbed the Twins out of an eight-year, $184 million contract season two years ago and has failed to live up to his paycheck due to injuries and (in the words of some anti-Mauer fans) laziness.
It goes both ways for Mauer as he tries to rebound from two injury-plagued seasons in 2010 and 2011, but it seems like he's found his way headed into tonight's MLB All-Star game in Kansas City.
As of the All-Star break, Mauer is tied for first among all American League catchers in OPS (.865), leads the American League in on-base percentage (.416), and is fourth in the AL in batting average (.326).
When looking at that resume, it would seem like Mauer has done enough to earn his way onto the All-Star team. Unfortunately, most Twins fans don't see it that way because the bar had been raised so high.
That's because in 2009, Mauer did so much more for the Twins. After missing the first month of the 2009 season with a back injury, Mauer exploded onto the scene by hitting .414 with 11 home runs and 32 runs batted in for the month of May.
This was a welcome sight for Twins fans as Mauer hadn't shown the power that some fans thought he should have. Prior to the 2009 season, Mauer's average power output was nine home runs for a season. With Mauer hitting 11 in one month, the bar had been sent into the stratosphere.
Mauer would go on to win the Most Valuable Player award finishing with a .365 average, 28 home runs and 96 runs batted in. This became the expectation for Mauer as he was one season away from free agency.
With the Twins opening a new ballpark, they had to sign Mauer or risk having Twins fans tear down the giant Minnie and Paul sign in center field.
The money today is still mind-blowing, but with the season Mauer was coming off, it was the perfect time for Mauer to have such a season to cash in. Or so we thought...
Two years later, Mauer battles constant criticism despite the fact that Mauer is producing at the level of a Joe Mauer average season. In fact, when you compare his All-Star break numbers with the rest of his All-Star appearances, Mauer is doing exactly what he did before the 2009 season.
|2006 (Won Batting Title)||.378, 7 HR, 45 RBI, .981 OPS|
|2008 (Won Batting Title)||.322, 5 HR, 41 RBI, .873 OPS|
|2009 (Won Batting Title, AL MVP)||.373, 15 HR, 49 RBI, 1.069 OPS|
|2010||.293, 4 HR, 35 RBI, .792 OPS|
|2012||.326, 5 HR, 41 RBI, .865 OPS|
For those of you unwilling to do the math, the average line for Mauer at the All-Star break is .338 with seven home runs and 42 runs batted in.
In other words, Mauer is right on par with his previous efforts, but he still gets booed relentlessly by Twins fans. It gets so bad, that the president of the team has to defend his star player on Twitter against mobs of angry Twins fans. It's gotten ridiculous.
Do I think that Mauer is earning his salary?
I think a little more in the power department would be nice, but I also don't think it's going to happen. Expectations should not be for Mauer to duplicate his 2009 MVP season but just do what he did before the big year...and he's doing that right now.