Major League Baseball needs to pump its brakes for a moment.
Joe Mauer is the fifth-highest paid player in the game today. At the end of this season, he will have made $23 million, a number that is unsettling from many angles. He is beginning to fit in more with the Vernon Wells' ($26.2 million) and Jason Bay's ($18.2 million) than he is with the Mark Teixiera's ($23.1 million) and Miguel Cabrera's ($20 million) of baseball—a club that is not as exclusive as it appears, one that is rather gilded than pure golden.
With Mauer apparently at full strength, he will be making his first start at first base tonight. The MLB "Noise Machine" is at its best, hyping up Mauer and the new role it appears he will be taking on as first baseman.
MLB has designated Mauer to be the face of baseball. From commercials to video games, he is everywhere.
First basemen have historically played the role of power hitters. When we think of power hitters, names like Albert Pujols, Mark Teixiera, Prince Fielder and Paul Konerko come to mind. Mauer is somewhere along the ranks of Placido Polanco.
If it is the intention of the Minnesota Twins to make a move at first base and supplant often-injured Justin Morneau with Mauer, what an incredible waste of money it will be.
Mauer, who won the American League MVP in 2009, is a guy who hits for a high average but only once has he ever hit at least 28 home runs and driven in more than 90 RBI (2009). Other than 2009, only one other year has he hit more than 10 home runs.
His 2009 campaign may have been a statistical anomaly in terms of power but his batting average should remain constant. After all, he has won three batting titles.
Batting titles do not suggest power or worthiness to inherit a marketing plan as if Mauer is the best that baseball offers. Mauer's inability to stay healthy should subside if does begin to play at first base on a full-time basis.
Naturally, most of the air time Mauer has received was due to his 2006 breakout season when he became the first catcher to ever win the American League batting title. That year propelled Mauer into baseball stardom. Unfortunately, he has only had two great seasons since then.
Breaking reports on Mauer's latest condition or rehab stint have outnumbered those of Mauer doing damage at the plate.
Thus far in 2011, Mauer has made 103 plate appearances. He has 21 hits, zero dingers and seven RBI. He has drawn seven BB but has also struck out 16 times.
Some blame the injuries. Realists, like myself, blame the media. Mauer is not as great of a ball player as he is portrayed. As the leader of the Twins and in a capable lineup for most of his career, Mauer has been unable to get the Twins past the New York Yankees in the postseason. All of the blame does not fall on his shoulders but he has to pick up the majority of it.
After all, Joe Mauer is to the Twins what Derek Jeter is to the Yankees. He is to Minnesota what Kobe Bryant is to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Diagnosing someone as overrated is never an easy task, especially if it is someone like Mauer who is difficult to poke and prod.
Usually, indicators of someone being overrated include a monstrous salary, injuries, declining production (or the expectations thereof) and a sudden change of pace in the direction their career is taking.
Mauer qualifies for all of the aforementioned indicators. His salary is on par with fellow overrated ballplayers Vernon Wells, Alfonso Soriano, Jason Bay and Carlos Lee.
Mauer has also dealt with injuries and surgeries since coming into the majors in 2004.
Mauer's production might be skewed but no one truly expects him to put up numbers similar to those he had in 2009, unless of course that person is wearing Minnesota Twins goggles.
He is also undergoing a change of pace in the direction of his career. Some fans want him out of the catcher position while others think he was born to play there and should remain so.
Either way, this is a pivotal moment for Joe Mauer. As overrated as he is, he is still a capable player. He is just no Ken Griffey, Jr, Alex Rodriguez or Adrian Gonzalez. He never will be, either.
If the Twins do make Mauer a permanent staple at first base, what a waste of $23 million that will be. He will never come close to the production expected out of first basemen, rendering him even more overrated.
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