The Minnesota Twins recently held a fan fest in which team general manager Terry Ryan was asked if 32-year-old Joe Mauer will ever get behind the plate and catch again.
“If we would ever get any OK from a physician, we would consider it,” Ryan said Saturday during an hour-long fan forum. “Unfortunately, there isn’t a physician, especially concussion experts, that could trust he’s not going to take another bop in the head on a foul tip or a collision at the plate, although the collisions are pretty much a foregone conclusion nowadays. If he took the wrong type of foul tip off that mask and all of a sudden he got knocked silly, I couldn’t forgive myself, so he’s going to be a first baseman. I think if Joe could have stayed behind the plate, he would have been a hall-of-fame candidate. He was excellent back there. Unfortunately it just wasn’t meant to be.”
As a baseball fan, this sucks to hear. It must be even more disappointing as a Twins fan, because Ryan is right. Mauer was on a Hall of Fame pace leading up to his concussion issues. At just 23 years old, Mauer was the first American League catcher to win a batting title, and the first catcher in MLB history to have the highest batting average in all of MLB when he hit .347 in 2006. Two years later, Mauer would claim his second batting title, hitting .328 in 2008. He followed that performance up by winning back-to-back batting titles, leading the league in batting average (.365), on-base percentage (.444), slugging percentage (.587), and, of course, OPS (1.031), en route to winning the 2009 American League MVP award. His second consecutive batting title also made him the first catcher in history to become a three-time batting champion. Oh, and he was 26.
And while it seems like the Twins are taking the decision out of Mauer’s hands to ever catch again, it appears that they’re on the same page in that the Minnesota native is more than fine with his days behind the plate being over.
“He stated about an hour ago he’s not ever going back behind the plate. He just mentioned that about an hour ago. There’s no difference from my point of view. I could never put him back there, and he doesn’t have any interest in going back there.”
In his time as a first baseman, Mauer has hit .280/.353/.385, which is well above league average in batting average and on-base percentage, but his offensive production at first base is still a far cry from when he hit .328/.408/.481 in just under 4,000 plate appearances as a catcher.