Joe Mauer has been cemented in Twins history by having his number retired on June 15th, 2019.
The number 7 will never be on the back of another Minnesota Twins jersey.
The man who became a legend by having his number retired is Joe Mauer. He is the eighth player to have his jersey retired by the Twins. His number will join legends Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva, Kent Hrbek, Rod Carew, Kirby Puckett, Bert Blyleven, and Tom Kelly.
When the catcher/first baseman announced his retirement, he was not expecting to have his number retired. The Twins had the aforementioned legends on hand to surprise him. Mauer spent his entire career with the Twins and is in some good company with his all-time numbers. The guy who has played the most games as a catcher in franchise history is tied for second for the franchise in OBP at .391. He is also tied for third in doubles and tied for third in batting average. Joe Mauer amassed six All-Star Game appearances, three Gold Glove awards, and five Silver Sluggers. He topped it all off with MVP honors in 2009.
It is only appropriate to take a trip down memory lane and talk about the 15-year career of one of the great Minnesota Twins.
Bursting onto the Scene
Joe Mauer was selected by the Twins with the first overall pick of the 2001 MLB draft. The catcher made his debut three years later on April 5th, 2004. He collected his first hit in that same game with a bouncing ball up the middle. Unfortunately, Mauer had to have surgery on his knee that caused reoccurring problems and inevitably kept him to 35 games that year. He came back in 2005 and played 131 games and hit .294/.372/.422 with 55 RBI, 13 stolen bases, and 26 doubles.
The next year, Mauer led the American League in batting average. No other catcher had done that in the history of baseball. At the age of 23 in 2006, the catcher played in 140 games and hit .304, beating out some big names like Derek Jeter, Vladimir Guerrero, Ichiro Suzuki, and Miguel Tejada. Those are some pretty legendary names.
Mauer did enough that year to finish 6th in MVP voting, but his best year was yet to come.
Joe Mauer the MVP
Mauer got off to a late start due to an injury in 2009, but he played enough and made enough of an impression to win the only MVP award of his career. He was the first catcher ever to lead in batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage. His batting average was .365, the closest mark to the elusive .400. We have not seen a hitter come closer to it since Joe Mauer. He also had an OPS+ of 171, meaning he was 71 percent better than an average hitter that year. Mauer was never a big power bat, but he hit 28 home runs and struck out only 63 times that year.
He led the Twins to a division title that year that saw the team run the Detroit Tigers down in September. The Tigers entered the final month with a seven-game division lead. The Twins chased them down and forced a Game 163 for all of the division marbles. They won that game 6-5 and headed to the Division Series, where they ultimately lost to the New York Yankees.
Back Half of His Career
Joe Mauer received the largest contract ever given to a catcher before the 2010 season, and it ran through the 2018 season. The deal guaranteed him $184 million. He started to play a little bit of first base following some injuries in the 2011 season. Mauer permanently moved there after the 2013 season to limit his injuries and keep him on the field.
It is worth noting that in 2015, Mauer struck out more than 100 times for the first and only time of his career. He was a great contact hitter with a career average of .306.
His last MLB appearance was on September 30th, 2018. He put on his catcher gear for one last pitch in the 9th inning before being removed for a defensive replacement. Mauer walked off to a standing ovation from everyone in the stadium and rode off into the sunset. He collected his final MLB hit on that day, and it was fitting that it was double to left center field.
Unfortunately for baseball fans, we never got the opportunity to see much Joe Mauer in the playoffs. He also never made it to the World Series. The Twins made it to the playoffs just four times throughout his career and each time was a first-round exit.
Hall of Fame Case
It will take us a few years to learn if Joe Mauer ends up in the Hall of Fame, but he definitely deserves a look. He was one of the best catchers in baseball history, especially offensively. Mauer has amassed a 55.0 WAR (according to Baseball Reference) and that ranks him ninth among catchers. He is higher than Yadier Molina and Buster Posey. He is better than five of the 15 catchers in the Hall of Fame currently, according to WAR. Baseball Reference also has a rating system called JAWS that averages career WAR with the seven-year peak. Evaluators tend to look at a 7-year peak when deciding on a Hall of Fame career. Joe Mauer ranks eighth all-time in catchers in this statistic and is ahead of six catchers who are currently in the Hall of Fame.
Joe Mauer will likely go down as the Minnesota Twins’ best catcher, and he did everything right in his career. He was humble and quietly went about his business, staying with the same franchise his entire career. Not many players can say that nowadays. Twins fans should always look back on Joe Mauer’s career fondly. Every time a fan sees that “7” hanging in the Twins’ ballpark, they can always know that he really was one of the greatest players the Twins ever had.
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