I didn’t hear it but evidently Mike Francesa was talking about Joe Mauer and the Twins on yesterday’s show and saying the Twins fans shouldn’t boo Mauer because he gave the club a hometown discount in eschewing free agency to stay in Minnesota.
So did he?
Could Mauer have gotten more money elsewhere had he decided to test the free agent waters? Should the fans be booing him? And should he switch positions?
Let’s take a look.
Should the Twins fans be booing Mauer?
Independent of the contract and concept of a “hometown discount”, Twins fans should not be booing Mauer.
He’s not 100%. That’s obvious. He’s trying to play through whatever’s ailing him—his leg weakness, foot problems, etc.—and is slumping.
Is the poor start because of injuries? Is he pressing because of the contract? Is he simply not hitting yet?
All of the above?
Mauer’s going to hit. There’s no question about that. Whether he stayed in Minnesota because of the allure of playing in his home is irrelevant. He’s not a busted free agent who showed up as a big ticket item and is faltering—he’s the face of the franchise who could’ve left but didn’t. He’s their best player; they need him to perform if they’re going to win.
Booing him is neither fair nor is it going to help his ailments and attempts to find his swing.
Should Mauer switch positions?
It may be hard for media “experts” and fans to grasp, but players tend to dislike it when outsiders are telling them what to do; what’s good for their careers and teams.
Could Mauer stay in better condition if he were playing left field, third base, first base or DHing? He wouldn’t get the beating he takes behind the plate, but such a thing is unquantifiable.
Albert Pujols and Ike Davis got hurt in collisions while playing first base; third basemen aren’t encased in the Joba Chamberlain protective sarcophagus; and the outfield has walls and teammates in which to crash.
Is the grind of catching affecting Mauer’s hitting? Only if it’s provable that his injuries come as a direct result of being a catcher. And it never affected him before when he was hitting .360.
He’s also terrific defensively behind the plate and the Twins, having traded Wilson Ramos for Matt Capps, don’t have anyone else to catch. Drew Butera‘s not even a suitable backup, let alone a starter; as the Giants have proven with the loss of Buster Posey and desperate search for someone who could be a short-term replacement, there aren’t any catchers out there.
Objectively and from the outside, is Mauer comfortable and lazy now that he’s gotten paid and has consciously decided to start milking customary aches and pains?
It’s an idiotic concept. Of course not.
If anything, he’s probably playing when he shouldn’t to justify his paycheck amid the pressures of playing near home. Stresses would’ve elicited a similar result—with different catalysts—had he signed with the Yankees or Red Sox.
Should he play 15-40 games at a different position? If it gets his bat in the lineup for another 100-150 or so at bats than he would strictly catching, absolutely.
How much could Mauer have gotten on the open market?
Put it this way: the big money teams another would all have been in on Mauer. That means the Yankees and Red Sox would both have engaged in a bidding war for the catcher.
The Yankees would’ve had to make a choice between pursuing Cliff Lee or Mauer; Mauer’s availability would’ve rendered the signing of Rafael Soriano non-existent because they wouldn’t have executed that act of disastrous desperation.
Count up the money of Lee ($150 million) Soriano ($35 million) and you’ve got something close to what the Twins paid to keep Mauer ($184 million). The Yankees would’ve found the cash to surpass the $200 million barrier it presumably would’ve taken to seal the deal if they truly wanted him and Mauer was looking for every penny he could get on the open market.
The Red Sox would’ve been after him hard as well, preferring Mauer to Carl Crawford.
Mauer knew this and chose to sign with the Twins without entering free agency; he probably cost himself another $25 million or so. At least.
While the conjoining of the “hometown discount” and booing is illogical, Francesa’s not wrong in the independent ideas. As crazy as it sounds to say that a person who’s got a guaranteed $184 million coming his way did the club a favor, Mauer actually did.
The fans should be more understanding of all factors involved with their discounted hometown hero and stop giving him all this grief.