Thursday, February 17, 2011

Joe Mauer: The catching debate

We are on the brink of having Twins baseball return for the 2011 season. Twins pitchers and catchers have their first full workout tomorrow and that means that Spring Training is finally here. This whole week I have looked at a variety of players from these two positions, but a pitching and catching week couldn't be complete without talking about Joe Mauer. Before I get into that, here is a recap of the other posts I wrote this week:

Monday- Joe Nathan: To baby or not to baby
Tuesday- Pat Neshek: The key to the 'pen
Wednesday- Drew Butera: A growing cult following
Thursday- Joe Mauer: The catching debate
Friday- Top Headlines: Twins Pitchers and Catchers

Joseph P. Mauer has been popping up all over the news lately as he makes the rounds to promote the new video game "MLB: The Show 2011." A couple of nights ago he competed in a homerun derby contest with late night host Jimmy Fallon (see the video here). He also was making the rounds at the ESPN headquarters in Bristol, CT, where he made an appearance on the Mike and Mike: In the Morning radio program (listen to the interview here).

Tom Powers of the St. Paul Pioneer Press also wrote about Mauer this week. His story delved into the possibility of moving Mauer to another position other than catcher. He compared Mauer's situation with the Twins to that of Yogi Berra and the Yankees. Berra was forced to play other positions in his career because of the wear and tear that comes with being a catcher.

There are many people that can be on both sides of the Mauer position debate. He even admitted on Mike and Mike that when he was a younger player in the minor leagues the team discussed him switching positions. So here is a look at both sides of the argument, which side are you on?

Mauer staying a catcher
Mauer is entering the first year of the mega-deal that he signed around this time last Spring Training. The Twins are paying Mauer a lot of money to be the face of the franchise and to be their cornerstone player at a tough position. He is arguably one of the best players in the game and he needs to be at a demanding position for the Twins to be getting their value out of him. In an interview this week Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire said about Mauer, "His biggest job is calling the game and controlling the pitching staff. The hitting part is a bonus." Mauer is getting paid, as much as he is, because of the value he provides at the catching position. His offensive accolades are things that have never been accomplished by a catcher at the major league level. The coaching staff has shown confidence is his ability to play DH when he needs a day off from his catching duties. In interviews this week Mauer has stressed that he wants to be a catcher for as long as he can be. He enjoys the position and all of the responsibility that goes along with it. I feel Mauer wants to be known as the best catcher that has played the game of baseball and he is well on his way...

Mauer switching positions
"Are you sure you want to be a catcher because you hit to well to be behind the plate everyday?" Mauer has had this conversation brought up to him throughout his entire career. Throughout his major league career, he has accumulated quite the resume of injuries to his knees, shoulder, and other various body parts. If Mauer moved to another position, he wouldn't need a day off to rest. That way he could be a force in the line-up for 162 game instead of the 130-140 games that he has averaged in his career. According to the Pioneer Press Gardenhire has said that if he was forced to he would play Mauer at any position on the field because of his athletic ability. All of these ticky-tack injuries that have followed Mauer in his career could be avoided or at minimum lessened. Having a Joe Mauer that is completely healthy when it comes to playoff time sounds like an excellent proposition to me. Gardenhire also said that they are going to have Mauer do less catching in Spring Training. This offers the Twins the perfect opportunity to start working with Mauer on drills at other positions. The move of Mauer to another position is going to happen at some point in his career, so this Spring Training is as good of time as any to have Mauer grab a glove and start the transition...

There you have two perspectives of the Mauer catching debate. I can't see Mauer switching positions this early into his career but the game of baseball can sometimes be an interesting adventure.

Which side of the fence are you on? Leave a comment below and let me know.

1 comment:

twinspensgirl said...

I love Joe Mauer as a catcher. I really do. He is incredibly talented behind the plate. But you have some really good points about him being much more of a force in the line-up if he moves to another position. Even if he were to move to another position this early in his career, I think he'd still be considered one of the best catchers in baseball. If Joe Mauer catching less turns into a longer postseason run for the Twins, I think that's something both he and the fans would be happy with.