Monday, August 29, 2011

Mauer's offseason could be career defining

It is hard to know what side to be on when it comes to criticizing Joe Mauer in regards to his toughness. In a seasons that is lost for the Twins, the local media outlets need to find something to write stories about for the next month. The easiest thing to do is to point fingers and blame different people as the source of the team's woes in 2011. Mauer is only one piece of a crumbling puzzle that has dissolved into what is left of this season for the Twins.

The biggest star on the Twins roster has missed plenty of time this season because of a wide variety of injuries. At the beginning of the year, there were plenty of struggles on the field for Mr. Mauer. His swing did not look right on the field and it was almost embarrassing to watch him hit in the middle of the Twins batting order. When the team diagnosed him with bilateral leg weakness, there were questions that swirled about the nature of this ailment and the severity of the symptoms to a catcher.

Neck soreness has kept Mauer out of games at the end of this most recent homestand. The Twins were also forced to call up Rene Rivera to have a third catching option on Sunday. Fans have criticized Mauer in the past but for some this has been the final straw that has pushed them to question the toughness of their hometown star.

It also did not help that in the middle of the homestand Michael Cuddyer was drilled directly in the wrist by a fastball. He played the very next day before the results of his MRI had be revealed to himself and the team. This situation definitely did not portray Mauer in a good light. If Cuddyer can play a day after rolling on the ground from being hit by a pitch, why was it impossible for Mauer to be on the field with a sore neck? Even though many people pointing fingers at Mauer had forgotten that Cuddyer missed time in the last month with his own neck soreness problems.

Mauer got sick of the criticism on Sunday and made sure that his voice was heard about the plan he has in place for the coming offseason. He has committed to increasing his offseason regimen and he plans to get his program up and running with the right people pushing him to get better. This is something that should be a no-brainer for a player that is getting paid like one of the top five players in all of baseball. With that kind of pressure and expectations, Mauer should be working to improve his offseason condition every year.

At 28 years old, Mauer is locked into a contract with the Twins for the foreseeable future. The issues with his knees, neck, feet, and other parts of his body are hard to ignore at this point in his career. Mauer has voiced his frustration at missing chunks of time in, what feels like, every professional season with the Twins. Changes needed to be made for Mauer and the Twins need him producing at a high level on the field for the entirety of the 2012 season.

Good players should have the internal drive to push themselves to be great players. The greatest players in baseball history are able to put together consistency over a long-term career by producing at the the highest level. Joe Mauer has said in the past that he wants to be a member of the Hall-of-Fame and he needs to stay healthy for most of the remainder of his career to put up those kind of numbers. He wants to be able to catch but the Twins need his legs to be healthy enough to handle the riggers of catching and still be able to hit for power.

When baseball historians look back on the playing days of Mr. Mauer, this coming offseason could define the career of Joseph Patrick Mauer...

The future of his Hall-of-Fame career depends on it.

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