Joe Mauer. That name is synonymous with not only the Minnesota Twins, but Minnesota sports in general. Mauer, the hometown major leaguer, has come up big for the Minnesota Twins in the second half of the 2010 season, hitting big and maintaining consistency.
Mauer didn’t look good coming into the All Star game. The 27-year-old Twins catcher drew more votes (by a mile) than any other player in major league baseball, but came into the game with a wimpy batting average under .300.
Now, a .300 minimum batting average might seem like a tall order, but it’s not for Joe Mauer, who hit nearly .400 with 28 home runs in the 2009 season to win the American League Most Valuable Player. Mauer seemed strangely off his game for the Twins, and a lousy appearance in the All Star game – complete with a oddly errant throw to second base from home plate – made folks wonder if Mauer had big-contractitis.
Just before the start of the 2010 season, the Twins signed Mauer to the largest contract in team history: an eight-year, $184 million deal. Plus, with the brand new Target Field in operation this year, Mauer had a lot of pressure to perform at a $200 million level – whatever that looks like.
So, naturally, I thought that Joe Mauer was suffering from big-contractitis.
I was wrong. Mauer was suffering from a sore shoulder, which explained his errant throws and low (for him) batting average, which rested somewhere in the neighborhood of .293 at the All Star break. In fact, as Mauer took up residence in the designated hitter position, I began to wonder if his shoulder was worse than Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was letting on.
But now, things have changed. Joe Mauer’s shoulder has healed, and he has lifted his batting average for the Twins to a rockin’ .330. A week ago, according to ESPN, Mauer’s batting average was .318. That just means Mauer has been hitting consistently since the All Star break, with a modest eight home runs, but 66 RBI on the year.
And we’ll need Mauer to continue hitting. With Twins first baseman and monster hitter Justin Morneau still out with symptoms relating to a concussion he received back on July 7th, we may not get Morneau back this 2010 season. It’s a real shame, because Morneau was batting .345 and already had 18 home runs when the Twins placed him on the disabled list.
What does all of this mean? It means that the Minnesota Twins need Joe Mauer to step up and fill Justin Morneau’s shoes. And Mauer’s been doing a very good job of that. He may not have the home runs, but Mauer does have the RBI, the batting average, and the on base percentage (over .400).
With Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, and big Jim Thome to support him, maybe Joe Mauer can give the Minnesota Twins the momentum they need to make the playoffs happen this 2010 major league baseball season.