Lindbergh: Joe Mauer’s Hall of Fame case begins behind the plate

From SABR member Ben Lindbergh at The Ringer on November 13, 2018:

On Friday, Joe Mauer announced his retirement. And on Monday, during a poignant press conference at Target Field, many Twins fans wept with him as he said goodbye, the once-thick thatch of inky hair that helped soothe so many itchy, flaky scalps cropped close and sprayed with gray.

Mauer meant a lot to most Twins fans: A Saint Paul native who stayed home his whole career, he ranked third all-time in career WAR with the Twins, behind Rod Carew and Harmon Killebrew. His highlight reel is a little light on national signature moments, both because he didn’t have eye-popping power or speed and because he played for forgettable teams; the Twins ranked 19th in wins and winning percentage during his Minnesota tenure, and he played in only 10 postseason games, all of them losses. In my mind, the most salient snapshots from his 15-year career are his nonchalant no-look catch of a ball that bounced off the backstop, a well-played line in a PlayStation ad, and a sentimental moment from his final game, when he wore catcher’s gear in a game for the first time in five years.

A lack of back-breaking homers, iconic October bat flips, equally iconic fielding flips, or incredible catches that capture a career with one GIF shouldn’t diminish what Mauer accomplished with constant contact, a steady diet of walks and singles, and a good glove at the most important position. In the wake of his farewell, the topic turned to Cooperstown, as it often does when a player who appears to be on the Hall of Fame bubble calls it a career.

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Originally published: November 13, 2018. Last Updated: November 13, 2018.