Joe Mauer, First Ballot
I’m completely taken aback that Joe Mauer has made it into the Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot. That is a rare feat indeed.
After having a monstrous early career, he signed a large contract. From there he struggled with injuries, including concussions. Over time the pop was taken from his bat, head injuries cost him some of his eye, and risks of further injuries moved him out of the catcher position, where he was one of the greatest defensively. At his height, though, Mauer was one of the greatest to ever play. From 2005 to 2013: .323 average, three batting titles, an MVP, and three Gold Gloves.
If you’re not from Minnesota, you probably assume that Mauer received unwavering support from fans. He was a lifelong Twin, and before that he was a monster multi-sport athlete in the state. Minnesota is a huge “homer” state, and we embrace any famous person as our own if they lived here for more than a few days.
Sadly, Mauer wasn’t universally supported here in Minnesota. See, a guy who quietly puts in the work is not a story for long. A couple columnists made it their mission to counter the Mauer feel good story with frequent “he’s not that great” columns. One columnist accused him of making up an injury. These columnists also carried water for the owners of the team, who generally rate as the top five richest owners in the league. The storyline became that Mauer cost too much, wasn’t playing as well (if at all), and the team couldn’t afford to make up for that because of his contract.
It was all complete bull, but it seeped into the fanbase. Now every other uncle in the state thinks Mauer was a weakling who was in it for the money. They never listened to the rare times Mauer quietly spoke. They never listened to his teammates, unless it was the rare teammate who sought the spotlight by under-bussing Mauer. After the Hall of Fame announcement, it’s been heartening to hear the widespread praise of Mauer from all of his teammates, including many statements about the many injuries Mauer powered through in order to be there for his team and for the fans.
I’m not sure why I wrote all of the above. I should be out here celebrating a great player from my state who played for my team. How fortunate it was to get to see his perfect swing and watch his stellar defense night after night. Well played, Mauer!