Mackey: The Twins should probably move Joe Mauer to 1B permanently
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You'll have to excuse us if we're all a little edgy when it comes to star players and concussions here in Minnesota.
On Monday, Twins general manager Terry Ryan announced Mauer would not suit up in the Twins' final homestand of the season, meaning we'll have to go through another entire offseason of, "How is Joe feeling?" We might not have any real answers until March.
After breaking the bad news, Ryan was asked if Mauer would remain a catcher heading into 2014. Ryan said, "I anticipate that, although I haven't sat down with Joe yet. But I would anticipate him wanting to catch. Now whether or not he has a difference of opinion, we'll sit down in the near future and talk that out. It'll be his call."
Mauer, himself, added, "I have every intention of coming back and catching. That's what I do," per the Pioneer Press.
But continuing to do something because "that's the way it's always been," or because "that's what I've always done" is generally foolish. When conditions change, adaptation is necessary.
What if Dunkin' Donuts, instead of re-positioning itself as a coffee shop, said, "We're going to keep marketing donuts, because that's what we've always done..."? With most of society trying to lose weight in 2013, Dunkin' Donuts would be out of business.
Conditions have changed for Mauer. He will be 31 years old next season, and over the past 75 years, only two catchers have batted over .300 from age 31 through the end of their careers. Plus, this is now the fourth time in five seasons Mauer has missed a significant amount of games due to injury. In 2009, Mauer's MVP season, he missed all of April with back problems. In 2010, Mauer missed time with knee problems at the end of the year that eventually led to surgery, which led to him missing half of 2011 - the infamous "bilateral leg weakness" season. He played a full slate in 2012, catching part-time, but will wind up playing in only 113 games this season due to the concussion.
Concussions can happen at any position, as the Twins found out with Justin Morneau, but Mauer's concussion apparently came as a direct result of catching.
If you're Mauer, it's understandable to have an emotional attachment to the position you've played forever, but at what point do you acknowledge that the position is betraying your body?
And if you're the Twins, it's understandable to want Mauer catching as many games as possible, because, after all, he is being paid $23 million a year to catch. But at what point does the combination of injuries and missed games outweigh the positional advantage of having a .400 on-base percentage behind the plate?
If the Twins can determine that playing Mauer at first base will decrease the stress on his body, thus increasing the amount of games he can play -- and perhaps even increasing his production -- it seems to make perfect sense for him to make the switch heading into 2014 before Mauer's body reaches the point of no return due to the taxing nature of catching.
The Twins also appear to have multiple competent options at catcher in Josmil Pinto, Chris Herrmann and perhaps Ryan Doumit (although his future behind the plate is also up in the air due to concussions). The situation at first base is much more cloudy with Chris Parmelee, Chris Colabello and Trevor Plouffe.
And for the record, for those who think Mauer doesn't hit for enough power to play first base, his .880 OPS would rank sixth among first basemen this season. His .404 on-base percentage would rank third. His .324 batting average would rank first. It's possible, if not likely, his defense would rank in the top five.
And for those who think Mauer wouldn't be worth $23 million as a first baseman, due to "position scarcity" being taken out of the equation, remember the Twins have only $60 million in salary tied up for 2014. Mauer's contract is not preventing the Twins from spending.
Just move Mauer to first base. It's time.