A few quick items on Joe Mauer, his tough return to MLB, and the verbal assault he is taking in the press and on the blogs:
1) I'm glad he is working out at first base, but like others, I believe this is months, if not years, late. Though Joe says that he "signed to be the catcher for the Minnesota Twins," that's not how it really works. There is nothing in his contract, or in any other baseball contract probably, the specifies the role of the player. In truth, Joe signed to play for the Twins organization. His future is not at catcher, at least not after another year or so of him aging and the nagging injuries catching up with him.
2) The swing, though coming around (a nice double last night), is embarrassing. Mauer arrived unable to hit major league pitching, likely as a result of hitting pitches from 18 year old kids in Ft. Myers, 1 % of whom actually have what it takes to someday set foot on a major league field. And it's not like he exactly tore it up there!
3) Mauer was ill-prepared to play for the Twins because he did not travel to AAA Rochester as part of his rehab assignment. We will never know the precise details of what happened, but suffice it to say that, though Gardy thought Mauer could benefit from a stop in NY, Mauer thought he was ready to return. You don't go from hitting off of kids in Florida, to ready to face Tim Lincecum (thankfully Joe took that day off) without something in-between.
4) Jim Souhan at the Star Tribune really, really ripped into Mauer yesterday. It was an interesting piece, worth reading if you haven't already. I like about half of what Souhan writes. He always has an honest take, but it is sometimes too know-it-all-ish for me. This article was interesting, however, because it was the biggest beating I have seen Mauer take in the printed local press. Suffice it to say that Souhan probably won't be getting any more exclusives from Mauer for some time. The only part I really disagreed with was when Souhan attacked Mauer for not having taken grounders at first yet. In defense of Mauer and the Twins, he had been back only 1 week. Sure enough, he did indeed practice at first base yesterday prior to the Dodgers-Twins game. A result of the Souhan article? I'd like to think not.
5) Damage Control: What can the Twins and Mauer do to repair some of the perceived damage both parties have suffered?? First, Mauer can start to play well. Second, he can DH or play first base on some of the day games following a night game. We need him in the lineup 85% of the time if this team is going to even play .500 baseball (this is assuming he begins to produce). Third, enough with all the endorsements, Joe. Sure, do a few spots here and there in the offseason, but you will not be taking home any hardware this year, and you certainly don't need the extra income, so there's really no reason to over-promote your image. Finally, just be a normal Twins player in the offseason - - lead some charity events, rest up and prepare for 2012. We have learned that an image that took a decade to create can be partially, perhaps irreparably, wounded, in the span of only a few months.