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Monday, February 20, 2012

Jim Souhan: Hack Job

This is one of the times when it's really nice to have your own voice in the blogging community, completely independent of affiliated media, such as the Star Tribune or Pioneer Press, or the actual organization that I blog about, the Minnesota Twins. Within reason, and hopefully with some degree of accuracy, I can say exactly what I think, and know that, in reality, only a couple hundred people will read it anyway.

Yesterday, I read Star Tribune columnist Jim Souhan's article, "Clueless Joe not Cutting it Anymore." If, by chance, you haven't read it, I would recommend doing so before you continue reading this post: I don't want my personal opinion to unnecessarily color your perception of Souhan's column.

OK, did you read it? Great. I'll continue, then.

It's no secret that Souhan hasn't exactly been in Joe's corner for some time now. Especially as Mauer combated physical injuries last season, as well as a blow to his public perception -- mostly a result of the confusing diagnosis of "bilateral leg weakness -- Souhan was pretty quick to take Mauer to task. And some of that criticism was very warranted. Mauer now admits that he should have been more up front last season with the media and the fans. I think it was foolish of Mauer to isolate himself from his teammates, and to isolate himself from the media. That's why rumors started that Joe had Lyme's Disease. Joe is a smart enough guy: I'm pretty confident that he has learned from his mistakes, and we've already seen more media accessibility this offseason from Mauer, assuring fans that he is 100% healthy and ready to go. Will Joe ever be the clubhouse leader that Michael Cuddyer or Torii Hunter was? Maybe not. But can he, in his own way, assume a powerful veteran leadership presence? Absolutely. And as fans, we don't know that he hasn't, or that his leadership style is unsuccessful.

Here are a couple snippets from Souhan's article: "Whether Mauer had anything to do with their mindsets or not is difficult to ascertain, but Joe Nathan and Michael Cuddyer, two long-term Twins who had spoken of wanting to end their careers in Minnesota, left in free agency . . . ." Yes, Jim, Joe Mauer shared responsibility for Cuddyer taking a considerably better offer than what the Twins made, and was also culpable for the fact that Joe Nathan wanted to pitch for a team that has been in back-to-back World Series (not to mention the fact that there's no guarantee that the Nathan of 2012 will be nearly as good as the Nathan of 2004-2009), as opposed for a team that just lost 99 games and filled their closer role for under $5 million -- considerably less than what Nathan agreed to with the Rangers.

"In the past six months, I've spoken with dozens of key people working at all levels of the Twins organization about Mauer. Most expressed disgust or dismay over the way he conducted himself last season." Ah yes, anonymous sources. I get that people in organizations that say scintillating things to journalists concerning their employer need to be protected, but I find it hard to believe that there are literally "dozens" of dissenters in the Twins organization that were literally champing at the bit waiting to talk to Jim Souhan about a private employment matter. Like any journalist, I'm sure that Souhan has his trusted and reliable sources, but this, Jim, sounds like a witch hunt.

Here's what I know: Joe Mauer has been the Twins' best player nearly every season he has suited up for them. No matter how you measure it -- Wins Above Replacement, Batting Average, On-Base Percentage, Batting Titles, Gold Gloves -- he's already approaching some all-time lists for the Twins. Mauer and his handlers made a pretty big error last season in the way that they skirted the media and the public in the face of his mysterious injuries. Most of the content in Souhan's piece has already been hashed and rehashed again, by Souhan and almost every other baseball writer, professional and blogger, in Minnesota (including myself, I'm sure). Mauer's 2011 was a big mistake, and I'm willing to bet that it won't happen again. For whatever reason, Souhan really has it out for Mauer. Perhaps things happened behind the scenes that soured Souhan? I know that Jim Souhan gets paid to write opinion pieces, and sometimes I enjoy his columns -- and I also think that Souhan is right when he essentially says that Mauer needs to step it up this year. But, as we hit Spring Training, and as we have been told and retold that Mauer is 100 % healthy, I find that it's tough not to be at least a little optimistic (or simply excited to see live baseball again), Souhan comes off as a Scrooge. Jim Scroogehan.


  1. I found the timing of the piece to be curious. I don't know if Souhan was concerned that Mauer actually did get a clue and so he (Souhan) wouldn't be able to print the same (or almost the same) column at a later date OR if someone in the front office really was sending a message to Mauer OR if he just needed to write something that would generate a lot of comments.

    I'll admit that I have never been as big a Mauer fan as many Twins fans and I am anxious to see if he learned anything from last year.

    I know that it may be difficult for Mauer to step outside his comfort zone but he has 184 million reasons (plus endorsement money) to push his boundaries.

    1. Thanks for the comment, and great point about the timing. Perhaps that's what rubbed me the wrong way about his piece -- I kind of thought that we were past seeing these pieces, but I guess not.

      And rest assured, there is a place on this blog for those are not big Mauer fans. Admittedly, although I would probably classify myself as too much of a Mauer apologist, he lost luster for me last year, and it's going to take a great season for him (as well as evidence of some kind of leadership) to redeem himself.

  2. It's nice when smarter people than I, make the point I want to make more eloquently than I can, before I do.

    I did want to add this: my father-in-law is fond of saying that this is the year when Mauer makes clear whether he wants to be satisfied with being a good (well-paid) player, or try to turn himself into a potentially legendary player. I can't see him (or his family/support system) allowing him to settle for being "good".

    Of course that kind of article won't help Jimmy McWhinesAlot get attention...

    1. Thanks for the comment. I agree with your father-in-law -- something needs to be different this year. Mauer has excelled at every level along the way, and hopefully he can have a big, big year in 2012. And I'm sure his ego (yes, he has one) misses the days in 2009 when he was the lead story on SportsCenter.

  3. I have been bed up with Souhan since his Slowey remarks so I just ignore him now.

    I think that it is attention-seeking behavior.

    Just too few hours in the day and reading Souhan's gargage is just not on the list for me any more :)

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