Joe Mauer is retiring after 15 seasons with the Twins

Mauer’s is a great story in many ways, and it’s nice to write about something positive.

The 6’5″ Mauer was arguably the best high school multi-sport athlete in history. In 2000, he was USA Today’s high school player of the year – in football. He repeated as the player of the year in 2001 – but this time for baseball. Oh, yeah, and he was also all-state in basketball.

He was the MLB #1 draft pick overall. That’s not surprising, given that he batted above .600 in his senior year of high school, which was completely expected because he had never dipped below .542 in any previous season. Hell, he had batted over .500 with no strike-outs as a freshman, while playing against the big kids. In his four years of high-school baseball, he struck out only once!

He spent his entire major league career with the same team. As ESPN notes: “He is one of 22 former MVPs to play his entire 15-plus-year career with one franchise. Each of the previous 21 is in the Hall of Fame.”

But it was not just any team that he dedicated his entire career to. What makes the story really great is that it was his home-town team. The only city where he ever played major league baseball was the very same one where he was a high school phenom. In fact, he was born in the twin cities and never left home.

A quick summary of his achievements in pro baseball:

He is one of the best offensive catchers in baseball history, and won three gold gloves on defense as well.

He won three batting championships en route to a .306 lifetime average, but as high as that is, it is deceptively low. According to baseball-reference.com, he batted .328 lifetime in games he played as a catcher. (He stopped playing that dangerous and demanding position after a serious injury.)  Among all catchers with 3000 or more at bats, that is the highest lifetime batting average in baseball history.

The top five:

Joe Mauer .328
Mickey Cochrane .320
Mike Piazza .313
Bill Dickey .313
Ernie Lombardi .308

In his MVP year, 2009, Mauer may have had the best offensive year any catcher ever had. He led the American League in both on-base percentage and slugging average, and got 27 of the 28 votes in the MVP balloting. To put that in perspective: Mike Piazza, who is generally considered the best offensive catcher in MLB history, never led his league in either OBP or SLG, but Mauer led in both in the same year, and also led in OBP in another year,

5 thoughts on “Joe Mauer is retiring after 15 seasons with the Twins

  1. The only other modern era high school athlete I can think of who might have been a better all around athlete was Danny Ainge who settled on pro basketball. Ainge is the only person to be a high school first team All-American in football, basketball, and baseball.

    1. True enough, but if you think Ainge was a great athlete, you’re better off not having seen him try to hit a baseball. His lack of power was matched only by his lack of contact.

      His development story was unusual. Although he showed no signs of being able to hit AAA pitching, he was nonetheless lifted to the majors. You’d think they would realize that a guy hitting .237 with no power in Syracuse, despite trying for three years without improvement, was not going to suddenly tear up the majors. I guess it was a Tebow thing – use his fame as a student athlete to put butts in the seats (???)

      But there’s a big difference (besides their ages when they started playing): while Tebow has kept improving, Ainge actually declined from year to year. He hit better in Syracuse in 1979 than he did in 1980, and he hit better in Toronto in 1980 than he did in 1981.

      Although I have to admit his 1982 season was better than 1981, but only because he didn’t play, thus raising his WAR to zero!

      He was pretty versatile. He played six different positions in his brief MLB career, and almost managed to grow a mustache.

  2. Yeah living in Utah I saw all the news about him. I don’t know if it was sort of a Bo Jackson allure to having him play two pro sports. There is a probably apocryphal story about Toronto fans throwing basketballs out to him at 3B. Not a bad pro basketball career and of course always will be remembered for “the drive” https://youtu.be/oWdQ6IClxTc

  3. Anybody who can last all those years in pro hoops has to be pretty effin’ good. In the years when he was a full-timer, he was a darned good contributor in the NBA. Those were some great Celtic teams in the mid-80s, and he was good enough to be a starter. Most of us would give up 20 years of life to have had his NBA career.

    Although if I made the trade I wouldn’t want his reputation, just his ability. He wasn’t the most lovable guy.

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