Friday, September 28, 2012

This One Means More To Mauer

Entering today, Joe Mauer (.323) trails Detroit's Miguel Cabrera (.326) by three points in the race for the American League batting title. Cabrera is also in the hunt for the AL's triple crown award (42 HR-2nd to Hamilton with 43, and 133 RBI-1st in AL), which has not been won since Carl Yaztremski did it in 1967. Adding fuel to this fight is the fact the Twins and Tigers open up a three game series at Target Field tonight, before beginning their teams respective final series of the season on Monday.

If Mauer were to overtake Cabrera and win the batting title, it would be the fourth time in his career he finishes leading the AL in batting (A ridiculous number for any catcher). But yet, he still takes heavy scrutiny from an angry fan base (Probably due in larger part to consecutive 90+ loss seasons). And that is why, this batting title, would mean much more to Mauer, than his previous three.

Looking at each of his titles respectively, there are several cases to make for each of them as why they are the best. In 2006, Mauer hit .347, giving him his first title, helping lead the Twins on a miraculous 4 month surge to a 96 win season and the Central division championship. 2008, he hit .328 and was a part of a resurgent Twins team, that was expected to finish last, that went to a game 163 against Chicago. Then came his finest season as a pro, in 2009. Mauer missed all of April with an injury, then came back and lead the AL in average (.365), OBP (.444), slugging percentage (.587), and OPS (1.031), while hitting a career high 28 home runs and 96 RBI. Mauer received 27 out of 28 first place votes in the MVP voting, giving him the award easily.

After a decent 2010, Mauer saw injuries destroy his 2011 season (just 82 games played, only hit .287). 2011 was also the first year of his new 8 year, $184 million contract, and most fans came down hard on Mauer. He was viewed as soft, and some believed he wasn't really hurt at all and that he just wanted to sit on the bench. Even when he tried playing late in 2011, he received jeers from the home crowd whenever he would get out, instead of getting on base. Not exactly how a fan base should be treating the face of the franchise.

Then came 2012. Mauer set out to stay in the lineup as constantly as possible, and hit what he should be hitting. But early on in the year, Mauer still received the same jeers he was getting in 2011, when he would ground into a double play, or would have an 0 for 4 night. But as the year went on, he silence those jeers by playing everyday and staying near the top of the AL batting charts. And now, he finds himself in a position to set a career high in games played (146-2008, he has played in 141 games in 2012 with 6 games left), and win his 4th batting title.

And should Mauer win the title this year, it would mean more to him, than his previous three. He will have silenced his critics once again. He will prove to the fans he is worth what the Twins are paying him, while setting himself as one of the best players in team history. And, he will prove his status as one of the best hitting catchers in baseball history.

Win this one for yourself, Joe. You've earned it. And, you most definitely deserve it.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Podcast Time

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of being on the Talk To Contact Podcast with Eric (Knuckleballs blog), and Paul (Puckett's Pond blog). We talked about how good Joe Mauer has been this year and the Twins ranking in ESPN's ultimate standings.

(You may find my segment beginning at the 30:00 minute mark, but I encourage you to listen to the entire podcast)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Twins Rank 83rd In Ultimate Standings

Yesterday, ESPN released its annual ultimate standings for 2012. The "Ultimate Standings", are an in depth ranking of all 122 professional sports teams between the four major sports (MLB, NBA, NFL, and NHL).

The rankings take into account the following factors: Bang for the Buck, Fan Relations, Ownership, Affordability, Stadium Experience, Players, Coaching, and Title Track.

The Twins came in 83rd (2nd out of the 4 Minnesota professional sports teams. Timberwolves-71st, Wild-87th, and Vikings-100th) out of the 122 teams. In the 2011 rankings, the Twins ranked 39th out of all 122 teams. And unless the on field product can get better, they may be here for another year or two.

The team factors were rated as follows (They too are ranked out of all 122 teams):
Bang for the Buck: 106
Fan Relations: 69
Ownership: 82
Affordability: 69
Stadium Experience: 13
Players: 94
Coaching: 76
Title Track: 56

On, you can view each team individually, and it gives you their rankings, and a explanation about their ranking. Ross Marrinson of ESPN offered the following on the Twins ranking: "After a dreadful 63-99 season in 2011 that saw local media stations cheering on the Minnesota Twins' "Hunt for a Hundred" (losses), our poll told the same tale: an average drop of 193 percent across the nine categories, including six drops of 30 spots or more. Watching a Triple-A lineup of Delmon Young, Alexi Casilla, Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Drew Butera only fueled fans' frustration with Justin Morneau, who was still suffering the lingering effects of his July 2010 concussion, and Joe Mauer, who, after signing his eight-year, $184 million deal, was sidelined with what the organization famously called "bi-lateral leg weakness." After a ranking of 15th overall in 2011, the Twins' players category fell 79 spots to 94th, ranking 26th in baseball. With an average ticket price of $33.04 -- more than 20 percent higher than MLB's mean -- the Twins' bang for the buck, already poor in 2011 (91), fell to 106th. Target Field is gorgeous, and fans seem to enjoy the game experience -- the Twins' stadium rating is 13th overall -- but it's a case of putting lipstick on a pig."

I do agree with the rankings and his explanation. The Twins do have some very cheap ticket options, but if you wish to have good seats at Target Field, you have to pay a rather steep price. I was surprised that they ranked the Twins title track at 56. It would seem that 2013 would be tabbed as a rebuilding year, in the hopes that the ship can be righted in 2014. But that is a big IF because not many key players are under contract through 2014 (Joe Mauer, Josh Willingham, Denard Span, and Glen Perkins are the only players locked in for the 2014 season).

The Twins are pretty well summed up here in these rankings. What does the rest of Twins Territory think?