MINNEAPOLIS — Major League Baseball made Minnesota Twins star Joe Mauer an official ambassador for the 85th All-Star game back in April. As with David Wright of the Mets a year ago and others before, the league probably figured Mauer would play at Target Field in front of the home crowd. It didn't work out.
Because of injuries, bad luck and (possibly) a position switch from catcher to first base, Mauer is having the worst season of his career. He's batting .271 with a .695 OPS, many leagues below his career mark of .873 coming into the season. Mauer didn't come anywhere close to making the American League squad, and nobody has a credible argument to say he should have. And yet, it feels like he should be on the roster with the game here.
"Joe knows he didn't have an All-Star first half," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's going to keep working, but he knows the first half didn't go how he wanted, or how anyone wanted."
Some fans at Target Field have even taken to booing Mauer, a shocker considering he grew up in the Twin Cities. But once you sign a $184 million contract, and the team is mediocre at best, you go from being the boy next door to that bum who's not carrying his share. The press has even quoted Mauer's grandfather, Jake Mauer, as saying he doesn't blame the people who are unhappy. Well, you can see where Joe gets his even keel. (But, geez, grandpa!)
No matter that he's not playing, Mauer has been at Target Field for the past couple of days and around town doing his ambassador duties. He threw out a first pitch before the Home Run Derby on Monday, and Tuesday he helped to present a cake to commissioner Bud Selig, who is retiring after the season.
Joe Mauer, six-time All-Star: Reduced to cake delivery. (No offense to cake delivery people.)
Mauer's comments about not playing (via Minneapolis Star-Tribune) are pretty dry:
“A lot of things happened along the way and it just didn’t work out for me this year. Right now I have to concentrate on trying to get back and helping our team win but, No. 1, I have to get healthy. This year it didn’t work for me, but I’m going to be cheering for my teammates."
Teammate Glen Perkins, playing in his second All-Star game and first in his hometown, says Mauer has caught some tough breaks.
"I think everyone wanted him to be a part of it," Perkins said. "He didn’t do what he wanted to do on the field and then getting hurt, too, didn’t help. He was starting to swing it pretty good and then he got this oblique [strain]. I wanted him here. I think everyone did."
Another teammate, catcher Kurt Suzuki, has been impressed with how Mauer has handled the adversity.
"He’s definitely a professional," Suzuki said. "I’ve got a lot of respect for Joe. I’ve said this all season: I’ve never seen someone hit balls that hard on a consistent basis and not get any hits out of it. The [defensive] shift and everything just kind of kills him. It’s pretty unbelievable. You come back in September and talk to Joe, I guarantee you, he'll be hitting."
You would have thought Mauer playing in the All-Star game at Target Field would have been a guarantee, as well. Joe Mauer is supposed to be able to have his cake and eat it, too.
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