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Minnesota Twins’ Joe Mauer Reminds Us How Historically Great He Is

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Minnesota Twins’ Joe Mauer Reminds Us How Historically Great He Is
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Twins catcher Joe Mauer is one of the team's all-time great hitters.

COMMENTARY | Sometimes when fans watch a great player all the time, it can be easy to start taking him for granted.

We sometimes forget how great a player is when even the best players go through a slump and are held to just a mediocre performance, even though this is as good or better than what most players do most of the time.

For example, when a great running back is held to "only" 100 yards rushing in a game. Or a great pitcher "only" pitching the minimum for a quality start. Or a great hitter "only" getting a single and a walk in five plate appearances in one game.

However, the truly great players will eventually have a performance to remind us just how great they are. Such was the case for the Minnesota Twins' Joe Mauer on Wednesday, August 14 against the Cleveland Indians.

Mauer had a historic performance by getting five hits in the game. After getting four singles in the first nine innings, he made it a truly great performance by hitting a game-tying home run in the 10th inning. He could have made it a truly epic performance when he came to the plate in the 12th inning as the tying run, but he struck out to end the game.

This was just the 15th time in Twins history that a player got at least five hits with at least one home run. Mauer is the first Twins player to do it since Mauer himself did it in July of 2010. The only other Twins players to do it twice in their careers were Jacque Jones and Kirby Puckett. Hall of Famer Rod Carew never did i, and Harmon Killebrew did it once for the Twins in the team's inaugural season.

The last Twin to get five hits and homer in extra innings was Justin Morneau in August 2008 against the Detroit Tigers.

The five-hit game was the fifth of Mauer's career. The Twins' record is six times by Puckett. Carew is the only other Twins player to do it five times. The major-league record is 11 times by Hall of Famer Ty Cobb. The New York Yankees' Ichiro Suzuki is the only active player to have done it more times than Mauer with seven.

Mauer was the catcher in all five of his five-hit games, which makes them all the more remarkable. Ernie Lombardi, a Hall of Fame catcher with two batting titles, is the only player to have more five-hit games as a catcher. Lombardi did it six times.

Only two other times in Twins history has a catcher had five hits in a game. Greg Myers did it in 1996, and John Roseboro did it in 1968.

Mauer's great performance also put him in select company for his career. It gave him 5 WAR on the season in Baseball-Reference's WAR statistic. Mauer could possibly finish the season with less than 5 WAR, but it would take probably the worst six weeks of his career to do it. So, barring a historic slump, this would be the fifth time he has had at least 5 WAR in a season.

To put that in perspective, only 20 other position players in Twins history have had one season of 5 WAR, and none of them were catchers. Only seven other players have done it more than once. Carew is the only player to do it in more than five seasons. He did it seven times. Tony Oliva is the only other Twins player to do it five times.

In baseball history, the only other catchers to have at least five seasons of 5 WAR are all either in the Hall of Fame or will soon be voted in, in the next few years. They include Gary Carter, Johnny Bench, Mike Piazza, Ivan Rodriguez and Mickey Cochrane. Carter and Bench have the record for catchers with eight seasons each.

FanGraphs.com also estimates the dollar value of a player. Mauer has drawn criticism in recent years because many fans feel he isn't worth the $23 million per year he has been getting since 2011. However, FanGraphs estimates Mauer has been worth $22.8 million so far this year while he has been paid just over $17 million.

That is a 32-percent return on investment. Even the late Carl Pohlad, a former banker and Twins owner, would be pleased with that return.

Darin McGilvra has been a professional sportswriter since 1997 and has been a Twins follower since Kirby Puckett's breakout season of 1986. He has been published in The Californian, a newspaper covering Riverside County, and numerous other websites.

Follow Darin on Twitter at @SoCalTwinsfan.

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