Out since Aug. 19 because of a concussion, Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer said Thursday that he is not close to returning to game action. With the Twins long gone from the pennant race, no sense of urgency should pressure Mauer back to the field for the final three weeks of the regular season. And that's a good thing, because concussions are not to be taken lightly.
And yet, some aren't looking at it that way. Mauer, one of the highest-paid players in Major League Baseball at $23 million annually until 2018, finds himself in a no-win situation. Why? Because a growing number of vocal Twins fans think the hometown boy is soft and weak. Blogger Mighty Flynn at It's A Long Season noticed the reaction to the recent Mauer news in the comments section of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. There's not a lot of sympathy:
• "This is why you NEVER agree to a long term HUGE dollar contract with a catcher. He’s been hurt more than he’s been on the field, oh and he can’t hit a HR to save his life any longer!"
• "What a China Doll."
• "Why is it so important to keep him? He is a Florida resident with no desire."
• "Sorry, but given Mauer’s track record with health it’s hard to not be skeptical of his pain tolerance. I know concussions are nothing to mess with, but you lose credibility when you cry wolf over 8+seasons every time you have an ouchie."
Not all of the comments are like that, but the level of derp of amazing, given what happened to Mauer's former teammate, Justin Morneau, in 2010. That injury — which actually had been accumulating over time — took more than a year to heal.
Ignorance abounds, as it can anywhere, but internet comment sections seem particularly vulnerable to it.
But semi-anonymous fans in comment sections aren't the only place Mauer is confronted with complaints. Twitter, sports-talk radio, Twin Cities columnists — even Target Field, where Mauer has been booed at times — seem to be fomenting anti-Mauer sentiment. With people apparently unappreciative of what Mauer does, these are the typical complaints:
• Mauer makes too much money, and the Twins can't afford anyone else.
• Mauer doesn't hit enough home runs or drive in enough runs.
• Mauer misses too many games because he says he's hurt or his legs need to be rested.
• Mauer doesn't live in Minnesota in the offseason anymore.
Even if all of those criticisms were 100 percent valid, it doesn't excuse the lack of common sense, let alone humanity, in criticizing Mauer for not playing with an injured brain. Perhaps the complainers have undiagnosed concussions.