Jeff Passan writes about Joe Mauer "playing through all kinds of pain"

2 Comments

Yahoo! Sports columnist Jeff Passan is one of my favorite writers and Twins catcher Joe Mauer is one of my favorite players, so his piece today entitled “Mauer playing through all kinds of pain” is a must-read:

Joe Mauer is hurt. He smiles through the pain because the unwritten part of a $184 million contract calls for grinning and bearing. He refuses to talk about his injuries because to do so would be to admit they exist, and to do that would seem like an excuse, and if there is anything Joe Mauer hates, it’s excuses. So he plays. “I’m in the lineup,” he said. …

Mauer’s left heel nags him. His right shoulder aches. Two other injuries–his back and his hip, for which the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported he receives treatment–are something neither he nor the organization will address publicly.

On one hand I’m hesitant to post an excerpt like that because it’ll inevitably lead to the usual histrionics about a position switch for the game’s best catcher. On the other hand, Passan is awesome, the column is very good, and I’ve heard rumblings all season about Mauer being more hurt than he’s let on publicly.

It’s easy to focus on the fact that Mauer has lost 200 points of OPS from his MVP-winning campaign, but a dropoff was to be expected following one of the greatest seasons by a catcher in baseball history and his numbers this year are very close to his pre-2009 career marks.

Mauer has been on fire since the All-Star break, raising his season line to .308/.374/.462. Prior to winning the MVP with an out-of-character power display he hit .317/.399/.457. Factor in the move to pitcher-friendly Target Field plus offense being down across baseball this season and those numbers are basically identical.

Mauer’s lack of production has generally been overstated, in no small part because of the timing of winning an MVP with an historic season and then signing a $184 million contract. He’s not hitting like he was last season and injuries may be partly to blame, but he is hitting like he did from 2004-2008 and that still makes Mauer one of the best all-around players in baseball.

Derek Jeter: no longer the media’s darling

Getty Images
1 Comment

There was a time, not too long ago, where the baseball press practically gave Derek Jeter awards for providing them no information whatsoever. As a player, he turned not answering questions into an art form. To the point where, eventually, the press just stopped asking him substantive questions almost entirely.

Unlike a lot of players who shut out the media, Jeter did it rather politely, so he did not get that passive aggressive treatment — or, occasionally, the aggressive-aggressive treatment — the press often gives uncommunicative players. To the contrary. He was positively lauded for his lack of communication. Lionized, even.

Take this column from Jeff Peralman at CNN.com from 2014, under the headline “Derek Jeter: Baseball’s Humble Hero”:

Throughout the first 18 seasons of his career, Jeter has often been labeled “dull” by the media. His answers to questions are unimaginative and full of cliché baseball nothingness blather. In hindsight, however, such lameness is almost to be admired. We live in an era where too many athletes feel as if they need to draw attention to themselves — for confidence, for commercials. If you’re not tweeting trash talk, you’re texting trash talk. Or making bold promises. Or demanding money or respect . . . he’s a guy who merely wanted to be a guy.

How about this from the New York Times around the time of his retirement:

Jeter’s ability to maintain a posture of sustained inscrutability — or, if you must, dignified comportment — has extended especially to the spoken word . . . he has played his best defense in front of his locker: catching every controversial question thrown to him and tossing it aside as if it were a scuffed ball unsuitable for play.

In a major league career that dates to the Clinton administration’s first term — he is the only Yankees shortstop a generation of fans has known — inquiring reporters have gathered around Jeter in the clubhouse thousands of times. He has maintained eye contact, answered nearly every question posed to him — and said nothing. This is not a complaint, but rather an expression of awe; of admiration, even. His batting average and fielding percentage aside, this kid from Kalamazoo, Mich., entered the New York meat grinder two decades ago and came out the other end looking as sharp as Joe DiMaggio’s suit.

This opinion of Jeter was pervasive throughout his career, but especially pronounced at its end of it. Jeter was deified by the press for saying nothing to the press. Praised for making the media’s job harder by the media itself. That’s pretty amazing when you think about it.

Times, however, have changed.

Some minor grumbling about Jeter’s non-answers to media questions began soon after he took over as Marlins co-owner. Ken Davidoff of the New York Post wrote a column about it all back in October, saying Jeter’s “Crash Davis Rules of Media Relations don’t apply anymore.” Not too many people echoed that at the time, probably because it came in the wake of a pretty boring introductory press conference and the stakes were pretty low. I did wonder at the time, though, if the media was waiting to turn on Jeter once he actually started making moves in his new role.

I think we can now say the answer to that is yes.

In the wake of the Giancarlo Stanton trade, a lot of baseball writers had a lot of questions for Derek Jeter. Jeter, however, decided that he didn’t even need to show up here at the Winter Meetings to answer them, despite the fact that he lives just a couple of hours away.

On Monday morning Buster Olney of ESPN made conspicuous note of it:

Later in the day Jeter deigned to talk to the media via a conference call. As usual, he said mostly nothing, but unlike 1997, 2007 or 2014 (a) he got testy about it; and (b) the press made a note of it:

They likewise noted when he passed the buck to someone below him on the org chart:

Last night I think a dam broke, and I don’t think Jeter will ever be able to sweet non-talk his way out criticism again. It all happened at a football game:

To sum up:

  • Jeter is now bad for not talking to the press;
  • Jeter is not lauded for his composure anymore; and
  • Jeter is being called out as a poor leader who does not face the music.

What a difference a few years and a change of role makes.

All of which, one would think, would make me at least a little happy. I mean, I’ll totally own up to rolling my eyes at the kid glove treatment Jeter got back when he played. About how his attributes, however great, were elevated even above their actual greatness and how his faults were, perversely, spun into attributes. You’d expect that, in light of that, I’d be sorta pleased that the tables have turned.

I’m not happy, though. Indeed, I have something approaching sympathy for Captian Jeets.

Why? Because, while I’d like to see him face the press, defend his moves as owner and explain his vision to Marlins fans everywhere, I know that he cannot. I know that he has no good answers to any of the questions he might be asked because the real answer to all of them is “hey, we need to make money for the ownership group and everything flows from that” and that’s not an answer he’s prepared to give.

Have some sympathy for Derek Jeter. He’s really in a tough, tough spot. Even if he put himself into it.