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.
After 18 years, 12 winning seasons, seven postseason runs and three World Championships, Dave Righetti is no longer a pitching coach for the Giants. He was removed from his post on Saturday, when the team announced a few reassignments as they shake up their coaching staff. Heading into the 2018 season, Righetti will serve as special assistant to general manager Bobby Evans, former bullpen coach Mark Gardner will step into a similar special assistant role to “assist in pitching evaluations,” and former assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will take a special assistant role in baseball operations.
According to MLB.com’s Chris Haft, Righetti was the longest-tenured pitching coach in the big leagues. He helped shape the careers of notable Giants’ aces like Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain — all Cy Young contenders (and, in Lincecum’s case, a two-time winner) at various points in their careers. He was there to assist Ryan Vogelsong during his stunning mid-career comeback in San Francisco. He helped newcomers like Chris Stratton and Ty Blach flourish even as the team stumbled to the bottom of the division. He was there to take the credit when a sterling rotation clinched the Giants’ 56-year, drought-snapping championship title in 2010 — and, when things went so horribly south in 2017, he took the blame as well.
Hardly anything went right for the Giants’ pitching staff in 2017. Madison Bumgarner was shelved after sustaining a serious shoulder injury in a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto couldn’t shake a cluster of blisters on his right hand and Mark Melancon found it difficult to justify a $62 million paycheck after pitching through an arm injury to four blown losses/saves and a 4.50 ERA. It would be a lot for any pitching coach to stay on top of, and given the team’s rapid descent from 2016 postseason contenders to last-place finishers in 2017, it’s not surprising that Evans felt the need to switch things up.
Successors have yet to be named for Righetti, Gardner or Decker, though Murray hears that the Giants could have interest in former major league pitching coach Jim Hickey. NBC Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic adds that Evans is searching for someone to “put a new voice” on the pitching staff and will likely target someone who, like Righetti, brings considerable experience to the role.