There’s still no timetable for Joe Mauer’s return from the leg problems traced back to offseason knee surgery, but manager Ron Gardenhire reiterated yesterday that whenever Mauer does come off the disabled list it will be as the Twins’ catcher.
Ever since Mauer suffered a season-ending knee injury as a rookie in 2004 a certain segment of Twins fans have clamored for a position switch and his latest injury has dramatically increased the number of people who think he’d better off not catching, but so far at least none of the Twins’ decision-makers seem to agree. Here’s Gardenhire:
He signed an eight-year deal to catch in the big leagues for the Minnesota Twins. So we’re trying to get him back as a catcher. If it doesn’t work out when he comes back, then we’re going to have to figure somewhere else. And that’s a lot harder than everybody makes it out to be, because we have some corner people that are pretty good baseball players.
He could play anywhere. He played the infield as a young player. We can make him the tallest shortstop since Cal Ripken. Right now, he’s a catcher, and that’s where he’s going to be until Joe says, “I can’t do it anymore,” or we deem him not physically able to do that. But we believe he is. He just needs to get healthy.
Mauer has repeatedly made it very clear that he intends to remain a catcher long term, but in the short term his stay on the disabled list will be longer because he needs to be game-ready on both sides of the ball and right now he’s been limited to designated hitter duties at extended spring training.
I’ve always felt very strongly that Mauer should remain behind the plate, because as a catcher his bat is Hall of Fame-caliber but as a first baseman or corner outfielder his bat is “only” All-Star-caliber. With that said, obviously an All-Star in the lineup is better than a Hall of Famer on the disabled list, and at some point the injuries may simply force the Twins’ hand. I don’t think we’re quite there yet, though.
Major League Baseball announced on Wednesday that former Red Sox DH David Ortiz and Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant won the 2016 Hank Aaron Award in their respective leagues.
Ortiz, 40, flourished in his final season, batting .315/.401/.620 with 38 home runs and 127 RBI in 626 plate appearances during the regular season. His .620 slugging percentage, 1.021 OPS, and 48 doubles led the majors while his 127 RBI led the American League. Ortiz also won the Hank Aaron Award back in 2005.
Bryant, 24, is the likely winner of the National League Most Valuable Player Award as well. He hit .292/.385/.554 with 39 home runs and 102 RBI over 699 plate appearances. He also led the league by scoring 121 runs. Bryant is the first Cub to win the Hank Aaron Award since Aramis Ramirez in 2008.
Last year’s winners in the AL and NL, respectively, were Josh Donaldson and Bryce Harper.
If you’ve happened to catch any of the coverage of the 2016 postseason on Fox and FS1, you’ve heard former Yankees DH Alex Rodriguez as part of an analyst panel with host Kevin Burkhardt and former major leaguers Pete Rose and Frank Thomas. Rodriguez has drawn rave reviews not just for passing a rather low bar we set for former athletes-turned-commentators, but because he’s adding real insight drawn both from his playing days and from doing research.
Indeed, Rodriguez is taking his new job as an analyst quite seriously, Newsday’s Neil Best reports. Bardia Shah-Rais, the VP of production for Fox, said of Rodriguez, “This is not a hobby for him. It’s not a parachute in. He’s invested. If we have a noon meeting, he’s there at 11:30 a.m. He’s emailing story ideas in the morning. He wants research. He’s almost all-in to the point where it’s annoying.”
Rose also praised Rodriguez, saying, “You’ve never been around a guy who prepares more than Alex does. Alex does his homework. He knows the game. He understands players. He’s into the deal . . . Frank does a great job in preparation, too. I’m the only one that don’t prepare as much as these two guys. I don’t know if that’s because I can’t write or what it is. But these guys do their homework and they ask questions and they ask the right questions and then you put that in with our experience, all the things we’ve been through and how good we get along with each other, that’s why it shows up on the TV.”
Rodriguez, who hasn’t officially retired despite not having played since the Yankees released him in mid-August, wouldn’t commit to more TV work beyond this year’s postseason.