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

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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.

Justin Verlander earns 200th career win

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Astros starter Justin Verlander wasn’t his usual dominant self on Sunday against the Athletics, but he was good enough to get the win. In doing so, he earned the 200th win of his career, becoming the 117th member of the 200-win club.

Verlander went 5 1/3 innings, yielding four runs (all earned) on seven hits and a walk with six strikeouts. On the season, Verlander is now 12-8 with a 2.65 ERA and a 223/29 K/BB ratio in 169 2/3 innings. Sunday’s win helped the Astros stave off the surging A’s. The Astros now have a one-game lead in the AL West.

Only two active pitchers have more wins than Verlander: Bartolo Colon (247) and CC Sabathia (244). Zack Greinke will likely be the next member of the 200-win club as he currently has 184 to his name.