Newspaper columnist ignores Joe Mauer’s brain injury, calls him a wimp, says he should catch again

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I want to make you aware of one of the worst “hot takes” I’ve ever seen, but first some background information just so we’re all on the same page.

Joe Mauer spent a decade as a catcher, winning three batting titles and one MVP while making six All-Star teams and snagging three Gold Gloves. Then in August of last season he suffered a concussion from a foul tip to the mask, the symptoms for which remained months later and forced him to move from catcher to first base at age 31.

And now, following an underwhelming first season at first base for Mauer, newspaper columnist Bob Sansevere of the St. Paul Pioneer Press wrote something that has me shaking my head after nearly every sentence. Let’s go through it:

What will the Twins’ next manager do about Joe Mauer? Here’s a thought: Let him catch again.

Reminder: He stopped catching last season because of a brain injury.

The reason he was told to pack away his catcher’s mitt was because he kept getting hurt and there was a belief sticking him at first and having him DH would mean fewer injuries and more games played.

To write “he kept getting hurt” without mentioning the specific injury that forced the position change was to Mauer’s brain and was caused by catching seems misleading at best. An alarming number of catchers across baseball have unfortunately also suffered brain injuries caused by catching in recent years.

Well … Mauer played in 113 games and had 445 at bats while still a catcher in 2013. This season, no longer catching, he played in 120 games and had 455 at bats. Yep, a difference of seven games and 10 at bats.

He did manage to avoid another brain injury, which was the entire point. The fact that Mauer spent time on the disabled list with a strained oblique muscle–also an increasingly common injury across baseball in recent years–is secondary to his avoiding further trauma to his brain.

Face it, the guy is brittle wherever you play him. So why not let him play where he’s happiest? Maybe he’ll get his batting average back over .300 if he’s not in sulk mode.

Because he suffered a brain injury while catching and catching puts him at further risk to suffer more brain injuries. And perhaps Mauer had a hard time getting his batting average to its usual mark because he suffered a brain injury last season and dealt with headaches, mood swings, sensitivity to light, and other symptoms for months. Twins fans watched a concussion nearly ruin Justin Morneau’s entire career. Also, “sulk mode” is made-up garbage.

As for current catcher Kurt Suzuki, give him a first baseman’s glove and he can rotate between first and DH with Kennys Vargas when Mauer is catching. Or just sit Suzuki when Mauer catches.

So, to recap: Sansevere wants to move Mauer from first base/designated hitter to catcher and move the current catcher, Kurt Suzuki, to first base/designated hitter. What would that accomplish, exactly? They’d both still be in the lineup taking up the same two positions. And the one with previous brain trauma would be at the more dangerous position.

Bottom line here: The new manager has to stop the Mauer coddling and have him catch again.

Bob Sansevere, veteran, high-profile newspaper columnist and radio host, thinks the Twins were “coddling” a player by moving him away from catcher following a brain injury and thinks moving that same player back to catcher is now the best plan. And he literally never mentions the concussion in the entire column.

Sigh.

UPDATE: Sansevere has now edited the original article in attempt to make it less offensive, adding in several new paragraphs and altering others, but barely notes the changes. One such alteration:

News flash: You can suffer a concussion anywhere on the field, including while playing first base.

Seriously. He added that to the original article.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.