Joe Mauer may retire after the season

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The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that Twins first baseman Joe Mauer is considering retirement. He has not made up his mind one way or the other and won’t until the offseason, but it’s on his mind. Mauer:

“There’s a lot that goes into it than just, ‘Do you want to play?’  . . . I owe it to myself and my family to sit down and think about those things . . . I have had some conversations with some people close to me and it’s amazing . . . I still have a lot to think about. I still have people who I want to speak to.”

Mauer is in the final year of an eight-year, $184 million contract he signed before the 2010 season, and which did not go into effect until the year after that. At the time he signed that deal Mauer was coming off of an MVP season in which he led the league in batting, on-base percentage and slugging while playing Gold Glove defense as a catcher and had two other batting titles — in 2006 and 2008 — under his belt. He continued playing at a superior level behind the plate in 2010, but just as the contract kicked in in 2011, fate changed the course of his seemingly sure-thing Hall of Fame trajectory.

The first problem was with his knees, which required surgery in the 2010-11 offseason and which continued to cause him complications into 2011, costing him half the season. That, combined with a bout of pneumonia led to 2011 being his worst season up to that point and caused some to begin to question that big deal he received.

Mauer rebounded in 2012, making the All-Star team and once again leading the league in on-base percentage while playing in 147 games. Things would only get worse after that, however. In August 2013 Mauer suffered a concussion on a foul tip that ended both his season and his career as a catcher. Mauer would go on to suffer blurred vision and other concussion-related symptoms for years, substantially affecting his play.

Despite how serious concussions have proven to be for athletes, despite how a concussion had already derailed the career of teammate Justin Morneau, and despite the fact that the Twins themselves clearly acknowledged how serious Mauer’s situation was by moving him to first base after the season, certain segments of the Minnesota press and fan base turned on Mauer. They called him “brittle” and overpaid. Some even doubted Mauer’s symptoms. To this day, certain Twins fans think of Mauer’s salary first and foremost when they consider him and don’t seem to acknowledge just how good, and often great, a player Mauer has been in a Twins uniform.

Despite that, Mauer has continued to play and, at times, play quite well even if he’s not what the Twins envisioned for the second half of his career when they signed him to that extension. His power has basically disappeared but he still gets on base at a respectable rate. He’s no longer the sort of player whose team could go far if he is its best player, but he has the profile of a guy who, if he was not making $23 million a year, might complement a winner quite nicely. The Yankees, for example, have a long and rich history of picking up high-OBP types with a ton of experience and character toward the end of their careers to help them push towards the World Series.

Whether that’s the sort of thing Mauer is interested in doing at his age — he turns 36 early next season, has twin girls and a baby on the way — is an open question. The Twins, for their part, say they are willing to let Mauer take his time to figure out what he wants to do this offseason and have singled their willingness to bring him back at, obviously, a reduced salary. If he does want to play and the Twins don’t bite, there are likely other teams who would bring him in on a short term deal.

It’s all up to him, really. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Cards’ Pujols hits 700th career home run, 4th to reach mark

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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LOS ANGELES – St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols hit his 700th career home run on Friday night, connecting for his second drive of the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers and becoming the fourth player to reach the milestone in major league history.

The 42-year-old Pujols hit No. 699 in the third inning, then launched No. 700 in the fourth at Dodger Stadium.

With the drive in the final days of his last big league season, Pujols joined Barry Bonds (762 homers), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) in one of baseball’s most exclusive clubs.

It’s been a remarkable run for Pujols. This was his 14th home run since the start of August for the NL Central-leading Cardinals, and his 21st of the season.

Pujols’ historic homer was a three-run shot against Dodgers reliever Phil Bickford. The ball landed in the first few rows of the left-field pavilion, the same location his two-run shot touched down the previous inning off left-hander Andrew Heaney.

Pujols received a prolonged standing ovation from the crowd – he finished out last season while playing for the Dodgers. He took a curtain call, raising his cap in acknowledgment.

The fans chanted “Pujols! Pujols!” They finally sat down after being on their feet in anticipation of seeing history.

Pujols snapped a tie with Alex Rodriguez for fourth on the list when he hit career homer No. 697 against Pittsburgh on Sept. 11.

Reaching 700 homers seemed like a long shot for Pujols when he was batting .189 on July 4. But the three-time NL MVP started to find his stroke in August, swatting seven homers in one 10-game stretch that helped St. Louis pull away in the division race.

“I know that early in the year … I obviously wanted better results,” Pujols said after he homered in a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 22. “But I felt like I was hitting the ball hard. Sometimes this game is going to take more away from you than the game (is) giving you back.

“So I think at the end of the day you have to be positive and just stay focused and trust your work. That’s something that I’ve done all the time.”

Pujols has enjoyed a resurgent season after returning to St. Louis in March for a $2.5 million, one-year contract. It’s his highest total since he hit 23 homers for the Angels in 2019.

He plans to retire when the season ends.

Pujols also began his career in St. Louis. He was selected by the Cardinals in the 13th round of the 1999 amateur draft and won the 2001 NL Rookie of the Year award.

The Dominican Republic native hit at least .300 with at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs in each of his first 10 seasons. He helped the Cardinals to World Series titles in 2006 and 2011.

He set a career high with 49 homers in 2006 – one of seven seasons with at least 40 homers. He led the majors with 47 homers in 2009 and topped the NL with 42 in 2010.

Pujols left St. Louis in free agency in December 2011, signing a $240 million, 10-year contract with the Angels. He was waived by the Angels in May 2021, and then joined the Dodgers and hit 12 homers and drove in 38 runs in 85 games.