The Minnesota Twins and Joe Mauer finally made the difficult decision this off-season to move their franchise player out from behind the plate to first base full time.
At issue was Mauer’s health and the team’s need to keep him on the field. In a vacuum that makes this position switch seem like a no-brainer. It’s more complicated than that, though. For one thing Mauer was an elite defensive catcher. For another thing, he was bummed out about the fact he had to move (quotes from ESPN.com):
When it finally hit me in the offseason, when I realized I just couldn’t do it, it was pretty emotional…I’ve put in a lot of work to become the catcher that I was. So it’s definitely disappointing, just how it all unfolded.
I mean, we wouldn’t be having this conversation…if I didn’t have that concussion last year.”
The concussion was the tipping point, of course, but this conversation was still coming eventually due to some leg issues Mauer dealt with in the past. Of particular concern was a stint in which he missed time with an ambiguous “leg fatigue” diagnosis.
It’s never a bad thing to take a step back and note that these guys are human beings. So yes, Mauer is a rich man who needed to make this switch, but think about all the time he has put into being a catcher over the course of his life. To stop catching has to be odd and upsetting. It’s OK to take a moment to feel sorry for the guy before turning the discussion to what he’ll have to do to re-establish his value as a first baseman.