It occurs to me that since I’ve been a little preoccupied with writing about the Cedar Rapids Kernels the past five months, I have written very little about the Minnesota Twins.
Now that the Kernels’ season has come to a close, I’m going to try to remedy that situation and I’m going to begin by posing a question to the Twns’ front office: Why the heck have you not announced that you are shutting Joe Mauer down for the season?
I mean it. Shut Joe Mauer down and do it right frigging now!
I know he wants to play. I know he wants to put on the gear and get behind the plate again this season. I know he doesn’t like sitting and watching his team mates play (and frankly, many days, the rest of us aren’t enjoying it much either).
I don’t care. He is not (or at least he shouldn’t be) the one calling the shots.
Check out these quotes that Star-Tribune beat reporter LaVelle E. Neal III attributed to Mauer in Neal’s blog post Thursday:
“I start feeling symptoms when I start to get my heart rate up,” Mauer said between workouts at Target Field on Thursday.
Mauer is determined to return to the Twins lineup before the end of the regular season – but he has to wait until the symptoms go away for good.
“This process has been a little longer than I hoped,” Mauer said.
Tell me that doesn’t sound like something we might have heard Justin Morneau say during the summer of 2010.
That summer, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com authored a piece on the concussions of Morneau and Jason Bay, and quoted another former member of the Twins, Corey Koskie, extensively. This quote from Koskie should resound with Twins fans who think Mauer should return to the field for any part of what’s left of this third straight lost season:
Koskie doesn’t profess to know everything about concussions, but he’s compiled a list of “do’s” and “don’ts.” He advises any athlete with concussion symptoms to consult a doctor with no vested interest in the player’s return to the field. His blood pressure also spikes when he reads a news story that Player X suffered a “mild” concussion in the line of duty.
“That’s a pet peeve of mine,” Koskie said. “The brain is the most important organ in the body. You’d never hear somebody say, ‘This guy just had a minor heart attack. He should be able to play in two days.’ ”
When Morneau caught a knee to the helmet in Toronto three years ago, he was hitting .345 and had an OPS of 1.055. Last week he was traded for two guys 99% of us had never heard of.
Look, I’ve got plans to attend a Twins game a week from Saturday (assuming I survive the #GrandDrunkRailroad pregame festivities) and I’d like to see Mauer play. I don’t care if he doesn’t hit home runs, I appreciate what he does with a bat and he’s almost certainly going to be enshrined in Cooperstown someday. I want to see him play any chance I can get.
But Justin Morneau’s career path was just as promising as Joe Mauer’s three seasons ago and a concussion that was originally thought to be minor robbed Twins fans of getting to see him at his best in his prime… not to mention robbing us of the opportunity to see what difference he might have made in a couple of Twins’ postseason appearances in 2010 and 2011.
I want to see the Twins improve in 2014 and I want to see them return to contention in 2015 and beyond. The Twins organization has a number of very good prospects who will be arriving by then.
But if prospects like Miguel Sano or Byron Buxton had been concussed with three or four weeks left in their seasons, is there any way the Twins WOULDN’T just shut them down immediately rather than try to get them back on the field for a couple weeks at the end of the season, even if it might involve minor league postseason games?
There is no way they would take that kind of risk with such critical assets.
After all, the chances of the Minnesota Twins returning to relevancy in the next few years depend on a healthy Miguel Sano and a healthy Byron Buxton.
They also depend on a healthy Joe Mauer.
And the remaining games on the Twins’ schedule are every bit as meaningless as minor league games are, at this point. They simply do not matter at all, except for the purpose of evaluating players with an eye toward what, if any, roles they should play on a future Twins roster.
The Twins need to find out if Josmil Pinto and Chris Herrmann can handle catching at the Major League level. They need to find out if Chris Colabello and Chris Parmelee can hit Major League pitching well enough to take over at first base.
There may be a legitimate question as to what position Joe Mauer should play in the future, but there is absolutely no question concerning whether he’ll have a role somewhere – unless he tries to return too soon from his concussion and spends an offseason dealing with symptoms the way Morneau did leading up to 2011.
If the Twins’ brass ask Mauer if he wants to continue to work toward getting back on the field this season, of course he’s going to say, “yes.” He’s a competitor and you would expect no other answer.
That’s why the question shouldn’t even be asked.
The Twins should simply tell Mauer his season is over and he should focus on being ready to take the field when pitchers and catchers report to spring training in February.
Doing otherwise is illogical and perhaps even irresponsible.