StaTuesday: Mauer closing in on Twins’ hits record

It’s a headline that once seemed inevitable, but became less of a certainty as he struggled through concussions and assorted injuries: Joe Mauer has passed Rod Carew on the Minnesota Twins‘ all-time hits list.

He got there Friday, smacking a single at Target Field a few months after reaching 2,000 in similar fashion. Already the Twins’ all-time leader in doubles, Mauer is also just one run scored away from 1,000.

A few games later, Mauer is sitting at 2,089 career hits, good enough for second on the Twins’ all-time list, right between a pair of Hall of Famers: Carew and Kirby Puckett.

Player Career H BA G AB R 2B 3B HR RBI
Kirby Puckett 1984-95 2304 .318 1783 7244 1071 414 57 207 1085
Joe Mauer 2004- 2089 .306 1829 6818 999 420 30 142 914
Rod Carew 1967-78 2085 .334 1635 6235 950 305 90 74 733
Tony Oliva 1962-76 1917 .304 1676 6301 870 329 48 220 947
Kent Hrbek 1981-94 1749 .282 1747 6192 903 312 18 293 1086
Harmon Killebrew 1961-74 1713 .226 1939 6593 1047 232 21 475 1325
Torii Hunter 1997-2015 1343 .268 1373 5013 739 281 26 214 792
Justin Morneau 2003-13 1318 .278 1278 4749 669 289 16 221 860
Gary Gaetti 1981-90 1276 .256 1361 4989 646 252 25 201 758
Chuck Knoblauch 1991-97 1197 .304 1013 3939 713 210 51 43 391

The franchise list — remember, the Twins were once the Washington Senators, who relocated to Minnesota in 1961 — looks a little different.

Hall of Fame right fielder Sam Rice, who played from 1915-34, is No. 1 with nearly 3,000 hits, followed by Puckett, first baseman Joe Judge and center fielder Clyde Milan.

Player Career H BA G AB R 2B 3B HR RBI
Sam Rice 1915-33 2889 .323 2307 8934 1466 479 183 33 1044
Kirby Puckett 1984-95 2304 .318 1783 7244 1071 414 57 207 1085
Joe Judge 1915-32 2291 .299 2084 7663 1154 421 157 71 1001
Clyde Milan 1907-22 2100 .285 1982 7359 1004 240 105 17 617
Joe Mauer 2004- 2089 .306 1829 6818 999 420 30 142 914
Rod Carew 1967-78 2085 .334 1635 6235 950 305 90 74 733
Harmon Killebrew 1954-74 2024 .258 2329 7835 1258 277 24 559 1540
Mickey Vernon 1939-55 1993 .288 1805 6930 956 391 108 121 1026
Tony Oliva 1962-76 1917 .304 1676 6301 870 329 48 220 947
Buddy Myer 1925-41 1828 .303 1643 6033 1037 305 113 35 757

Puckett is within reach. Mauer had 160 hits last season, and has 103 in 98 games this year. A couple more seasons at that pace would be enough to catch him.

But with his famous contract, a $184 million deal signed on March 22, 2010, set to expire this winter, Mauer’s future is an open question.

He remains productive. Mauer has been a reliable contributor this season, providing solid defense at first base while hitting .275, second on the team, with 19 doubles and five home runs.

However, there’s a lot at play here: Mauer will be 36 next season, and missed time while suffering from concussion-like symptoms earlier this summer. Retirement, it would seem, is possibly on the table.

He reportedly cleared waivers earlier this month, freeing the Twins up to deal him to a contender. Any such trade would require Mauer’s approval.

But regardless of whether or not he sticks around to claim the No. 1 spot, those numbers will always bring to mind the Mauer that was. The venerable St. Paul native, before concussions and other injuries forced his move to first base, was once among the best catchers of his era.

It doesn’t take much to imagine that that Mauer — the Mauer who hit .323 from 2006-13, won three straight Silver Slugger awards and the 2009 AL MVP — would have passed Puckett comfortably after 15 seasons.

His 162-game averages bear this out: Mauer has never played more than 158 games in a single season, but has averaged 185 hits per 162 games in his career.

Some back-of-the-envelope math tells the rest of the story: even setting aside his brief rookie year (Mauer played just 35 games in 2004, but had 33 hits), that’d be 2,590 hits in 14 seasons.

We’d be counting down to 3,000.