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.
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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.
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.
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.