It's hard to point the finger at one guy for the current 2-0 hole the Twins dug themselves in their best-of-five series with the Bronx bombers, especially when the Twins colossal shortcomings versus the Yankees stem back farther than Asha Mandela's dreads. Joe Mauer is expected to be the team's leader and star player but he has fallen short thus far this postseason.
He was vas very vocal in the clubhouse following Thursday’s 5-2 loss to the Yankees, urging the team not to give up in New York. It was nice to see from the soft-spoken Mauer, who normally is very tight-lipped, but it all just feels like it’s too little, too late for the sound off.
In two games (nine at-bats) the Twins All-Star catcher has produced uninspiring stats. Two singles, zero extra base hits, zero RBI, zero walks and three strikeouts. That's a lot of zeros from a guy who makes a lot of zeros every time he steps into the box. Of course those zeros are preceded by a much larger number.
The guy basically gets paid $50,000 every time he takes his sweet swing into the batter's box (assuming he registers around 500 at-bats in a season). Mind numbing, but that's the price the Twins had to pay to prevent him from running away from home and joining the Yankees or Red Sox.
But lofty expectations often times bring disappointment and Mauer hasn’t lived up to the bill. CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte made him look silly on Wednesday and Thursday. Yes, they are both future Hall-of-Fame lefties and Mauer is also a lefty, but stars are expected to step up and carry their team even when the matchup isn’t in their favor.
Most unflattering are his three strikeouts in two games. Mauer is normally one of the harder batters to strikeout in the league, but that was not the case at Target Field this week. His swings have looked way out-of-whack and he seems like he’s trying to force things too much
And don’t misinterpret, it was a great signing by the Twins to ink Mauer for the long term. A player of his talent and fan attraction is incredibly hard to come across and even harder to let walk while he’s entering the prime of his career.
I didn’t want to bring up the dollars and I hate doing it because I'm obviously a huge Mauer supporter, but what I'm trying to say is the guy is being paid like a star and stars need to step up when their team most needs them.
One can argue he hasn't done squat all season, and it's hard to argue against that when you consider his pay check. Yes, his batting average is comfortably over .300, but his power numbers pale in comparison to some of the other high-paid stars in MLB. Nine homers and 75 RBI are unacceptable for a guy with an annual income of $23 million a season (not including sponsors).
Beyond Mauer, the rest of the lineup has done little to pick up the slack. Six runs in two games against the Yankees will not get it done, regardless how the pitching fairs. Too many runners left on base and not enough clutch hitting has plagued the Twins in the first two games.
Now they head to New York where they simply cannot win. One win from the Twins would defy great odds, but two would be one of the greatest miracles in Twins history.
So it’s not over, but the Yankees pretty much have their spot in the ALCS signed, sealed and delivered.
And I guarantee Mauer doesn’t need to hear it from writers like me to know what he needs to do. Hopefully he puts the team on his shoulders at Yankee Stadium tomorrow night. If the Twins have any chance, Mauer will most definitely play the role of hero.
If not, Twins fans will be talking about next year already. The early exits from the playoffs are something we’ve become far too accustomed to watching. Winning the Central Division has become our version of winning the World Series.