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Joe Mauer has taken a lot of abuse by many Twins fans since his 3-12 (with three singles, none terribly important) performance against the Yankees in the ALDS. At the time, I was frustrated by his lack of emotion, and the team’s lack of a big hit when needed.
Last night, Giants rookie catcher Buster Posey notched four hits and has really become a star in the playoffs. He has played pretty well, to be sure. And like Mauer (and Matt Wieters), there was no question when Posey came up that he would star.
I’ve received more text messages and Twitter messages and e-mails saying that Buster Posey is a better player than Joe Mauer and he can come through when it matters.
Now, as I’ve mentioned, I’ve been tough at times on Mauer, wanting more, wanting to see emotion, hoping for something big. But taking a step back, he is the Twins most clutch hitter throughout his career with the Twins. He has come up with a ton of big hits when they matter. He has won games, and started huge rallies. He has also failed in a lot of situations. He’s about a career .325 hitter, and in big situations he is right around a .325 hitter. That still means he is going to fail over 60% of the time.
Michael Jordan is known for all the big shots he would hit at the end of games to give his team a win. We don’t mention all of the big shots he missed at the end of games.
What Joe Mauer needs is a defining playoff moment. Something that will let people forget the struggles. Something like a walk-off homer, or a bases-clearing double in the late innings of a playoff game.
If we know one thing, he will get plenty of opportunities in his time with the Twins and at some point, he’ll come through in a big way.
What he needs is a Kirby Puckett moment. Game 6 was Puckett’s time to shine in the World Series, wasn’t it? In 1987 against the Cardinals, he went 4-4 in game six. In 1991, he had the “carry the team on his back” game where he went 3-4 with stolen base, a triple and the walk-off, “we’ll see you tomorrow night” home run off of Charlie Liebrandt and the Braves.
But what if those series never got to six games? How would we view Puckett? Would he still be a Hall of Famer?
Here is a quick look at his four playoff series during his career, game by game:
1987 American League Championship Series versus the Detroit Tigers:
- In Game 1, Puckett went 1-4.
- In Game 2, Puckett went 0-4.
- In Game 3, Puckett went 0-5.
- Let’s stop there for a moment. Had that been the end of the series, he would have ended it 1-13 (.077).
- In Game 4, he was 2-5 with a solo home run.
- In Game 5, he went 2-6.
1987 World Series versus the St. Louis Cardinals:
- In Game 1, Puckett went 1-5.
- In Game 2, Puckett went 1-4.
- In Game 3, Puckett went 1-3, with a walk and a triple.
- In Game 4, Puckett went 1-4 and was hit by a pitch.
- In Game 5, Puckett went 0-4.
- So again, had the World Series ended in St. Louis after just five games, Puckett would have been 4-20 (.200) with one extra base hit.
- Then came Game 6, back at the Metrodome, and he went 4-4 with a stolen base.
- In Game 7, he was 2-4 with a double.
1991 American League Championship Series versus the Toronto Blue Jays:
- In Game 1, Puckett was 0-4.
- In Game 2, he went 1-3 with a walk.
- I have to make my point quicker in this case because this was quite the series for Puckett. But through two games, he was 1-7 (.143).
- In Game 3, Puckett went 2-5 with a double.
- In Game 4, he went 3-4 with a home run.
- In Game 5, he went 3-5 with a home run.
1991 World Series versus the Atlanta Braves:
- In Game 1, Puckett went 0-4.
- In Game 2, Puckett went 0-4.
- In Game 3, Puckett was 1-4 with two walks and a solo home run.
- In Game 4, Puckett was 1-4.
- In Game 5, Puckett was 1-2 with A SACRIFICE BUNT!! Maybe someone can go back in Archives and find out what the likes of Patrick Reusse and Dan Barriero write about Puckett’s sacrifice bunt attempt in Game 5 of the World Series!!
- So here we are, through five games of the World Series, and Kirby Puckett has gone just 3-18 (.167). How would Twitter be treating him!! Would Twins Nation have been calling for Jarvis Brown to be taking over centerfield duties!?
- In Game 6, as we all recall as if it was yesterday, he went 3-4 with a stolen base, a sacrifice FLY, a triple and that walk-off home run to force a Game 7. Welcome to the Hall of Fame, Mr. Puckett.
- In Game 7, he went 0-3 with a walk in the Twins 1-0, 10 inning win.
As I’ve said, I have no problem with people being disappointed with the playoff production of Joe Mauer to this point in his career. I have been greatly disappointed. But Puckett didn’t play Best of 5 series. Puckett got to play more than three games. Why? Because other guys stepped up when Puckett had an off game. People forget, these games are magnified, but they are the same game as the regular season games. You’re not going to get two hits every single game. You are going to have 0-fers. Players can be in slumps.
So far, the playoffs have not been Joe Mauer’s time. But when you are that good of a hitter, it really is just a matter of time before it evens out. As long as Ron Gardenhire is at the helm, the Twins will find themselves in the postseason frequently, and at some point, Mauer will have his One Shining Moment too. People can talk about the $184 million contract that kicks in in 2011, but that doesn’t change the game, and thankfully, it won’t change Joe Mauer or his approach at the plate. That approach at the plate is what has made him one of baseball’s best players, and it is what will make him a Hall of Famer!
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