Welcome Back Joe Mauer! 15 Aug 14

Welcome Back Joe Mauer!

Photos and Story by Gordy Jones

Joe has always been a terrific hitter.

Joe Mauer is back in the lineup, and he is hitting the ball well.

Minnesota has a great fan base, but man…they can turn on you.  They forget about “Minnesota Nice” when they believe an athlete is not carrying his weight.

Kirby Puckett is one of the most beloved figures in Minnesota sports history. He was a great competitor and a nice guy — a winning combination for a Minnesota fan; they couldn’t get enough of him. Then he was whacked in the head, lost his vision in one eye, and had a couple of personal problems. Fans could not handle the fact that Kirby was not as perfect as they thought. People began to bad-mouth him around the water cooler, and to rip him on sports talk shows. They were vicious. But Kirby walked away with his head held high. By the time of his death, all was forgiven.

Joe Mauer signing his contract in 2010.

Joe Mauer came on the scene in the early 2000’s, and was an immediate sensation. He was a great ballplayer, gave back to the community, and was extremely marketable. Kids loved him, girls loved him, and fans of all ages cheered for him.

In 2010, Joe earned a big contract, and the community supported it. In fact, many folks threatened to cancel their season tickets if Joe wasn’t rewarded.  But the last few seasons haven’t gone as they had hoped. The Twins have lost more than 300 games in three and a half years, and Joe has had a string of injuries, and a couple of illnesses, too. This has really made the public upset. Many have turned mean.

GM Bill Smith signing Joe’s deal.

I am a friend of Joe Mauer, and of his entire family. I know that these injuries are for real, and they are painful as well…but so are the many unkind words. No one wants to play ball any more than Joe does. He’s a great competitor who is quiet and leads with his actions. When he is injured or in a slump, he is still going to be quiet. Somehow, people interpret this as not caring, while others have even claimed that now that he’s got the money, he doesn’t want to play. There is nothing further from the truth. I am so tired of people approaching me everywhere I go, knowing that I know him, and giving me crap…saying very cold and uncharitable things about my friend. I can’t believe I haven’t decked someone yet, but that’s not my style.  One of Joe’s cousins recently told a mutual friend that he won’t go to the games anymore; it bothers him too much how the fans talk about Joe.   

Joe always has time for the kids!

Joe’s last injury was an oblique strain, which has been a quiet epidemic in baseball for the past several years. I Googled the injury, and a multitude of related stories appeared. One of them, written in 2011 by Mark DeCotis of Florida Today, stated: “You can fill two baseball lineup cards with players who are on the DL with an oblique strain.” Since then, the injury has proliferated further. No one knows the real cause for the outbreak. It could be a flaw in training, with the ever-lengthening season. Others think even changes in weather can be a cause: going from the heat in Florida to the cold northern states in April. But everyone who has suffered from it agrees on one thing: it hurts!

In the same story, former pitcher Jeff Tam described his oblique injury like this: “It felt like somebody stuck a knife in my ribs, literally like an ice pick– just a sharp, sharp pain. Just that one pitch or one swing will drop you to your knees. If you have to cough or anything, it is excruciating, just sharp pain.”

Joe was one of the best catchers in baseball.

And some so-called “fans” have told me that Joe should toughen up and play hurt. That doesn’t work.

What makes the injury so vital in baseball is the fact that it involves the one area of the body a player must have in working order to function.

Washington Nationals team physician Dr. Bruce Thomas was quoted as saying: “They (oblique injuries) happen when throwing and batting.”

 “Virtually everything you do on a baseball field involves trunk rotation,” Thomas said. “They (oblique muscles) are sort of like the pulley system. They move the whole torso. I tell the guys (with oblique injuries) right away: ‘Number 1: It’s going to be a long time (to heal properly). Number 2: You’re not going to get much sympathy. It’s not like you have a cast on your arm. You’re walking around, you can do 90 percent of things just fine, but the things you can’t do without pain, are the things you need to do; which is high-speed acceleration and de-acceleration of the rotation of your trunk.” Yes, like throwing and swinging. You can’t play with this injury.

Another hit!

Maybe this column will help you to understand the situation a little better. Many people don’t know what the injury is all about, so they think it’s fake.

Joe Mauer and his brother Jake by his side, holds an instructional clinic for kids in St. Paul back in 2007.

Thank you for allowing me to blow off a little steam. I would be just as defensive if people were spreading negative fallacies about anyof my friends, not just Joe. Wouldn’t you?

The greatest part of this story, though: Joe Mauer is a proven winner! He is a great man with a great family, and still has a lot of baseball left in him. He’ll soon be on top again, and those who criticized him will be cheering him!