In about 4 1/2 years, baseball writers will face with the question of whether Joe Mauer belongs in baseball's Hall of Fame.
There are people who think it's sacrilege to even pose the question because there's absolutely no doubt in their minds that Mauer is a Hall of Famer, and that even debating whether he should go in during his first year on the ballot is silly.
And there are people who are just as convinced that Mauer isn't worthy of the greatest individual honor in baseball despite winning three batting titles as a catcher, which had never been done, because of the statistics from his post-concussions move to first base.
If nothing else, Twitter can be a fine place to fan the flames for this kind of question.
So I posed it last weekend toward the end of the Joe Mauer number retirement celebrations at Target Field.
First off, as evidence that the answer isn't obvious, here are links to a couple of blog posts on the subject:
In April, the website Cooperstown Cred's Chris Bodig analyzed Mauer's changes and offered this caution: "Mauer will get credit for his good numbers as a catcher but it should be noted that, even when catcher was his primary position, he started a lot of games at first base or as the team’s designated hitter. Mauer only caught 100 games five times in his career. His 921 career games behind the dish are just 146th in the history of the game."
Bodig's complete piece is here.
In 2017, Luis Torres went deep on the subject in the Beyond the Box Score baseball blog, and came to a borderline confusion that, as much as anything, validates the debate: "I really want to say that I just don’t know where to fall on Mauer’s Hall of Fame case. I seem to change my mind every time I think about it. Since 'I don’t know' feels like a cop-out, here is my very not confident take that I do not feel good about at all: I’d vote for him. There are not a lot of catchers in the Hall of Fame, so that makes me lean favorably towards difficult cases. I am sure I will continue to go back and forth on this."
The complete Torres post is here.
Now, on to your thoughts. Here's a sampling of the reaction to my Twitter question, which attempts to capture the range of thoughts.
Then there's the middle ground:
There's also the issue of first-ballot choice versus a down-the-road choice. You can pick a good fight with that debate, in which some voters (who are members of the Baseball Writers Association of America) make a distinction between first-ball Hall of Famers, whom they view as the elite of the elite, and players they'll vote for after they've already appeared on the ballot.
Here's what I think:
This is a discussion that will continue, off and on, from now until Mauer first appears on the ballot in 2023 -- five years after the end of his playing career. You'll hear about the catching greatness and the offensive drop off at a first baseman. You'll hear about the lack of catchers in the Hall of fame and comparisons between Mauer and those who didn't make it.
You'll hear some smart stuff and some smart-a$$ stuff.
My thought, right now: Mauer will be a Hall of Famer. Probably not on the first ballot. But his achievements as a catcher will overshadow the years at first base.
My other thought: This is going to be a great debate. Do everyone a favor and keep it civil.