The last time a bunch of discouraging words were said about Joe Mauer was back in July, after the night of the bunt against Cleveland. That was the night when he was roasted on the FSN postgame show by Tim Laudner.
Cause-and-effect is a touchy and inexact thing -- much like Hunter Wendelstedt's strike zone -- but Mauer took a day off after Laudner's smackdown and then went on a 22-game binge in which he batted .477, reached base in more than 54 percent of his plate appearances and hit 4 of his 9 home runs.
So maybe we should try this again.
Yo, Joe. You're a superstar about to begin an eight-year megcontract that you earned with a historic and monstrous 2009 season. That means in tough times people are going to turn to you. They'll want hits -- either a whole bunch of them or a lot of bombs -- and they'll want leadership. When things go well, you'll be celebrated. When things don't go well, many people will still give you the benefit of the doubt.
All but the most naive or embittered fans know better to expect that every year will be like '09 for you. Don't worry about their sorry selves.
Whether things are going well or going badly, you'll be expected -- at $23 million a year -- to be the face of the franchise. That was a job you left to Carl Pavano, Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel and Orlando Hudson after the Game 2 loss, in the same way you left the attempts at a comeback to Hudson and Delmon Young.
Face of the franchise means more than just being the face of MLB 10.
Two playoff games, two singles? Thirty-five postseason at-bats, one RBI? If the Steinbrenners signed you to that contract instead of the Pohlads, you gotta believe (oops, that's a Mets phrase) the tabloid headlines would find a way to work you into reports on the two-game hole that the home team's in right now. If this had happened back before you were born, you can bet that the Boss would be giving you the Winfield treatment.
Go look it up, if you don't know what I'm talking about.
And then get your hits on.
In an era when video allows closer scrutiny than ever, baseball officials seem unwilling to address the issue of floating strike zone and sloppy calls on the bases. Slipping standards for umpires seem to be tolerated in much the same way that inability to bunt or run the bases has become the norm for many players.
Still, the Twins are losing this series because the Twins are playing very, very mediocre baseball. If you can't find stats to back that up, you're not looking. It's incredible to say that their next hit with a runner in scoring position will be their first of the series. Sorry, Danny Valencia, bases-loaded sacrifice flies don't beat the Yankees. That was frozen generic when we needed Pizza Luce.
The best three paragraphs I found on the web this morning were from Scott Miller of CBSsports,.com, a former Twins beat writer for the Pioneer Press:
...Wendelstedt's strike zone was as fluid as a spilled cup of Pepsi. It moved and morphed and oozed around the atmosphere.
But that one pitch to [Lance] Berkman is not what beat the Twins, nor did Wendelstedt.
If you're going to get past the Yankees, you must leave yourself more margin for error than one pitch. Because they're deep and powerful and, in the late innings, usually melt everything in their path more efficiently than microwaves zap soft cheese.
Here's the rest.
Now get back to hoping.