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Joe Mauer batted third and played catcher in his first game back with the Twins after six games off.

JEFF WHEELER, Star Tribune

True to form, Joe Mauer hit a first-inning RBI single to left field in his first at-bat since becoming a father last week. Mauer’s twin daughters are still in the hospital.

JEFF WHEELER, Star Tribune

Souhan: You can't ask for much more out of All-Star and proud dad

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN
  • Star Tribune
  • July 31, 2013 - 11:45 AM

It’s tough to gauge public sentiment these days. Online, anger dominates.

What you hear from angry voices about Joe Mauer is that he is overpaid, fragile and powerless. That he should have left his newborn twin daughters last week to return to Seattle in time to help his team over the weekend.

Whether that’s what most people think or not, that’s what you hear from the loudest voices, and they’re wrong.

Mauer deserved criticism at times early in his career when he wasn’t always eager to play. He deserved criticism in 2011 when he looked reluctant to rush back onto the field following his so-called “bi-lateral leg weakness.” He failed that summer as a franchise player either by appearing less than eager to play, or by refusing to satisfactorily explain his absence.

Between those lapses, and since the latter, Mauer has been everything the Twins expected him to be. He has won three batting titles, the first three by an American League catcher. He has won a Most Valuable Player Award, one more than Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett.

He has honored his St. Paul roots and St. Paul brethren like Paul Molitor, Jack Morris and Dave Winfield, by playing with intelligence and skill. He has played in six All-Star Games, two more than Justin Morneau and one more than Earl Battey.

When the Twins took the sideburned kid from St. Paul with the first pick in the 2001 draft instead of celebrated college pitcher Mark Prior, they could not have hoped for much more than Mauer has given them. He should play his entire career in his home state and enter the Hall of Fame wearing the cap of the team he cheered as a boy.

Now, the foremost Twin has fathered twins, just to show off. His wife, Maddie, delivered Maren and Emily early Wednesday morning, after Mauer had flown home from the Twins’ series against the Angels in Anaheim, Calif.

“My plane touched down at 3 in the morning and they were born at 3:44 and 3:46,” he said.

Did he thank Maddie for waiting? “I think it was more Maren,” he said. “She was the first one out, and she was the one who decided to come out when I was halfway across the country. I’m glad all three of them held on until I got there.”

His mother drove to the hospital at a speed he would not reveal. “I got to talk to Maddie for about five minutes, and then off we went,” he said.

Emily and Maren were born about five weeks before Maddie’s due date. They were about 18 inches long and weighed about 4 pounds, 15 ounces.

They are still in the hospital. Mauer said he would visit after the game Tuesday night. They were able to breathe on their own, Mauer said, but required incubation. “It’s so hard to see them in that incubator,” he said.

He and his wife didn’t go home to rest until Saturday. Was it a tough decision, staying home all weekend? “Not really,” he said. “It was the right thing to do and what I needed to do.”

Anyone attacking Mauer for missing games while his daughters were in an incubator has probably spent the last few years attacking Mauer for not living up to his contract. In 2011, he deserved the criticism. Since then, he has played as much as a 6-5, 230-pound, offensive-minded catcher should be expected to play, and has performed near his career norms.

In fact, Mauer’s is one of the few enormous deals in baseball that has not been a disaster. On the free-agent market, he would probably fetch about what he signed for with the Twins: $23 million a year.

Tuesday night, Mauer came to the plate with a runner on second and one out in the first inning. On the first pitch he saw as a father, he lined an RBI single to left-center.

Mauer didn’t blow kisses, but, for once, we knew what he was thinking.

 

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon on AM-1500 KSTP. jsouhan@startribune.com

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