Welcome to the Wednesday edition of The Cooler, where you can know something exists without fully understanding it. Let’s get to it:
*We’re in the midst of an unsure and very subdued possible final week of Joe Mauer’s career, which means Mauer is getting some more attention than usual but not as much as one might expect.
That said, the potential end of his career is not playing out how many of us would have imagined a decade or so ago, when Mauer was on a Hall of Fame trajectory and looked as though he might go down as one of the greatest catchers — and perhaps the greatest Twin — ever.
Concussions, age, shifting, the awfulness of the Twins since 2011 … all of them have robbed Mauer in some way. And, of course, the $184 million contract he signed in 2010 that kicked in during the 2011 season has undoubtedly altered public perception.
In some ways, Mauer’s career is upside down. He won three batting titles and an MVP award by the time he was 26, and during those years he was vastly underpaid. But contracts are based on past performance, and since that MVP year in 2009 (and an underrated follow-up in 2010, the year he signed the deal), Mauer has had two vintage years (2012 and 2013), one pretty good year (2017) and five mediocre seasons spanning his contract.
It adds up to a strange legacy, one that Sports Illustrated recently probed. A hometown player such as Mauer, one of the Twins’ best players in history (but clearly not the best), should be bathing in glory if this is, indeed, his final week.
And sure, there are plenty of fans cognizant of his contributions and aware of his place in history who are cheering extra loud for a few final moments.
But there is also a decent segment of Twins fandom counting down the days until his $23 million a year deal is off the books. And there is another segment that views his potential departure from the playing field with a collective shrug.
Maybe a divided legacy is appropriate. As the only Twins player spanning the positive vibes of last decade and the negative vibes of this decade, Mauer is — fair or not — both a symbol and symptom of what went wrong.
One thing is for sure: These last eight years haven’t played out as anyone imagined, and maybe sad is the best way to describe that feeling.
*Eduardo Escobar, one of several Twins traded during the middle of this lost season, homered for the Diamondbacks to help Arizona defeat the Dodgers — and Brian Dozier, another traded Twins player. The blast trimmed the Dodgers’ lead to half a game over Colorado in the NL West, and it sure would be something if Escobar keeps Dozier out of the playoffs.
*FiveThirtyEight eschews the trade machine approach most of us have been taking to Jimmy Butler trades and examines which teams should actually make a strong play for him. The conclusion: Surprisingly few.