The Joe Mauer detractors are losing ammunition in 2012, though perhaps not at the same rate they are losing steam.
He's been far more durable this season than in 2011, even if critics will note that roughly half of his at-bats have come at a position other than catcher. He went into Monday leading the American League in on-base percentage (.414). Overall, his numbers this season are about in line with his career stats -- and for a guy who has won three batting titles and an MVP award, that is typically a good thing.
Mauer will never please those who think he should hit for more power. And he might never hit 28 home runs in a season again. But if we're talking about near-guarantees when it comes to driving the anti-Mauer folks crazy, we're talking about this long-term issue: money.
Folks here can't stand the notion of a player not living up to the value of his contract -- just as, we suspect, they have an extra dose of love for Josh Willingham because those home runs come at such a relative bargain. Every time Mauer grounds out with runners on base, his contract is bound to come up in certain circles.
So: Sorry, Joe, but we have to bring it up in this context: SI.com has released its list of the "Fortunate 50," described as the 50 highest-paid U.S. athletes when salary, winnings, bonuses, endorsements and appearance fees over the past year are factored in. Our guy Mauer is the only Minnesota athlete on this year's list and vaulted all the way to No. 12 overall. Not only is he making $23 million per year from the Twins, but he gets an additional $2.75 million from other sources. According to SI.com, Mauer's endorsement income "has grown by more than $2 million since last year, thanks to relationships with Head & Shoulders, Gatorade, and Sony."
That endorsement money is pocket change compared to guys like Phil Mickelson ($57 million last year) or LeBron James ($33 million), but it does push him past the $25 million yearly income threshold overall.
How much he makes probably shouldn't concern anyone from at-bat to at-bat. Frankly, it's kind of strange that we even know so much about the salaries of athletes. But it is still ammunition for those who see it as such -- and it will be until 2018, when that $184 million contract is done.