Souhan: Kirby vs. Joe? This argument sounds familiar

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 29, 2014 - 9:48 PM

It’s style (Kirby Puckett) vs. substance (Joe Mauer).

hide

John Croft /startribune file photo Oct 25, 1987

Photo: John Croft, DML -

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Player A might be the most popular athlete in Minnesota history.

He shot through the Twins’ farm system and became a big part of winning teams. After his agent, Ron Shapiro, battled the Twins in contract negotiations, he became, briefly, the highest-paid player in baseball by signing a deal to keep him in Minnesota at least through his prime.

In his first 10 seasons in the majors, he produced an OPS (on-base-plus-slugging percentage) of .827 and a WAR (overall player rating, called wins above replacement player) of 44.0. He made the All-Star team eight times, won six Gold Gloves and five Silver Sluggers and ranked in the top 10 in MVP votes seven times.

He was not a classic power hitter, instead spraying line drives all over the ballpark. He was beloved.

Player B is not the most popular athlete in Minnesota history, even though he grew up in the state.

He shot through the Twins’ farm system and became a big part of winning teams. After his agent, Ron Shapiro, battled the Twins in contract negotiations, he signed the most lucrative contract in franchise history, a deal expected to keep him in Minnesota at least through his prime.

In his first 10 seasons in the majors, he produced an OPS of .873 and a WAR of 44.3. He made the All-Star team six times, won one MVP Award, finished in the top 10 of MVP voting four times, won three Gold Gloves and five Silver Sluggers, all despite having two of his first 10 seasons wiped out by injuries.

He was not a classic power hitter, instead spraying line drives all over the ballpark. He was not beloved, at least not among the chattering classes that use social media.

Player A was Kirby Puckett. Player B is Joe Mauer. Through the first 10 years of their careers, they proved to be remarkably similar. They are perceived to be altogether different.

Why?

Mauer might have been slightly more valuable than Puckett over his first 10 big-league seasons, because he played a more difficult defensive position — catcher instead of center and right field — and because he reached base more often. In fact, while Puckett was perceived to have more power, and did hit more home runs on average, Puckett’s slugging percentage his first 10 years was .469. Mauer’s is .468.

As public figures, Puckett still benefits from three factors:

1) Puckett played more.

He was incredibly durable. Puckett prided himself on playing every day. He never visited the disabled list, while Mauer has had two seasons ruined by injury and was rested regularly even when healthy, as are most modern-day catchers.

2) Puckett was charismatic.

He played with great joy and more obvious effort, while Mauer showed off smooth mechanics. As a center fielder, Puckett could make the spectacular play, running into or leaping above a wall, while Mauer toiled in a crouch.

3. Puckett won championships, and shined while doing so.

Puckett made the playoffs only twice, but both trips turned into World Series titles, with his Game 6 performance in the 1991 World Series branding him as a clutch performer, a winner for the ages. Mauer’s teams made the playoffs four times — five if you count Game 163 in 2008 — but he never has played in a winning playoff game (the Twins won a game in 2004 when Mauer was injured), much less a series. If Game 6 of 1991 stands as Puckett’s postseason symbol, Mauer’s is the potentially game-changing double he hit in 2009 that was incorrectly ruled foul in Yankee Stadium.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions
Final123456789RHE
Minnesota000000000040
Detroit «00100002X340
@Ballpark Replay
Preview | Matchup | Lineup | Log | Wrap | Box
W:D.Price(15-12) L:K.Gibson(13-12) S:J.Nathan (35)
HR: MIN- None DET- I.Kinsler (17)

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 14 FINAL
Kansas City 41
Minnesota 10/2/14 7:25 PM
Green Bay
Buffalo 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Chicago 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Cleveland 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
St. Louis 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Atlanta 10/5/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Tampa Bay 10/5/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Houston 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Baltimore 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Pittsburgh 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Arizona 10/5/14 3:05 PM
Denver
Kansas City 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
NY Jets 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Diego
Cincinnati 10/5/14 7:30 PM
New England
Philadelphia 3 FINAL
NY Rangers 6
Toronto 0 FINAL
Detroit 3
Pittsburgh 1 FINAL
Minnesota 4
Columbus 3 FINAL
Nashville 0
Florida 4 FINAL
Dallas 5
Winnipeg 1 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Arizona 4 FINAL
Vancouver 2
Fla Atlantic 10/2/14 6:00 PM
FIU
UCF 10/2/14 6:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 10/2/14 9:30 PM
(2) Oregon
Louisville 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Syracuse
San Diego St 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Utah State 10/3/14 9:15 PM
(18) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(12) Miss State
Ball State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Army
Iowa State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(21) Oklahoma State
Marshall 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Old Dominion
Southern Miss 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Middle Tennessee
(20) Ohio State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Maryland
Purdue 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Florida 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
SMU 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(22) East Carolina
Virginia Tech 10/4/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Eastern Mich 10/4/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Texas 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Indiana
Massachusetts 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Tulsa 10/4/14 2:00 PM
Colorado State
New Mexico 10/4/14 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
(3) Alabama 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(11) Ole Miss
(14) Stanford 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(9) Notre Dame
(17) Wisconsin 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Navy 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
(7) Baylor 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Texas
(4) Oklahoma 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(25) TCU
Wake Forest 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
NC State 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Clemson
Buffalo 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Bowling Green
Ohio U 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Central Mich
Oregon State 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Colorado
Vanderbilt 10/4/14 3:00 PM
(13) Georgia
Kansas 10/4/14 3:00 PM
West Virginia
Kent State 10/4/14 4:00 PM
Northern Ill
South Alabama 10/4/14 5:00 PM
Appalachian St
Texas-El Paso 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
(15) LSU 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
UAB 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Ky
Texas Tech 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(23) Kansas State
Michigan 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rutgers
Hawaii 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rice
Toledo 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Mich
ULM 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
Idaho 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Texas State
Memphis 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Arizona State 10/4/14 6:30 PM
(16) USC
So Carolina 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Kentucky
Pittsburgh 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Virginia
Miami-Florida 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Georgia Tech
(19) Nebraska 10/4/14 7:00 PM
(10) Michigan State
UNLV 10/4/14 7:00 PM
San Jose St
Ga Southern 10/4/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Utah 10/4/14 9:30 PM
(8) UCLA
Boise State 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Winnipeg 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Edmonton 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Is it the right move to replace Ron Gardenhire?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close