Was All-Star pressure a factor for Mauer's early-season slump?

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 30, 2014 - 12:20 AM

Ron Gardenhire said the Twins star was pressing at the start of this season.

hide

Minnesota Twins' Joe Mauer walks away after striking out in the seventh inning against Texas. Mauer is hitting .263, to go with two home runs and 15 RBI through 58 games.

Photo: Jim Mone, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

– When the All-Star Game came here to Camden Yards in 1993, Cal Ripken Jr. recalls the event as being “special — and stressful.” The Hall of Fame shortstop batted only .229 in the season’s first half with the Orioles, and he believes the prospect of playing in the Midsummer Classic in his home park was the reason why.

“It put a lot of pressure on me,” Ripken said. “I don’t know if it was conscious, but I desperately wanted to play in that game.”

Ron Gardenhire believes history repeated itself, 21 years later. Joe Mauer’s two-month slump — the three-time American League batting champion hit only .271 before suffering an oblique injury on July 1, and struck out at a pace nearly twice his career average — might have been triggered, the Twins manager said Friday, by the prospect of playing in the All-Star Game at Target Field.

“He was pressing. There’s no doubt, before the All-Star Game, I think he was pressing,” Gardenhire said as the Twins opened a four-game series in Ripken’s old park. “It’s the first time my career as manager here that I’ve seen Joe Mauer really want something bad. That was the All-Star Game, and I really think that played a part in it.”

Gardenhire said he realized what pressure Mauer was under when he broke the news to Glen Perkins, another Minnesota native, that he would be representing the Twins at Target Field. Perkins seemed as relieved as excited, Gardenhire said, and he believed Mauer felt the same.

“I don’t think he would ever admit to it, but in my opinion, it definitely [affected him],” Gardenhire said, adding that he felt it was “part of the problem,” but not the entire problem. “He wanted to be a part of that thing, and I think he pressed a little bit.”

Gardenhire is right: Mauer doesn’t buy his theory. Injuries and some bad luck are to blame, the Twins first baseman said, not his desire to join the AL All-Stars for a seventh time.

“I don’t know about that. I definitely wanted to make the team, [but] I don’t know if that had anything to do with my first half,” Mauer said before the Twins lost to the Orioles 9-1 Friday night. “I had back spasms early, and it just seemed like when I started swinging well, something like that popped up this year. I don’t think it was any added extra pressure.”

But in his manager’s view, Mauer’s bounce-back stretch this month only emphasizes the point. “There’s a definite difference in his whole makeup right now,” Gardenhire said.

That’s as opposed to the guy who kept swinging and missing in the season’s first three months, a total of 61 strikeouts for a player who had never whiffed more than 89 times in a season.

“We’ve never seen Joe swing and miss. I think it was in his mind. It was something he wanted desperately,” Gardenhire said. “There was a lot of pressure that we can’t feel. A lot of pressure that everything was put on his shoulders. You have to live with that, and believe it or not, he is human. I saw frustration in him that I hadn’t seen in a long time.”

The frustration crested when Mauer suffered the oblique injury July 1, ending any hope of somehow making the American League roster for the July 15 All-Star Game. But Mauer still had plenty of duties that weekend to keep him busy. He had agreed to act as the “ambassador” to the game, and he made public appearances at events around the Twin Cities throughout the event’s three-day schedule.

“I was disappointed, definitely. But I was more disappointed with how I was playing,” Mauer said. “Struggling through nicks, and got kind of beat up early in the season. It’s been a frustrating year, but as of late, it’s pretty good.”

Actually, Mauer is in the midst of a 1-for-18 skid again, but in his first 13 games back from the injury, he batted .340 with a couple of home runs, a .456 on-base percentage and a .574 slugging percentage.

“He’s hitting now. It’s just my opinion, I don’t have anything to base it on,” Gardenhire said. “He just had to refocus and breathe. ... He’s had a little bit of a break, and fresh hands, as they say.”

  • 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

Oakland 8 Bottom 12th Inning
Kansas City 7
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
Seattle 10/6/14 7:30 PM
Washington
NY Islanders 5 FINAL
Boston 3
NY Rangers 2 FINAL
Philadelphia 4
Ottawa 1 FINAL
Winnipeg 2
Carolina 1 FINAL
St. Louis 3
Tampa Bay 5 FINAL
Dallas 1
Colorado 0 FINAL
Calgary 2
Los Angeles 3 3rd Prd 9:24
San Jose 1
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