For some reason, Mauer appears to be a polarizing case. As best I can tell, there are several reasons and I believe I can refute them strongly enough to make the case that there shouldn’t be any doubt behind Mauer having the credentials to fly into the Hall without much resistance here in his first try. Let’s get right to it.
The case as a first-ballot Hall of Famer
The No. 1 overall pick out of high school in a star-studded 2001 draft that included uber-hyped Mark Prior and Mark Teixeira, Mauer quickly maneuvered through the minors and debuted in the majors at age 20 as baseball’s top prospect. The hype never seemed to bother the hometown hero. He hit .308 with a .570 slugging percentage in 35 games in 2004 and was an All-Star and batting title winner in 2006, finishing sixth in MVP voting at age 23.
Mauer would win three batting titles across his 15 seasons, including awfully high marks at .347 and .365. He won the 2009 MVP while slashing a ridiculous .365/.444/.587 (171 OPS+). He led the league in on-base percentage twice and slugging once.
As a catcher, Mauer won three Gold Gloves and five Silver Sluggers, but a series of injuries forced him to stop catching after the 2013 season, meaning his bat lost a lot of luster at first base and designated hitter.
In all, Mauer hit .306/.388/.439 (124 OPS+) during his major-league career. He collected 2,123 hits (ninth among catchers), 428 doubles (third behind only Iván Rodríguez and Ted Simmons among catchers), 143 home runs, 923 RBI (17th among catchers) and 1,018 runs (11th).
Mauer ended his career with 55.2 WAR and that ranks ninth all-time among catchers and just above the average Hall of Fame catcher. He’s behind some of the inner-circle all-time greats (Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, Rodríguez, Carlton Fisk et al), but he’s ahead of Ted Simmons, Mickey Cochrane, Buck Ewing and a host of others. As noted, he’s above the average Hall of Fame catcher in WAR.
‘Not a catcher’
That quote or some derivative thereof generally follows a statement about Mauer being a catcher. I saw “barely a catcher” on social media the other day, for example, and got a chuckle.
[Aside: This type of nonsense nearly always comes from Cardinals fans, who seem to be incredibly…