I know Mauer is already projected to make it in relatively easily by most voting trackers, so a lot of this discussion is moot. But hey, it's always nice to celebrate a wonderful career and get into my HOF thinking (because even though I don't have a vote, my opinions matter, damn it). Let me start this article off by stating a few disclaimers:
I'm a Big Hall advocate. I love allowing as many deserving players in as possible because this isn't supposed to be a celebration of just a select few players, it's supposed to be a place that tells the story of baseball history. And there are a lot of guys who can't be left out of that story.
These arbitrary statistical achievements that people set for candidates can be very silly, if not useless. 2,000 hits? A certain threshold for WAR? Who makes this stuff up? These are all prohibitive and end up holding back a lot of incredibly deserving candidates (Don Mattingly, Kieth Hernandez, Dave Parker, Dale Murphy, Johan Santana, I could go on and on about guys who need to be in but aren't because the writers stuck to their stupid rules).
I'm a peak guy more than a longevity guy. I think if a player was at the top of the game for even a few years, he needs to be in the HOF. I don't subscribe to this "He had to be good for X many years" notion that many writers seem to do, because I enjoy talking about and celebrating as much baseball as possible.
I don't care for postseason performances. Can they help a guy in a HOF case? Absolutely; if someone puts together some legendary postseason runs and it's a huge part of their career, great. But if not, that shouldn't be held against someone, because A) small sample size and B) some players just never luck into playing in the postseason that often because their teams aren't that good.
Can You Get Onto Joe Mauer Already?
Ok, yeah, I'm done. Joe Mauer. MVP winner at the catching position (only 12 catchers have ever won that award), three Gold Gloves and batting titles (no other catcher has done that), five Silver Sluggers, and six All-Stars. If you ask me, those accolades are almost compelling enough to get him in on their own. But let's look deeper because while the batting title thing is impressive, batting average is lame. Let's not think too much on that aspect of Mauer's illustrious career.
Does He Hit Those HOF Milestones That You Hate for Some Reason?
Funny enough, as much as I despise the 50 WAR and 2,000 hit rules for the HOF, Mauer hits both of those categories... barely. He accrued 55.2 WAR, and 2,123 hits are all well and good, and if you want to stop there, that's fine I guess, but you'd be missing out on some other parts of Mauer's career.
For example, his OBP every year was outstanding, giving him a career mark of .388 and six seasons where he eclipsed the .400 mark in the category. Insane stuff for a catcher.
His wRC+ was over 130 for seven years, he had six 4+ WAR seasons (5 of those being 5+ seasons), and he had a "clutch" rating of 4.04 for his career according to Fangraphs (they try to evaluate a player's performance in "high-leverage" situations vs. a "context neutral environment"), for those that care about those types of things but don't want to succumb to the RBI discussion because RBIs suck.
Despite not being a huge power/home run guy, Mauer was able to rack up 428 doubles for his career (282 as a catcher, good for 25th all-time amongst catchers despite spending the majority of the back half of his career as a first baseman).
What About His Fall-Off?
Valid point, but again, this is going back to my disclaimer that I'm a big "peak" guy as opposed to a "longevity" advocate. I love focusing on the prime years of a player's career, and Mauer had one of the highest peaks of any catcher in baseball history.
Bench, Berra, Carter, Fisk, sure, but those are "capital L" Legends of their craft. Mauer was amazing for an outstanding eight-year period at a premium position.
Plus, his story is great. A local kid gets drafted by his hometown team, is a smashing success, spends his whole career there, doesn't cause any trouble, and seems to be a decent person. That's hard to find in sports, especially in the 21st century with guys switching teams constantly (not that there's anything wrong with that at all, but it doesn't mean we can't celebrate someone who goes against that notion).
So, maybe I'm a big softie who wants to celebrate tons of players in the Hall because I think it's better to do that than to be so rude and condescending about it being an "exclusive club" instead of a celebration of the history of our national pastime. But I don't care.
I want Joe Mauer in the Hall of Fame because you can't tell the story of the Minnesota Twins or the catching position in the first decade-plus of the 21st century without him, and luckily for me, it seems like it's happening.
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