Throughout the offseason the CBS Sports MLB experts will bring you a weekly Batting Around roundtable breaking down pretty much anything. The latest news, a historical question, thoughts about the future of baseball, all sorts of stuff. Last week we debated MLB's most improved team. This week we're going to discuss a player set to join the Hall of Fame ballot next year.
Is Joe Mauer a Hall of Famer?
R.J. Anderson: Absolutely. I think there needs to be some grace extended to players who move off catcher because of concussions. Mauer was an excellent hitter for a decade as a backstop, and he shifted off the position only to preserve his brain. I'm not willing to hold that against him. I don't have a vote, but if I did I'd gladly check the box next to his name.
Matt Snyder: Yes.
In drawing from my piece on the newcomers for next year, here are some condensed highlights from his write-up:
Mauer won an MVP and three batting titles. He also collected three Gold Gloves and five Silver Sluggers as a catcher. That type of skillset at that position is already rarified air. He hit .306 with a .388 on-base percentage in his career. Mauer's 2,123 hits rank ninth among catchers, his 1,018 runs are 11th and his 428 doubles are third. He adds 143 homers and 923 RBI. In WAR, Mauer sits ninth among catchers, trailing eight Hall of Famers and sitting in front of the other eight. He's seventh in JAWS after Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, Ivan Rodríguez, Carlton Fisk, Mike Piazza and Yogi Berra.
Mike Axisa: Yes, I believe so, though I concede it's not an open-and-shut case given the shift to first base in 2014, and how that changes the way Mauer is compared to his peers. Bottom line though, Mauer slashed .327/.410/.473 (139 OPS+) with 544 walks and 486 strikeouts from 2006-13, and that is elite production regardless of position. At catcher, it's once-in-a-generation kind of stuff, plus Mauer was a good defender who won several Gold Gloves.
Catchers are underrepresented in the Hall of Fame -- how are there only 19 catchers in Cooperstown? -- and Mauer checked all the boxes he needed to check. At his peak he provided unmatched offense at his position, he was a good defender, he brought home hardware (three batting titles and an MVP), and he reached a few significant longevity milestones as well (over 2,000 hits and 55 WAR, etc.). I would vote for Mauer and I would vote for Buster Posey as well.
Dayn Perry: Yeah, I'd put him in. I think the standards for primary catchers are way higher than they should be (I'd seriously put Jason Kendall in), and Mauer's peak is truly Hall worthy. I have a feeling the voting body won't see it similarly, at least in the earliest years of his candidacy, but Mauer is a pretty easy yes for me.