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Charisma and the Mauer Backlash

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If you haven't read the recent entry from Jon Marthaler regarding Joe Mauer's image status among Minnesotans, you should. Just as you should probably read everything from Jon Marthaler.

There seems to be at least two major schools of thought on Mauer these days: 1) He's not a leader, isn't tough, doesn't want to win bad enough, and doesn't perform up to the level of his contract (Note: this opinion doesn't seem to be as pervasive on Twins Daily as certain forums and comment sections elsewhere) and 2) C'mon really? He had a lingering injury in 2011, but is still a future HOF'er. What more do you want?

I think that's the crux of the issue. What do people want from Joe Mauer?

One of the under-analyzed aspects that plays a significant role in the Mauer backlash phenomenon: his personality. This non-baseball related skill set is the biggest difference between Joe and beloved Minnesota icons like Kirby, Tarkenton, or Nanne. Now I don’t know Joe. I don’t even know anyone whose cousin used to dog-sit for Joe’s junior-high guidance counselor. But by all outward appearance he is just not a terribly charismatic person. Inside the guarded confines of a major league locker room or among those who know him well, he may be, but not to the average Nelson in Minnesota.

To focus on Puckett, as the Randball blog did, in addition to the World Series success, Puckett had a surplus of personality. He laughed and joked. People like public figures who genuinely laugh and joke. They identify with people like that. Hey, I laugh and joke sometimes, this guy is like me. They are more forgiving of public figures, even flawed ones, who are charismatic -- see Puckett, Kirby or Clinton, William. When I saw the commercials where Kirby was betting Quarter Pounders on a trick-shot pool contest, I was like, sure, Kirby bets hamburgers like that. I buy it. I’m not sure people feel the same way when a head and shoulders ad comes on.

This plays into people’s perception of a “winner “ vs a “non-winner”. I think Kirby would have been perceived as leader, and a winner, even without the titles. Just look at Michael Cuddyer. By all statistical measures, Cuddyer was a fine offensive player for his career, but not a really outstanding one, especially defensively. Fans loved Cuddy though, he did card tricks and had a believable smile that played well in the media, even when things weren’t going well on the field for him.

And Cuddyer made a lot of money here, almost $40,000,000. Did the expectations for Michael shoot way up when he signed his 4 year extension? Certainly not the way they did for Mauer, and maybe not at all. Even proportionally to the money they signed for, did people want more out of Cuddy after his deal? I just think that significantly more rope gets extended to or taken from athletes, and people in general, who have public charisma. For all his athletic ability, Joe doesn’t display this in a public way. Should we hold this against him? I believe the backlashers do, and unfairly at that.

So, what do you really want from Joe Mauer?

Updated 09-13-2012 at 05:00 PM by TwinsArmChairGM_Jon

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  1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
    I don't have a lot of feelings about Mauer -- one way or another. As I've said several times before, I didn't understand the deification and I don't really understand the viliification. Mauer has just always left me pretty cold. I can admire his professionalism and his accomplishments -- but I don't (and never have) felt any particular emotional connection to him.

    But I really think that a lot of the "backlash" as you characterize it, is due to the "deification" that he enjoyed during his first 8-9 years with the organization. And no, he didn't ask for that either. But honestly, people were treating him as though he was God. There is no human being who could continually live up to the image that a lot of people (mostly Minnesotans) ascribed to him.

    When he was going through his troubles last summer, I remember posting elsewhere that all Mauer could do this year to "rehab" his image was to come out and play almost every day this year and put up numbers that are in keeping with his career averages. He hasn't quite done that in the sense that he is catching in only about 1/2 the games (I think and maybe not even that). But at least this season saw a return to productivity (although he will probably never approach the stats of 2009).

    But even as I posted that, I added that I didn't think he could EVER regain the elevated status he once had. If he continues to be productive -- and if he can get back to catching 100 games or more a year as Terry Ryan envisions -- I think a lot of the "backlash" will fade. But I don't think he'll ever be "Saint Joe" again. And I don't think that's all bad. Overall, I think people will end up with a more realistic picture of him and a more realistic perception and appreciation for his accomplishments. And, to me, that's a good thing.
  2. JB_Iowa's Avatar
    Oh, and there was plenty of negativity around Michael Cuddyer (despite his smiling countenance). But since he was never "deified" the way Mauer was, he wasn't "villified" quite as much eitehr.
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