A Fan’s Take: Why Joe Mauer Will Win His 4th Batting Title This Year

To say that the first year of Joe Mauer’s 8-year contract worth $184 million started off on the wrong foot last year would be a gross understatement. He was absolutely awful. The hometown hero was actually booed last year by the Target Field faithful. It didn’t help that the rest of the team was equally as awful. After back-to-back A.L. Central Titles in 2009 and 2010, the Minnesota Twins had high expectations heading into 2011. Instead, they finished dead last in the A.L. Central, and with an astounding 99 losses, they compiled the second worst record in all of baseball. To be fair, Mauer struggled though injuries and illness most of the year, and even if he was at his best, it wouldn’t have been enough to save the Twins from their worst season since 1982.

So now that Spring Training for the 2012 season is underway down in the Florida sun, what can we expect from Mauer this year? How about another batting title? Here’s why I think it can and will happen. For starters, he’s healthy. A healthy Joe Mauer plays way more than the 82 games he played last year. A healthy Joe Mauer is a hitting machine, and he will certainly exceed his career average of .323 this season. A healthy Joe Mauer comes through in the clutch, and will likely drive in closer to 90 runs, not the putrid 30 he put up last year. Finally, a healthy Joe Mauer doesn’t have bad seasons – ever.

Joe Mauer has never failed. Last year was the closest he has ever come to being a failure. He won’t let it happen again, his DNA won’t allow it. I mean, this is the same kid that only stuck out ONCE his entire 4 year high school baseball career. He was also the number one overall draft pick in 2001, and even with all the pressure that goes with that, he managed to exceed all expectations by winning three batting titles and an MVP award in only 7 full seasons with the Twins. He truly is a natural, and anyone who follows baseball and has seen him swing can’t argue that point.

But the biggest reason I think Joe Mauer will win his fourth batting title this year is because he’s got a chip on his shoulder, and he has something to prove to both himself and the fans that have supported him his entire career. Baseball requires a unique combination of physical and mental toughness. Mauer has never lacked the mental fortitude for the game, but last year the physical component failed him. He spent this entire off-season rebuilding his physical fitness and strength, and he recently declared himself 100% healthy. And if that isn’t enough, let’s not forget that Joe is getting married at the end of this season. That seems like a really good incentive to have a great year. Mark my words, he will have his cake, and batting title too.

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