Friday, July 8, 2011

First things first

Joe Mauer played first base Thursday, and played it rather well.

Joe Mauer had a nice, clean
first baseman's glove for
his major league debut at the
That he didn't embarrass himself should surprise nobody; first base is the least demanding defensive position, and he is an extraordinarily gifted athlete.

Thursday's experiment ought not be viewed as the first step of a position change, but I suspect it will be trumpeted as such in various corners of our World Wide Web of Media.

It is widely expected that Mauer will not finish his contract as a catcher, and in our current don't-wait culture, that expectation is taken to mean that he should be moved immediately, if not last month.

On this, Mauer and the organization speak in one voice:  He signed to catch, and he's going to catch.

I agree. He's more valuable as a catcher than he would be as a first baseman or even as a corner outfielder. There are many first basemen who produce runs as well as he does; there are few if any catchers who come close to his level of production at the plate, and those who do rival him as hitters are inferior defenders.

Even if he and the Twins were secretly in agreement that he's got to move out soon from behind the plate — and there is no reason to believe that to be the case — first base is not Mauer's ultimate destination, not while Justin Morneau remains under contract.

A sporadic spot start at first base, or right field, ought not be such a big deal. It becomes one, I suspect because so many outside voices have been calling for a position change for Mauer, and the result has been a defensive stubbornness about remaining a catcher.

We'll all be a lot better off if we just let nature take its course.

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