Monday, October 1, 2018

A season's, and maybe a career's, end

An emotional Joe Mauer caught one, presumably final,
 major-league pitch in the ninth inning Sunday, five years
after a concussions forced him to abandon the position.
The final day of the regular season is always one of the saddest of the year for me. Some years I'm eager for the postseason, but even in those years I know I'll miss the rhythm of the schedule -- and winter is coming.

On Sunday we got a glimpse of how much Joe Mauer misses being a catcher. His postgame description of having put the gear in a bag five years ago and never opening it until Saturday night, when he put it on over his clothes -- that helped explain the tears as he stood on the field one more time in the "tools of ignorance" to receive one more pitch.

I was unenthused about the stunt while it was happening, just as I frowned at the one-pitch return to third base by Jim Thome in 2011.  But it clearly meant a lot to Mauer, and apparently to Mauer's family.

It occurred to me in these past few days of trying to ferret out of Mauer's deeds and words what his intentions are that much may hinge on how he defines "Joe Mauer" to himself. If his first thought is "baseball player," it's a lot less likely that he'll retire than if it's "husband and father," and vice versa.

Sunday made me wonder if "catcher" isn't still top shelf in his self-image, more than five years after he last caught a competitive pitch.

And I wonder, too, if the theatrics the Twins worked into Sunday's game -- his daughters visiting first base for the usual Sunday kids starting lineup (which he didn't know about before hand), the one-pitch return to catching (which he had know about), the old promo commercials on the scoreboard -- if all that was intended to nudge Mauer in the direction of retirement.

Mauer will decide what he deems best for himself. It's not for me to substitute my judgment for his. I expect him to walk away, but it's certainly plausible that he'll decide he wants to live baseball's rhythms at least one more season.

No comments:

Post a Comment