I really should stop reading comments on Twitter, Facebook, and any major Twins blog.
It seems the fans need a whipping boy or scapegoat (or both) on whom to vent their frustrations with this season. Most years the ire is taken out on Ron Gardenhire or Bill Smith. This year, however, the scapegoating has been absolutely relentless on Joe Mauer.
First, Mauer is from Minnesota. He's been hailed as a hometown hero. Last year, when he signed his current contract, people said he took a hometown discount to stay with the Twins. They said he could have brought in a lot more money if he had hit the free agent market after 2010. With all the problems he's had all season, he has not lived up to the high expectation of the fans.
Second, there's his contract. He's guaranteed $23 million this year. If you do the math, that's $141,975.31 per game. If you break it down by how many games he actually played this season (82), it becomes $280,487.81 per game. Some feel that he should not get paid if he doesn't play. Of course, the MLBPA would come after any owner who tried to pull that sort of stunt. Likewise, there are those who point out that if their employer withheld their salary because they were too sick or too injured to properly do their job, it would be a legal and ethical violation. Besides, most people aren't professional athletes who train and condition themselves to be in as great of shape as possible because their job requires it.
Third, and lastly, is his rather lengthy health report this season. Mauer had knee surgery back in December. He rushed through rehab and through Spring Training because he thought it would be more helpful to the team to have him there regardless of how he truly felt. His contract more than likely added to the pressure he felt to come back sooner than later. This resulted in the "bilateral leg weakness" that sent him to Florida for two months of the season. It didn't help that a stomach virus hospitalized him shortly after he went on the DL. Now, I don't blame Mauer for being upset about the bilateral leg weakness description, but it would have been better if the Twins' front office just admitted that he wasn't ready for the season and needed a couple more months to prepare. The other nagging question was why he waited until December to have the knee surgery instead of going under the knife right away in October. Looking back in hindsight, Mauer himself admitted that he shouldn't have waited on the surgery.
In late August Mauer tweaked his neck diving for a pop-up. He missed seven games because of it. Two games after returning he came down with the respiratory bug that caused him to miss a series, and that hasn't gone away. He was coughing a lot in Kansas City and was diagnosed with the pneumonia that has ended his season.
The laundry list of health woes has led to the accusations of Mauer being "soft" or milking injuries and illnesses to get out of having to actually play to earn his money. Some have gone so far as to accuse him of faking them. With the way the team has been playing, those making these accusations are claiming that he was looking for an excuse to not play on a losing team and finally found it. It would not surprise me if these are the same people who, when Mauer signed his contract last year, would have gladly given him a blow job if he asked them to. (Sorry for the crass image, but it seems an appropriate analogy.) With all the other problems the team has had—especially with injuries to everyone else on the team—one would think that people could stop and see the bigger picture. Instead, they choose to make Mauer the Whipping Boy for everything that has gone wrong this season.