Joe Mauer: Phoning It In At 28?

Jim Souhan drops this bombshell in the Sunday Strib:

In the past six months, I’ve spoken with dozens of key people working at all levels of the Twins organization about Mauer. Most expressed disgust or dismay over the way he conducted himself last season.

A few defended him, saying his primary problem is an inability to communicate clearly. None, at the point of our conversations, had directly told Mauer how damaging and infuriating his 2011 season was to his teammates, bosses and fans. All of them said they believed Mauer viewed criticism aimed at him as ignorant and irrelevant…

Whether Mauer had anything to do with their mindsets or not is difficult to ascertain, but Joe Nathan and Michael Cuddyer, two long-term Twins who had spoken of wanting to end their careers in Minnesota, left in free agency, and a group of young players the veterans nicknamed “The Fun Bunch” seemed pleased to draw a big-league paycheck regardless whether the Twins won or lost.

Mauer’s on the record as being “embarrassed” about last year’s finish, and Souhan himself points out Mauer’s widely viewed as “down-to-earth,” despite his $184 million contract. Fans — especially in Minnesota — love him for that.

But there’s another term for what we see as humility: passivity.

I don’t think it’s clear that Mauer’s “phoning it in.” If Souhan’s right, it seems some in the Twins organization think otherwise. That perception may be just as important for the team’s future.

But even if Souhan’s wrong, if $184 million can’t buy a healthier knee, it ought to be enough to buy a little leadership from a team’s franchise player.

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