Joe Mauer suffered a concussion after taking two hard foul balls to the mask against the Mets on Aug. 19 and went on the seven-day disabled list for concussions the next day. On Thursday, in his first public comments since the concussion, Mauer said that he has no timetable for his return. Yet, despite the fact that there's just a month left in the season and the Twins are 17 1/2 games out in the wild-card race, Mauer has no intention to call it a season.
"Shutting it down never entered my mind," Mauer told reporters on Thursday. "I want to get out there. Obviously you want to be smart about it, but I definitely want to get out there and play. I don't like watching. I definitely want to be out there with the guys and out there doing what I love. As soon as I can, that's what I want to do."
It's not surprising to hear that sentiment from Mauer, the 2009 AL MVP, but one wonders if the Twins are going to pull the reigns on their franchise player, particularly given the impact a concussion had on the career of their other homegrown Most Valuable Player, Justin Morneau. Morneau, who won the award in 2006, hit .292/.364/.516 while averaging 30 home runs and 118 RBIs a season from 2006 to 2009, and he was off to a blazing start in 2010, hitting .345/.437/.618 when a concussion ended his season in early July. Morneau struggled upon coming back in 2011 and the lingering effects from his concussion ended that season a month early as well. He has hit just .256/.317/.412 in two-plus seasons since his return, and while wrist, knee and foot surgeries have likely contributed to that drop in production, the concussion clearly derailed his career.
Beyond Morneau, former Twins third baseman Corey Koskie's career ended prematurely because of concussions at age 33, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, a former catcher, had his career ended by concussions at 35, and Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts lost a year and a half to a self-inflicted concussion after hitting himself in the helmet with his bat. They, along with Morneau, are just three of the most familiar examples of career-derailing concussions to Minnesota fans.
Still, despite comments last week by manager Ron Gardenhire suggesting that Mauer's days as a catcher might be numbered, Minnesota appears ready and willing to put Mauer back behind the plate. "It's his position," said general manager Terry Ryan on Thursday. "You can get hurt at [designated hitter], too." Indeed, Morneau's concussion came while running the bases and was caused by his taking a knee to the head from then-Blue Jays' second baseman Aaron Hill. As was the case with Mets ace Matt Harvey earlier this week, players are going to get hurt no matter how much you try to protect them. Still, neither the Twins, who owe Mauer another $115 million over the next five seasons, nor Mauer are going to be reckless here. Indeed, Mauer admitted on Thursday that his goal at the moment is to get back on the field, not necessarily behind the plate, adding "we'll cross that when we have to."