Recently, the world of Major League Baseball bid ‘adieu’ to two more all time greats, Joe Mauer and Adrian Beltre, who announced their individual exits from the game of professional baseball this winter. It’s startling to me that only one player from the 20th Century remains active in baseball, that player being Bartolo ‘Big Sexy’ Colon.
As somebody who began following baseball vigorously as a young boy, I have outstanding memories of both of these players, and am heartbroken to see their careers come to an end. However, it is exceedingly exciting to look back at the careers they have led, and to know that each of them will undoubtably receive Hall of Fame honors one day.
Joe Mauer – A Lifelong Twin
I remember being obsessed with Joe Mauer’s statistics as a kid. I had never seen somebody, especially a catcher achieve such high batting averages in my lifetime. Mauer was, for most of his career, the best in the game. In his age 23 season, Mauer hit a major league leading .347 in 140 games played. That kind of average was unheard of for a player at his position — unless you’re Mike Piazza that is. However, even Mike Piazza couldn’t believe his eyes when Mauer fever struck in 2009, and he bat an absolutely insane .365 with 28 home runs, his career high.
Over the span of his career, Mauer had seven seasons of a .300 average or higher. He easily inserted his name among some of the greatest catchers of all time, joining the likes of Yogi Berra, Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk, and more. Sadly, concussion issues would inhibit his ability to continue to play at the catcher position and, as such, he transitioned to first base, where he would finish his career.
Joe Mauer was a breath of fresh air in a world of increasing strikeout rates and decreasing averages. His ability to produce quality at-bats and make solid contact with the ball was unparalleled for most of his career. He was a natural hitter, a great person, and, unquestionably, a future Hall of Famer. He will be severely missed in the world of America’s Pastime.
Adrian Beltre – An Infinite Source of Joy
Beltre is, flat out, one of the greatest players to ever emerge from the Dominican Republic. Over a 21 year career, Beltre amassed 477 long balls, 3,166 hits, and played in 2,933 games. He is an indisputable member of the Hall of Fame, but that’s not the reason people loved him.
Adrian Beltre lived for the game of baseball. Any time the camera would catch him, Beltre would always have a smile on his face and a joke on his mind. Whether he was busting the opposing pitchers chops, moving the on deck circle, or getting his head touched by his long time neighbor, Elvis Andrus, Beltre was always about having fun on the diamond.
Both of these dignified players will be severely missed, both by myself and by their fans. Personally, I wish them all the happiness in the world with their futures. They both were one-of-a-kind, and are irreplaceable pinnacles of baseball.