THE SIX KINGS Posted November 23, 2009 Share Posted November 23, 2009 Mauer catches AL MVP Award Three-time batting champ rewarded for big year, leading Twins fan comments print this page e-mail this page post on facebook Related LinksAll-time MVP Award winners Complete 2009 Awards coverage By Kelly Thesier / MLB.com 11/23/09 2:00 PM EST MINNEAPOLIS -- Joe Mauer joined an elite group of players when he won his third American League batting title this past season. Now the 26-year-old Twins catcher has become a member of another illustrious club -- that of MVP winners. Mauer was named the American League Most Valuable Player by the Baseball Writers Association of America for the first time in his career on Monday, beating out the Yankees' duo of Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira for the honor. Mauer became the fifth player in Twins history to win the MVP Award. He joined teammate Justin Morneau, who took home the honor in 2006, as well as Zoilo Versalles (1965) Harmon Killebrew (1969) and Rod Carew (1977). He also became just the second catcher in the past 33 years to be named MVP. Texas' Ivan Rodriguez (1999) is the only backstop besides Mauer to take home the honor since Yankees catcher Thurman Munson won it in 1976. The last catcher to win National League MVP honors was Cincinnati's Johnny Bench in 1972. Mauer put together the best season of his already impressive young career in 2009. He batted .365 to earn his second straight AL batting title. It was his third batting title in four seasons, making the 26-year-old the only catcher in Major League history to accomplish the feat. He is the 10th player in AL history with three or more batting titles. In addition to leading the league in batting average, Mauer also was the leader in on-base percentage (.444) and slugging percentage (.587), giving him what some stat gurus have deemed the modern Triple Crown. The last AL player to lead in all three of those categories was George Brett of the Royals in 1980. Mauer set career highs in home runs (28) and RBIs (96). And it was that unexpected power surge that was the biggest change for Mauer in 2009, as he more than doubled his previous high in homers (13 in 2006). "The year Joe had was just incredible," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said last week. "It's almost hard to wrap your mind around where he now stands in the history of the game. I know what he means to our ballclub and our organization. But I think everybody nationally is starting to get a little bit of a feel now how really, really good this guy is. I think you just top it off by giving him an MVP award, which he rightfully deserves." Perhaps what made Mauer's season even more impressive was how things began for the catcher in Spring Training. Back problems that had plagued Mauer throughout the offseason kept him from participating at all during the club's six weeks in Fort Myers, Fla. Mauer was diagnosed with inflammation in his sacroiliac joint in mid-March, and he was forced to begin the year on the disabled list and miss the entire first month of the regular season as he allowed his aching back to heal. By the time Mauer was getting ready to make his return to the Twins on May 1, his teammates were cautious not to put too much pressure on the All-Star catcher. They downplayed what he might be able to contribute to the team right away. After all, Mauer's preparation for the season had basically been limited to some extended Spring Training games and Minor League contests. Turns out, the Twins had no need for any concern. Mauer not only hit a home run in his very first at-bat, in May he put together one of the best single-month performances ever enjoyed by a player. But Mauer's impact on the Twins was about more than his offensive numbers. During the first month of the season, the club got a reminder of what it was like not to have its Gold Glove catcher behind the plate. In addition to having one of the better arms in the league, Mauer has also played a key role in helping to steady the Twins pitching staff. "I can't say he's gone to the next level because he's been at a level that not too many people have been at anyway," Gardenhire said. "But the MVP Award would really put a cap on what we've known all along here in Minnesota and that's what he is, he is an MVP of the league. He's one of the elite." Mauer was considered a front-runner for the MVP honor as he flirted with hitting .400 into the month of July, but the catcher saw his candidacy surge thanks to the Twins' late-season run. Sitting seven games back of the Tigers on Sept. 6, Minnesota won 17 of its final 21 games -- including a one-game tiebreaker against Detroit -- to capture the club's fifth division title in eight years. With Morneau out for the final three weeks of the season due to injury, Mauer's production was even more critical. The Twins went 11-11 in April without Mauer but went 76-65 after he returned to the club. "I think you take Joe out of this lineup, off this team and I don't think we're still battling for a playoff spot right now," Morneau said in early September. "For me, I don't think there is anyone more valuable in the league -- the American League, for sure -- let alone all of baseball." This award season had already been kind to Mauer. He was named the AL's Outstanding Player in the Player's Choice Awards as well as being named the top player in the AL by the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. He also earned his third Silver Slugger Award and his second straight Gold Glove. But now Mauer's trophy case will feature another distinguished honor: an AL MVP Award. Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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