2002 Bowman Heritage Joe Mauer RC
Mauer started off in the baseball card hobby as a very desirable and highly sought after player. The statement is somewhat true today, but Mauer has definitely lost a little bit of his steam around the hobby. I am sure that a big chunk of the reason for the drop in Mauer's popularity has to do with the fact that he plays for Twins. In my opinion, while I view Mauer as a very good player, I think he's someone that people in the hobby overestimated and have therefore cooled on. I am sure that many collectors were think Mike Piazza when they first laid eyes on Mauer, but instead they got something different. Different is not always a bad thing, which some collectors have failed to realize in this case.
Mauer still has a very strong hobby following, and while prices on his cards have tailed off during the past decade, you are still going to pay a pretty good price when you run across a nice Mauer card. One of my first decent Mauer pulls, outside of his rookie cards, was a 2004 Upper Deck Etchings autograph. I do not even remember what it was numbered out of, but everyone who signed for that set signed a ton of cards. Which is a good thing with Mauer's hobby presence. He does have a ton of cards including a wide selection of autographs, relics, and low print runs. My favorite autograph of Mauer in my collection:
2004 Upper Deck Sweet Spot Joe Mauer Autograph
Generally, premium Mauer cards are going to sell and sell high. I nice autograph of the Twins catcher can easily approach $50 with a low print run. Most common autographs settle somewhere in between $25 and $40 based on brand quality, sticker, non-sticker, etc. Again, Mauer has a healthy stock of autographs floating around on the secondary market with many being on-card. If you want a cheap sticker autograph, those are out there too. Pretty good price for a Hall of Fame autograph.
On The Field Impact-
Mauer is one of the best hitting catchers of all-time. Before I get into the numbers with Mauer, let's not forget that Mauer is only 30 and still has plenty of time to add to the numbers that he's posted during the first part of career. Whether or not he remains a catcher or not almost does not matter at this point. Given where Mauer ranks among catchers currently, and his company on those lists, point me in the direction of him being a shoe-in for Cooperstown.
I have really been digging the JAWS ratings on the baseball-reference site. If you have not clicked the link on the bottom of a player's page you should check it out for sure. The JAWS rating for catchers places Mauer as the thirteenth best catcher of all-time at the mid-point of his career. The players in front of him include Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk, Pudge, Bill Dickey, and Yogi Berra. There are a few non-Hall of Famers on that list like Ted Simmons, but a lot of those are errors the Hall of Fame writers should correct. Translation: Tell me again why Ted Simmons isn't in the Hall? Mauer is a better average hitter than anyone on the list, but lacks some of the pop that players like Bench, Berra, and Piazza possessed.
How good of a hitter is Mauer? One of my favorite, non-numbers, factoids about Mauer is the fact that he has broken up three different no-hit bids in the ninth inning. I am not sure if anyone else has every accomplished such a feat in MLB history, but it's a cool enough factoid that Major League Baseball has put the three hits into a video montage on YouTube.
Mauer is also an above average defender behind the plate and has captured a total of three Gold Gloves. Some of his defensive work has taken a hit recently with injuries and knee issues, but he still shows off every once in awhile. One of the coolest meaningless catches I've ever seen in a game:
Pretty good grab there.
It was a toss up, for me, between the 2011 Topps base set card and his 2002 Topps T206 variation card. I am actually going to side with the 2011 Topps base card here, but the 206 card is pretty sweet if you are a Mauer or Twins collector looking for a good card to track down.
2011 Topps Joe Mauer
I love this card, because it shows Joe Mauer doing what Joe Mauer does best: Hitting. This action shot shows a good picture of Mauer's great looking left-handed swing and I like the background too. You get a little glimpse of the limestone in Target field just above Mauer's bat too. Great card by Topps.