The Cove
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Is Mauer a Cautionary Tale for Posey?

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    Buster Posey took two foul balls off his catcher's mask on Wednesday (see how I avoided the easy joke there -- almost more impressive isn't it?), and as a result, is out of the lineup on Thursday.

    Eli Whiteside will take his place behind the plate and it's possible that Posey, who's been getting beat up as a result of simply being a catcher, could miss more than just a game.

    That's fine, because catchers need days off. Especially if that catcher is the future of the team, the reigning Rookie of the Year, and one of the top-four best-hitting young backstops in the bigs.

    The rest of that list, if you're curious, includes (in my humble opinion): Brian McCann, Carlos Santana and, of course, Joe Mauer.

    Mauer, though, won't rank any where near the top of the best hitters this season, because he's been too injured. And his time on the disabled list is the reason I'd like to delve a little deeper into the management of Posey.

    Now, I'm not suggesting that Posey's injury (face sore?) is anything close to Mauer's ("bilateral leg weakness and viral infection"). Because it's not.

    I just find it interesting that the Twins are currently refusing to bring Mauer back in a role that's anything other than as a catcher -- they want to get him back for the last "four-plus" months of the season catching, versus bringing his bat into the lineup vis-a-vis a designated hitter role.

    The Twins' logic is that Mauer's value as a catcher is substantially greater than his value would be as a designated hitter. And they're correct -- as David Schoenfield points out at ESPN, Mauer ranks as a top-five catcher in OPS+ from 2005-2010.

    Moved to a role as a first baseman or designated hitter? He cracks the top-five just once, in 2009, the year he won the AL MVP.

    Of course, Minnesota's bigger problem is that they've committed $23 million a year to Mauer, and that's a lot of cheddar for a guy who's not the top player at his position (or, potentially, not top-five at his position).

    Posey doesn't have that type of contract in pocket right now. Though if he produces like he did in 2010, he will soon. If 2011 is his baseline -- he's currently on pace for a .243/.335/.361 line, 18 home runs, 85 RBI, 63 walks, 13 stolen bases and 103 strikeouts -- then he ain't getting paid like Mauer did.

    But it's not a stretch to say that struggling this year and we can expect more.

    Additionally, Posey's outstanding defensively too -- Matt Klaassen of Beyond the Box Score piled up some raw defensive rankings that put Posey as the fourth-best catcher in the bigs behind the plate, on the side of the ball he's not necessarily known for.

    I'm not trying to say that Joe Mauer is a cautionary tale for the Giants in their treatment of Posey. And I'm not trying to say that the Giants are mistreating Posey; his absence from the lineup on Thursday clearly shows they're not.

    It's just sad to look at a guy like Mauer, who's a hero in Minnesota, getting to a point where there's guys like Nick Nelson writing posts titled "Til it Drops," and an assortment of fans firing up a petition to "Move 7 to 7" or "any other feasible position."

    That's partly because Mauer is a great player and watching him deal with what can only be defined as "lower-body injuries almost blatantly caused by catching" isn't any fun.

    But it's also because, with Posey sitting out because of getting beat up behind the plate, it's a reminder of just how dangerous to the body catching in baseball can be.

    Maybe Posey's the rare case of a guy with a body that with a healthy horse -- to paraphrase Johnny Bench -- and maybe he ends up catching and smashing the ball all over AT&T, without health issues, for years to come.

    But as Mauer's cautionary tale shows us, it can't really hurt to be a little cautious when it comes to a catcher with tons of potential.