‘I’m very hopeful’: With days remaining, Joe Mauer’s Hall of Fame chances looking strong

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As more and more Hall of Fame ballots have been publicly released and Joe Mauer’s odds of getting into Cooperstown this year have seemingly risen, his former teammate and good friend Justin Morneau has found himself paying an increasing amount of attention to the vote count.

But it’s not a topic he chats with Mauer about and Mauer himself “would never bring it up,” Morneau said.

“I was with him and somebody asked him about it and he gave the same answer you would expect him to give. ‘Well, I don’t know. I guess we’ll see. It’s not up to me. It’d be cool if it happens,’ ” Morneau recounted. “Typical Joe but I think deep down it means a lot to him but it’s out of his control.”

Longtime members of the Baseball Writers Association of America voted on Mauer’s candidacy and the results of their voting will be revealed on a show that airs live from Cooperstown on Tuesday night on MLB Network beginning at 5 p.m.

It has started to look highly likely that Mauer will be voted in on the first ballot, a possibility that has been drawing plenty of buzz around the Twin Cities, even if the man from St. Paul himself isn’t so keen on talking about it.

“I told my wife, the last one that’s losing sleep over this is Joe Mauer. That’s just the way he is,” said Jim O’Neill, Mauer’s high school baseball coach at Cretin-Derham Hall. “I woke up from a dream the other day thinking about this.”

The former Twins catcher, who played all 15 years of his major-league career down the road from his home in St. Paul, has received 84.1 percent of the vote on ballots that have been revealed publicly, per X user Ryan Thibodaux’s (@NotMrTibbs) tracker. Approximately 47.4 percent of ballots are known.

Per Thibodaux’s data, Mauer would need 66.8 percent of support on the remainder of ballots to be elected.

“He’s at a standard where you can’t deny that he’s a hall of famer,” said Mauer’s former manager, Paul Molitor, himself a first-ballot hall of famer from St. Paul. “… I’m really encouraged by how it’s been trending. Even if there’s a little bit of a drop-off from where he sits at now, in the 4-6 percent range, which seems to be pretty typical, it still puts him in good position. I’m very hopeful about next week.”

Players need 75 percent of the vote for entry to the Hall of Fame, and that drop-off Molitor referred to often comes from voters who do not choose to reveal their ballots publicly casting votes for fewer players.

But with just a few days remaining, Mauer seems to have a comfortable cushion and appears to be in a good position to join an exclusive list of first-ballot hall of famers. Adrián Beltré, who currently has 98.9 percent support as of Saturday morning, is also on pace to enter this year on the first ballot.

“The numbers are the numbers, and as a catcher, definitively, Joe’s numbers rise very quickly to elite status, the upper echelon of the game at that position, and therefore I think (what’s) ultimately proving to win the day is really the track record that he amassed as a player but more importantly as a catcher,” Twins president and CEO Dave St. Peter said.

Among his accomplishments, Mauer was a six-time all-star, a three-time Gold Glove winner and the first catcher to win three batting titles, accomplishing the feat in 2006 (.347), 2008 (.328) and 2009 (.365), his MVP season.

In 2009, Mauer led the American League not only in batting average but also on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS. Though he missed the first month of the season, he clubbed a career-high 28 home runs and added 96 RBIs while also taking home a Gold Glove for his defensive prowess behind the plate in one of the best seasons ever for a catcher.

“I always believed he was a hall of famer, but you never know what everyone else thinks. It’s hard to be a first-ballot hall of famer, especially,” Morneau said. “… He’s the best catcher of his generation. I think he did things that no one else did, so I think he’s definitely deserving of being in the Hall of Fame.”

And if Mauer is elected to the Hall of Fame and inducted this summer, well, expect a big celebration in upstate New York.

“We had a huge Minnesota contingent in Cooperstown a couple of years ago for Tony (Oliva) and Jim (Kaat), and I can only imagine how enjoyable it’s going to be if we can do that again to get a large group from Minnesota to rally in Cooperstown next July,” Molitor said.

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