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The Twins prove that it’s OK for the Tigers to retire Lou Whitaker’s number

Let’s just do this, already

ALCS - Boston Red Sox v Detroit Tigers - Game Four Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

In early November, Joe Mauer confirmed what many had already suspected: the 2018 baseball season had been his last. He’d made one last trip out to home plate in his catcher gear, and bid a fond farewell to the team he’d played with for 15 years. A little over a month later, the Minnesota Twins announced they would retire his number 7.

Joe Mauer, though an understated player, will certainly have a case to make for admission to the Hall of Fame in five years when he’s eligible to be voted in. A 6-time All-Star, league MVP, three-time Gold Glove, five-time Silver Slugger, and three-time batting title holder, Mauer deserves a long look for consideration. Based on his JAWS score, which considers peak WAR over a player’s best seven years to assess their Hall of Fame worthiness, Joe Mauer ranks seventh. Of all time. He’s right between Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey.

There’s no question he deserves to have his number retired by the Twins, and to join the echelon of their greatest players of all time.

What’s interesting, though, is the Twins near-immediate willingness to reward this talented man with a number retirement. Some might argue a player needs to be in the Hall of Fame before getting that honor.

Others — like us — would suggest this is a sign that teams might want to be more flexible about retiring numbers, and extend the honor to those who deserve it.

Players like Lou Whitaker.

We have covered the egregious snub that is Lou Whitaker’s exclusion from the Hall of Fame, something that becomes all the more glaring when we consider that his partner in double-plays, Alan Trammell, has now been voted in by the Eras Committee. Whitaker’s numbers are not so much different from Mauer’s. He, too, spent his entire career with one team. For 19 years Whitaker sported a Tigers jersey, and in that time he collected honors for Rookie of the Year, three Gold Gloves, four Silver Sluggers, was an All-Star five times, a snagged a World Series ring in 1984.

His overall offensive numbers were not as good as Mauer’s — Whitaker ended his career with a .276/.363/.426 compared to Mauer’s .306/.388/.439 — but he was, and remains, one of the Tigers all-time greats. And if we look at his JAWS score, he is 13th overall for all second basemen in history, between two guys you might have heard of: Jackie Robinson and Roberto Alomar. Both Hall of Famers.

Both with their jerseys retired.

There is no doubt that Lou Whitaker has a case for the Hall of Fame. So does Joe Mauer. What the Twins decision to retire Mauer’s number tells us though, is vital: it doesn’t matter. Whether or not either of these men hang a plaque in Cooperstown in their lifetimes, they deserve the respect of their teams.

Joe Mauer’s number has been retired.

It’s time for the Tigers to do the same for Lou Whitaker, and hang the number 1 up next to Alan Trammell’s number 3.