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Mauer retires after 15 years, 6 All-Star nods

Fan favorite writes letter to fans, recalling 'amazing memories'
MLB.com @RhettBollinger

MINNEAPOLIS -- Joe Mauer, one of the greatest catchers in MLB history, officially announced his retirement Monday after a storied 15-year career with the Twins that saw him win an unprecedented three American League batting titles as a catcher, the 2009 AL MVP Award, surpass 2,000 career hits and earn six All-Star selections.

Mauer, who following an injury moved to first base for the last five years of his career and had a memorable sendoff on the last day of the 2018 season that saw him serve as a catcher for one pitch, wrote a letter to Twins fans to make the announcement on Friday night. The club and Mauer held a news conference Monday to discuss his decision.

MINNEAPOLIS -- Joe Mauer, one of the greatest catchers in MLB history, officially announced his retirement Monday after a storied 15-year career with the Twins that saw him win an unprecedented three American League batting titles as a catcher, the 2009 AL MVP Award, surpass 2,000 career hits and earn six All-Star selections.

Mauer, who following an injury moved to first base for the last five years of his career and had a memorable sendoff on the last day of the 2018 season that saw him serve as a catcher for one pitch, wrote a letter to Twins fans to make the announcement on Friday night. The club and Mauer held a news conference Monday to discuss his decision.

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"After much consideration I have decided to retire from playing baseball," he wrote in his retirement announcement. This decision did not come easily, as baseball always has been, and always will be one of my greatest passions. The last few months of this season were very emotional for me and I wanted to take time to separate some of those emotions and think with a clear frame of mind. The decision came down to my health and my family. The risk of concussion is always there, and I was reminded of that this season after missing over 30 games as a result of diving for a foul ball."

Video: CWS@MIN: Minnesota shows Mauer love in final game

Mauer, 35, took a little more than a month after the season to make his decision, as he didn't want to hamstring the first office and their plans for the offseason. He retires with five AL Silver Slugger Awards and three Gold Glove Awards, hitting .306/.388/.439 with 143 homers, 2,123 hits, 428 doubles, 1,018 runs and 923 RBIs in 1,858 games with the Twins.

Video: BOS@MIN: Mauer belts walk-off homer into the bullpen

He's Minnesota's all-time leader in doubles and is second in hits behind Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett. Mauer is also second all-time among Twins players in Wins Above Replacement, only trailing Hall of Famer Rod Carew, per Baseball Reference.

Given how injuries impacted his career, Mauer will have an interesting case for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, as he's still rates as one of the best catchers, according to advanced statistics. Among catchers, he's eighth all-time in WAR, with all seven backstops ahead of him in the Hall of Fame.

Video: Must C Classic: Mauer knocks historic 2,000th hit

Mauer, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 MLB Draft, was the face of the franchise as a local product who grew up in St. Paul. He won his first AL batting title in 2006, and he followed it up by leading the AL in batting average again in 2008 and '09, becoming the first catcher to win three batting titles. His best season came in 2009, when Mauer hit .365/.444/.587, leading the AL in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage en route to winning the AL MVP Award.

Tweet from @Twins: From the bottom of our heart, #ThankYou7. pic.twitter.com/rdIpwzzIMm

With Mauer set for free agency after that season, the Twins kept him home with an eight-year, $184 million contract that expired after the 2018 season. Mauer was an All-Star again in 2010, '12 and '13, but he suffered a career-altering concussion on Aug. 19, 2013, which changed the trajectory of his career.

Video: Joe Mauer's first and last Major League hits

Mauer had to move to first base after the concussion, and he was never quite the same hitter he was before the career-altering injury. He had a resurgent 2017 campaign that saw him hit .305/.384/.417 in 141 games while playing Gold Glove-caliber defense at first, but Mauer hit .282/.351/.379 in 127 games in 2018, missing time again with concussion-related issues stemming from a dive at first base.

Video: CWS@MIN: Mauer reflects on his career as a Twin

The decision to retire isn't a surprise, given how the last game of the 2018 season went, as Mauer had an incredible sendoff. His twin daughters, Emily and Maren, met him at first base before the game to give him a hug. He was then given a standing ovation before his first at-bat, and he later delivered a vintage Mauer double to the opposite-field in the seventh.

Video: Blylevin and Cuddyer discuss Mauer's impact

But the biggest moment came in the eighth, when he served as catcher one last time for one pitch with the White Sox understanding the situation and not swinging. Mauer was emotional throughout the day and it was evident he was likely to retire after the season.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

Minnesota Twins, Joe Mauer