Monday, September 2, 2013

Reflecting on Justin Morneau

With the news that the Minnesota Twins have traded Justin Morneau a few things crossed my mind. One was reflecting on my personal interactions with Justin. I first meet him in 2005 at the Twins Autograph Party. He grabbed a black ink pen to sign my ball; I promptly grabbed a blue ink pen off the table and stuck in his face and asked him to use it instead. He could have been a jerk about it, but graciously took the blue ink pen and used it.

Over the years I would get his autograph on 2 baseballs, a photo, and five baseball cards. He had married a woman from a town my mother used to and my uncle and aunt still do live in. We got a chance to talk about that, and he always was nice to me.

Another thought I had was what could have been. In 2005 Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau were dubbed the M & M boys. Mauer was 22 and Morneau 24. They were going to rival other legendary Twins duos like Harmon Killebrew - Tony Oliva or Kirby Puckett - Kent Hrbek.

Morneau won the 2006 MVP and finished second in 2008. He was a 4x All-Star, and 2x Silver Slugger. Morneau was one of only 3 players in Twins history to have back to back 30 HR and 100 RBI’s seasons (Killebrew and Gary Gaetti were the other two). Morneau is 3rd all-time for the Twins in HR’s and 5th all-time in RBI’s.

Mauer and Morneau’s lead teams made playoffs in 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2010, but never won a playoff series. Morneau actually did not play in 08 or 10, and Mauer did not play in 04. Morneau downfall began in 2010 in the midst of a brilliant season during the prime of his career; Morneau suffered serious concussion in Toronto. He was never the same.

When I think of the greatest Twins of all-time I put Rod Carew, Joe Mauer, Harmon Killerbrew, Kirby Puckett, and Bert Blyleven in the top group. Then I would say Johan Santana, Justin Morneau, Tony Oliva, and few others in the next group. Had he not suffered that concussion in Toronto, I believe Morneau would have been in the top group. A player who could hit .300 with 30 HR’s and 100 RBI’s year after year instead ended up being traded for a reverse outfielder and low level minor league prospect.

Mauer and Morneau were together for 10 years - one year less than Killebrew - Olivia and Puckett - Hrbek were together. It should have been a longer and more successful time together, but injuries to both men, especially Monreau made that not possible. I will remember the great time Justin Morneau produced on the field for the Twins and off the field when I had chance to interact with him.

Best of luck in Pittsburgh Justin as you deserve a chance to at least be in if not win a World Series.