Posted at 11:11 AM on May 21, 2005
by David Zingler
In its annual baseball preview section this April, the Star Tribune ran a full page feature touting youngsters Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, who had a combined 29 big league homeruns at the time, as the new M&M boys. You may have heard of the original M&M duo: a couple of Yankees named Mantle and Maris. Since then Twins television announcer Dick Bremer has latched onto the moniker with great glee.
One of the before-mentioned M's however, could do without the comparison, "(The Star Tribune) said they were going to do it as more of a joke," Twins first baseman Justin Morneau commented. "I didn't really want to do it -- I didn't really like it."
Is it the pressure of such a lofty comparison that bothers him?
"Not really pressure, but being compared to two guys that are in the Hall of Fame, two guys that had a lot of big league time (isn't fair)," the 24-year-old explained.
(Note: Roger Maris is not in the Hall of Fame, but Morneau is hardly the first to make that mistake.)
Despite a winter plagued by injury and illness followed an early season beaning, Morneau has done his best to live up to the hype. Currently, the stoic Canadian is leading the team in all of the Triple Crown categories (.357, 7 HR, 25 RBI).
Unlike past years, Morneau entered spring training with a roster spot and place in the lineup already secured. "It was a good feeling going in there, there wasn't as much pressure," the straightforward slugger said. "Obviously I put pressure on myself to perform, but it's a good feeling going in there knowing that if I get off to a slow start I won?t get sent out right away."
The season was less than three games old when Morneau was hit in the head by a Ron Villone pitch and crumpled to the ground. Fortunately no serious damage was done, but the incident did cause a concussion that resulted in a stint on the Disabled List.
One could understand if Morneau was a little hesitant about getting back into the batter's box after such a traumatic incident, but he says he quickly dispelled that notion. "I went down to the minor leagues and took care of that -- got that feeling out of the way," the former hockey goalie said. "When I came back, I was ready to go."
Curiously, he has yet to hear from Villone, "He didn't call me or anything," Morneau quipped. "It was an accident, but a lot of people would have called to see how someone is doing after they got hit in the head. Especially if they had to go on the DL."
When asked if he will keep that in mind the next time he faces the Seattle reliever, Morneau gave an emphatic, "Of course."
After returning from the DL, the British Columbia native went on a tear that saw him homer in four straight games and included four hit game in which he was a homerun short of the cycle. Thanks in part to that stretch, the third year Twin has numbers that have him on track for All Star consideration.
"It would be cool to be recognized for playing well, but that's not what I am here for," Morneau said of a possible All Star selection. "I want to play well, be one of the best players on our team and if we are winning games and I am helping out, that's all that really matters to me."