Posted at 8:46 PM on July 1, 2005
by David Zingler
Because the Twins have fallen out of the AL Central race so quickly and dramatically, frustrated fans and media types have predictably begun to seek out scapegoats. First it was Michael Cuddyer, who struggled at third base before being phased out due injuries and lack of production, and now the vultures have inexplicably begun to circle Justin Morneau.
The season began with Morneau and Joe Mauer drawing absurd comparisons to Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle. Morneau bluntly stated he "didn't really like (the comparison)," and described the talk as "hype that wasn't deserved...for two guys that hadn?t spent a full year in the big leagues."
While he's hardly been Maris or Mantle-like, the 24-year-old has been solid, ?10 homeruns in 200 at bats isn't bad," he pointed out before explaining that he is far from satisfied.
A glance at the stat sheet shows the British Columbia native has been one of the top offensive forces on the Wild Card contending Twins. As of July 1, Morneau was tied for second on the team with 10 homeruns and trailed only Torii Hunter in RBI (with 39) despite an April stint on the Disabled List. Hardly eye-popping numbers, but they clearly show he's not culprit behind the teams' offensive woes.
Much of anti-Morneau sentiment can be traced back to early June when the first baseman sat out much of the Yankees series with a hyper-extended elbow that lingered through an off day and into the following series in Arizona.
With several Twins on the mend, centerfielder and team leader Torii Hunter felt compelled to question some of his teammates through the media, implying that they should suck it up and play through the pain. Much of the press took it as a direct challenge to Morneau, who, after a cortisone shot, appeared in the line-up the following night.
Things seemed to die down until this week when a member of a local talk radio duo who also doubles as the "voice of the Vikings", claimed that he had learned through a "source close to the team" that a feud had been festering between Morneau and Hunter. Morneau's "immaturity" was touted as the main cause of the flap.
Morneau however, claimed the incident "was in the past" and that "there were five guys hurt that day and (for some reason) I was singled out...(the media) even said that Gardy had said something about it, but he didn't."
Basically, he claimed, it was much to do about nothing.
Major leaguers are a tight-lipped bunch when it comes to internal disputes, so we will probably never know the whole story -- if there is one -- but even if Hunter was singling out Morneau, he had clearly over-stepped his boundaries in doing so.
One of driving forces behind the M&M hype machine is the stunted development of some of the teams' veterans, most notably Hunter and Jacque Jones, who have not developed as hitters like most observers had hoped. Command of the strike zone, in particular, comes to mind.
A self-confessed streaky homerun hitter, Morneau's biggest big league challenge is staying consistent, which of course, isn't unusual for a young power hitter. Given time and patience he will deliver, possibly even this year, the 30+ homerun power Twins fans have been craving.
Even if there are real hard feelings between Morneau and Hunter now, I'd say Morneau is well within his rights to hold a grudge. Mauer, too. The management and veteran leadership of the team tried to publicly cut down the two youngsters; and that shows me poor judgment and immaturity on the part of the elders, not the kids.
we ran the last canadian out of town. he seemed to be doing fine over at 3rd. why not this one? i'd take that other guy over cuddyer any day and twice on a double header day. i think there is a huge canadian backlash going on in america as we speak. i sight the dislike for the major motion picture "field of dreams" adapted from the famous canadian W P Kinsella's book. go leafs!
Times have changed
Our kids are getting worse
They won't obey their parents
They just want to fart and curse!
Should we blame the government?
Or blame society?
Or should we blame the images on TV?
No, blame Canada
With all their beady little eyes
And flappin' heads so full of lies
Blame Canada, Blame Canada!
The crazy Canadian will come through. Imagine the sport psych stepping up to the plate after taking a 90 mph hit to the side of the head. Hang in there Justin. I still like blondes. And thanks for the autograph in Kansas City on July 9th.
i don't think that anyone should be blaming the TWINS offsesive slump on just one person. Justin isn't the only one that is going through tough times. Some of the Veterns are even failing to deliver. All I am saying is that one person isn't going to make that much of a difference. And it has nothing to do with him being Canadian, it is because he is human, and when a human is, say expected to hit +30 homers in one season the pressure mounts. And as humans that becomes to much, especally if you are younger. You don't know many ways to productivly relive stress. Hang in there Justin, I have faith in you.