Justin Morneau won the MVP in 2006 after raking to the tune of a .321/.375/.559 line, with 37 2B, 34 HR, and 130 RBI, leading the Twins to a 96-66 record and the AL Central title. Since then, Morneau hasn’t been all bad, as he was an All-Star from 2007-2010, but then…IT happened.
July 7, 2010, Morneau collided with John McDonald at second base (http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=9761163) in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays, he then missed the remainder of the season, which he left with a .345/.437/.618 line in 81 games, a clear MVP candidate. 2011 wasn’t very friendly after the concussion symptoms cleared up. He missed five games in April with the flu, a couple of games in June due to a sore wrist, and then he had neck surgery to resolve a pinched nerve problem. He came back in mid-August only to miss time with a bruised foot and on August 29, he suffered a shoulder injury which resulted in more concussion-like symptoms and he was done for the year.
Since sustaining his concussion in July of 2010, Morneau has hit just .227/.285/.333 with 16 2B, 4 HR, and 30 RBI in 69 games. This spring he has been pretty miserable, until he ripped two homers on Saturday, posting a .154/.233/.333 line with 2 HR and 7 RBI, going just 6 for 39.
Morneau doesn’t seem right this spring and he has been DH in the last seven games that he has played. It could be an opportunity for Ryan Doumit to get a look at first, or maybe to see if Chris Parmelee should have a larger role or get sent to Triple-A Rochester. Regardless, Morneau is going to get his own shot to play every day, as Twins manger Ron Gardenhire told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
“He’s in the lineup; it doesn’t matter where we’re playing him. We’re just getting him at-bats right now. I know he can play first base, I don’t need to know about that. I need to know about other people. Right now, he’s just playing. We’ll decide that when we get down to the end. I told you that before; we’ll make that decision at the end of spring training. Right now we’ll do what we have to do to get him at-bats.”
Getting Justin Morneau at bats is necessary, but it is necessary because the Twins need to see if he has anything left. Concussions have manipulated some of the greatest careers ever: Steve Young, Sidney Crosby, and now Morneau. Morneau even said himself (to the Associated Press) when he reported to spring:
“I don’t think there will be a career if it’s something I’m dealing with (for the long term), that’s the reality of the whole thing. I’m obviously not going to continue to mess around with this if it continues to be a problem. There comes a point where you can only torture yourself for so long. It’s something I love to do but you keep preparing and you keep being left out. That’s something that nobody wants to go through.”
If the issues persist, Morneau could be done whether he wants to be or not. He will be 31-years-old on May 15th and he is married with a daughter. How long will he give himself to return to form? Will he ever return to form? The Twins can only hope so, but Morneau seems to be giving it his all to no avail at this point.