Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
When I heard the news that Justin Morneau had been traded to the Pirates early last Saturday, I went into a dark place. I only recently emerged from the dark room where Boyz II Men’s: “End of the Road,” had been playing on repeat for the duration of the holiday weekend, so I apologize for coming late to the party on this one.
The thing is, I am not irrational. For large parts of this year I have felt like Billy Heywood cheering for Jerry Johnson in “Little Big League.” So, I know that Morneau is not, and will likely never again be the player he once was, but it isn’t just about losing him. Even while the Twins were trudging towards the cellar of the AL Central for the third straight season, seeing Morneau’s name in the lineup every day made you feel like the days of the Twins’ success were not that far behind us. The M&M boys were the sole remaining survivors of those Twins teams that won the central six times in nine years, and now with Morneau gone, and Mauer still out with a concussion, the stark reality of the holes in the Twins’ lineup is truly a depressing sight.
This is a lost season for the Twins, and by trading Morneau they have officially set fire to the deck chairs on the Titanic.
I don’t want to do the management of the Twins any favors, as they, like the Dementors in Harry Potter, have sucked all of the happiness out of Target Field with the way they have handled the team in recent years. All in the vain hopes that the nice concession stands would even things out.
However, dealing Morneau has allowed for other players to get playing time, namely Chris Colabello, to see what they have (though it could easily be argued that this could have occurred without trading Morneau, this still reeks of a salary dump).
However, life and baseball goes on, and after losing to the Astros 6-5 today, the Twins are 3-1 since the Morneau trade (the beauty of a small sample size).
Alex Presley, one of the players acquired in the trade, has performed very well out of the leadoff spot in his first four games, hitting .389, with one homer and five RBIs.
The Twins also recently called up the 24-year-old catcher Josmil Pinto, and in his first three games he is doing his best Wilson Ramos impression, going 7-10 with two doubles (he was a pinch hitter and singled in one AB today). Of course, as Seth Stohs’ reminds us, baseball is hard.
That said, Pinto is definitely a guy worth being excited about, seeing that in 126 games between AA and AAA this year he sported a .309/.400/.482 line, also adding 15 homers and 74 RBIs. Pinto is obviously raw and will certainly have his struggles, but he is a guy to watch as the Twins complete the final month of the season.
Pinto also becomes interesting as the Twins assess the future of star catcher, Joe Mauer. Ever since Mauer was injured in his rookie year with the Twins, people have been making the argument that Mauer should be moved to another position. To this point in his career, Mauer’s performance has made every single one of these claims appear foolish, so I am reluctant to make one. However, as we have witnessed in the case of Morneau, the enigmatic nature of brain injuries is not something to be trifled with, and while we could encourage Morneau to not attempt to break up any more double plays, Mauer, even with all his Minnesotan super powers, cannot dodge foul tips to the mask.
The space opened at first base by Morneau’s departure, along with Pinto’s continued success at the plate, could result in Mauer making a transition at some point.
Time will tell, and even if Mauer comes back better than ever, people will still complain about his lack of home run production.
This month could be a bleak period of time, in what has been an increasingly bleak season for the Twins. What is frustrating as a fan, is that the exodus of Morneau only creates more questions for a roster and team that seems to be full of them. Here is hoping Morneau gets a chance to help Pittsburgh succeed in October, and judging by the lack of viable options the Twins have at first base next year, I for one, hope that he is back with the Twins.
I was Mourn-eau-ing in Seattle this weekend
1. In a sheer coincidence, that has nothing to do with anything in particular, I have started watching every Pittsburgh Pirates game. This is time consuming, and I fear that my relationship with my girlfriend is reaching near “Fever Pitch“-ian levels.
2. I fully look forward to the Mauer-Morneau bromance photo montage that will be made. I am thinking that “Endless Love” would be a good option for the song. “Friends listen to Endless Love in the dark.”