Appreciating Justin MorneauJuly 16, 2008 at 1:45 am | Posted in Baseball | 4 Comments
With all of the excitement surrounding Josh Hamilton after his performance in last night’s Home Run Derby, it has been pretty much forgotten that the actual winner of the Derby was Justin Morneau. I’m not suggesting that Hamilton isn’t worthy of the attention; he is. The rules of the contest may not have been ideal, and I suspect that they may be changed next year, but Morneau won according to the rules that were established beforehand.
Surely, Justin Morneau deserves some accolades, doesn’t he? He remained focused after witnessing Josh Hamilton make history and pulled out a win. After thinking about it today, I wonder why Morneau doesn’t get more recognition for being one of the best hitters in baseball, and why he sometimes doesn’t even get respect. Remember how so many Yankees fans complained when Morneau was named American League MVP in 2006? He hit .321-.375-.559 that year with 34 home runs and 130 RBI and led the Twins to the playoffs. He deserved the award. And did you hear Rick Reilly (a man who clearly loves to hear the sound of his own voice, no matter how nonsensical it is) mumbling something about Justin Morneau not deserving to be in the Home Run Derby? How do you feel about that now, Rick?
Justin Morneau is certainly worthy of more praise than he has been getting lately. Think about it this way. Morneau was drafted by the Twins out of high school with the 89th overall pick in the 1999 draft. That’s the same draft in which Josh Hamilton was the 1st overall pick by the Devil Rays. By the end of 2001, both Morneau and Hamilton had been successful in Single-A and had cups of coffee in Double-A. In 2002, Morneau established himself as a top prospect in Double-A while injuries limited Hamilton to a half season in Single-A. Hamilton then disappeared in 2003, abandoning his teammates and the organization that had invested so much in him. Meanwhile, Morneau had another great season in the minors and made his major league debut. In 2004, Morneau hit 41 home runs between Triple-A Rochester and the Twins. Hamilton was busy getting wasted and did not play. He hit 22 home runs for the Twins in 2005 in his first full season in the majors, and followed that up with his MVP season of 2006. Hamilton’s life was filled with drugs and crime in 2005, and he began to get clean in 2006, managing to play in 15 short-season Single-A games. Morneau has continued with MVP-caliber production in 2007 and 2008. Hamilton made his major league debut in 2007 and has finally emerged as a star in 2008.
Hamilton is definitely a great story and his comeback is impressive. But we should remember not to overlook heroes like Justin Morneau, who have managed to have success and consistently provide a positive example for kids without making the mistakes that Josh Hamilton made.
I plan to have kids someday and I’m going to try my hardest to make sure they are baseball fans. If they were to become fans of Josh Hamilton, I would need to sit down with them and explain the good and bad sides of Hamilton’s life story. If they were fans of Justin Morneau, I would have absolutely no reservations about it. Morneau, by all accounts, has always been a class act, and he’s one of the best all-around hitters in baseball on top of that. Isn’t he worthy of our praise and adulation too?
And right as I finish typing this, Justin Morneau scores the winning run in the All Star game. Congratulations on a truly outstanding couple of days at Yankee Stadium, Justin!