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Justin Morneau rejoins Twins six weeks after neck surgery

Aug 12, 2011, 12:12 PM EDT

Justin Morneau

Justin Morneau is back in the Twins’ lineup, coming off the disabled list slightly ahead of schedule following neck surgery six weeks ago.

Morneau sped up his return timetable by going 11-for-30 (.367) with a homer and four doubles in seven games at Triple-A, reportedly texting various Twins decision-makers to tell them he wanted back in the lineup before next week.

Morneau hasn’t played since June 9 and hasn’t played well since suffering a concussion 13 months ago, as the former MVP missed the second half of last season and then hit just .225 with four homers and a .619 OPS in 55 games this year.

With his return the Twins are basically fully healthy for the first time since early April, but unfortunately all the injuries combined with some sub par performances from key players leaves Minnesota with very slim playoff hopes even in a terrible division. Morneau showing he’s healthy and putting up some big numbers down the stretch would be a nice consolation prize, though.

  1. kopy - Aug 12, 2011 at 12:18 PM

    Slim indeed, but at least entertaining to watch. Although I’ve completely written off the Twins’ playoff chances, if they trim the 10 game deficit to at least 6 games by the end of August, you never know. They do have 7 games against the Tigers in the month of August alone, but the 4 game series against the Yankees from 8/18-8/21 could be, in my opinion, where the fat lady sings.

    • kopy - Aug 12, 2011 at 12:19 PM

      Of course, all of this would be assuming that the Twins magically stop playing bad baseball.

      • hittfamily - Aug 12, 2011 at 12:30 PM

        I think it’s one thing to think maybe the Rays or Angels somehow sneak by the Yankees into the wild card, but another to think a bad team suddenly gets good. .540 teams playing .650 baseball is not unlikely. .440 teams playing .600 baseball is very unlikely.

    • sknut - Aug 12, 2011 at 12:42 PM

      Sounds like you have Dick Bremer syndrome, to cure this please turn the sound down and turn on the radio broadcasts.

      • kopy - Aug 12, 2011 at 12:44 PM

        I do. I don’t live in Minnesota so I watch on MLB.TV with the radio overlay.

  2. hittfamily - Aug 12, 2011 at 12:23 PM

    I made a list of the top first baseman on here the other day and completely left Morneau off the list. The top tier consisted of Pujols, Gonzalez, Cabrera, Votto, Fielder, Tex. The second tier was Konerko, Howard, Youk, Trumbo, Morse. Is Morneau even in the top 10 anymore. Who is the better first basman at this point, Casey Kotchmann orJustin Morneau?

    • kopy - Aug 12, 2011 at 12:34 PM

      I can’t even tell if you’re trolling. Casey Kotchman, really? Dude had negative WAR last season. You’re comparing a career OPS+ of 98 to 125. You’ve listed many very good first baseman, but don’t forget that before what has become about one full season of being injured, Morneau was one of the top first basemen in MLB. He was carrying a slash of .345/.437/.618 through the first 9 weeks of 2010 before he got hurt. He was having a rough 2011 until he finally revealed he was injured, similar to when he was struggling in August 2009 until it was revealed he had a stress fracture in his back he was playing through.

      If he’s fully healthy now and returns to form, there’s no reason to think he wouldn’t be in with that top group.

      • hittfamily - Aug 12, 2011 at 12:43 PM

        I’m well aware of what Morneau was. He was premiere. He isn’t any longer. Kotchmann is 2nd in the league in average and has a OPS over .800. My question wasn’t who has had the better career, but who is better now, and in the near future. I intentionally left Jason Giambi and Todd Helton off this list too, would you like me to add them?

      • kopy - Aug 12, 2011 at 12:49 PM

        Adding them would be irrelevant, they’re both way old and not producing. One of them is likely missing the juice. Morneau was injured, and now he’s not. He’s 30, he’ll be fine for a fairly good amount of time. Comparing him to Giambi or Helton is ridiculous. I would take him over Kotchman because Morneau’s bad partial season this year and Kotchman’s great season this year are largely anomalies outside of what should be expected from either player.

      • spindervish - Aug 12, 2011 at 12:58 PM

        I don’t know man…it doesn’t seem like that ridiculous of a question. He may return to form, but it seems at least possible that he won’t. Remember Corey Koskie?

        Of course, I have zero faith that Kotchman will ever have another season with an OPS above .800.

      • CJ - Aug 12, 2011 at 1:01 PM

        in which alternative universe are Youk, Trumbo, and Morse on the same tier as Howard???

        Granted, Morse and Trumbo have done well in half a season, but if you’re going to totally disregard Morneau on the basis that he hasn’t proved he can bounce back, you certainly can’t put Morse and Trumbo in there on the merit of half a season because they haven’t proved they’re sustainable yet.

        Howard belongs in the first category because he does everything he’s supposed to do: smash the ball and drive in runs. No one asks him to hit .300 and strike out less than 50 times a season. Ok, well some people do, but they’re largely irrational media “experts” or a delusional Phils fans (a minority) that think Howard stinks.

        I’d put Trumbo and Morse (along with possibly others such as Sanchez, Freeman, Smoak, Moreland, etc) as rising stars at the position that might end up becoming a top tier 1B-men in 2-3 years if they continue to develop and fulfill their potential.

      • kopy - Aug 12, 2011 at 1:03 PM

        If he gets another concussion I’ll be worried, but he’s recovered from that. It was a pinched nerve in his neck that was bothering him this year that he needed surgery on. He was doing great in AAA the past week. It’s a small sample, but he showed that he’s healthy – for now.

      • hittfamily - Aug 12, 2011 at 1:04 PM

        A healthy Morneau is clearly better than virtually any player. But he hasn’t been healthy, and I question whether he will be any time soon. I thought my question was fair. Morneau could hit .330 with 40 homeruns next year. I think it is far more likely he plays in 60 games than wins any awards though.

      • spindervish - Aug 12, 2011 at 1:13 PM

        At the risk of starting a shitstorm…

        If Howard has settled in as an .850-OPS hitter and mediocre-at-best defensive first baseman, then it’s perfectly reasonable to exclude him from a list of the absolute elite first basemen in the league. A .350 OBP and .500 SLG% are simply not elite numbers for a first baseman. That doesn’t mean he sucks. It’s not a slam. It’s just being realistic.

      • hittfamily - Aug 12, 2011 at 1:21 PM

        I agree Spindervish. I wasn’t slamming Howard. I was being realistic. A list of elite players at a postion can’t include 30% of the league. Otherwise, it isn’t elite, it’s good. There isn’t a GM in baseball that would take Howard over Gonzalez, Cabrera, Votto, Fielder, or Tex, and I alomost (should have) left Tex off that list.

        He is a great player, but not elite.

      • CJ - Aug 12, 2011 at 1:43 PM

        ugh…replied to the wrong part. see my response further down. basically, yeah admittedly if we’re really talking the best of the best, Howard doesn’t belong. But certainly Tex doesn’t either, their numbers are virtually the same. Votto belonged last year, this year not so much. I really think there’s only two truly elite players at 1B: Pujols and A-Gon. If you expand it beyond that, Howard needs to be in the discussion.

    • knucka11 - Aug 12, 2011 at 12:46 PM

      The man’s only fault is he refuses to come out of the lineup when injured, remember, he does hold the record for games played in a season at 163. When healthy he hits for power, average, and until the concussion and other ailments this year, he was easily the most underrated defensive first baseman in the league, and you’re comparing him to Kotchman? Please tell me you are simply trolling because that is a joke. Yes he is not Pujols, Gonzalez, Cabrera, but when healthy he is in the discussion.

      • hittfamily - Aug 12, 2011 at 1:14 PM

        He has added very little to his clubs production for 2 years now. It is a fair question. If you were to build a club for next season, and you only get 9 players, no reserves, is Justin your first baseman?

    • CJ - Aug 12, 2011 at 1:36 PM

      spinder,

      I’m not about to start one either. That’s a fair assessment on your part, but this year and last year I don’t see a huge difference between Howard and Texieria statistically. Tex has more runs, HRs and better slugging and OPS, but Howard has him in RBI, Average, hits, doubles and OBP. Votto’s not having the year he had previously. I’m just not buying that Howard is closer to Morse, Trumbo, etc. than he is to the tier one list hittfamily spelled out above. Without looking at the stats, I might even argue the same for Konerko this season.

      If we want to leave Howard off a list of truly “elite” first basemen that’s fine, but then let’s be serious: in all of baseball there’s really only two: Pujols and A-Gon. I’d put Howard up against any of the rest. And again, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a 4 hitter with an .850 OPS, you phrased that like there’s something wrong with it. The man’s a masher. He’ll have his moments but you won’t see him with many .900 + seasons even though he has done it in the past.

      I also think you’re selling him short defensively, as he’s lost a ton of weight in recent seasons and improved tremendously from his first few years in the league. Admittedly though, that stigma has stuck with him.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Aug 12, 2011 at 1:45 PM

        CJ, it all depends on whether you want to look at a guy’s career or where he is today. There are guy who will tell you that A-Gon’s first 4 years were as good as Ryan Howard’s. I know…insane, but they will tell you that.

        Right now, I’d put Howard behind Pujols, Cabrera, Votto, Fielder, A-Gon. That’s it. But as far as their entire careers, only Pujols right now has had a better career as far as those guys…I’d call Cabrera a push. But put his career #’s against any of those guys except Pujols and maybe Cabrera and there is just no comparison.

      • CJ - Aug 12, 2011 at 1:54 PM

        I’d be inclined to agree, CF. If I could take any 1B in baseball, it’d be Pujols then Gonzalez. I think his stats are skewed from his days in SD. Cabrera’s numbers are better, but for other reasons I’d take Howard. You just never know when Cabrera’s going to do something stupid, but that’s another issue.

        Fielder’s having a great year, but he won’t hit .300 year in and eyar out, he’s not that type of player. I’d take Howard over him and Tex. I haven’t decided about Votto. Last year’s Votto I’d take over him in a second, but can he be that guy every season? Jury’s still out, IMHO. Conversely we know what Howard is consistently, and though not Elite, it’s a heck of a lot better than Youk, Morse, and Trumbo, which was my only point to begin with.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Aug 12, 2011 at 2:15 PM

        First 4 years, Howard has a better OBP, SLG, OPS, OPS+, averaged 20 more HRs and 41 more RBIs. His BA was only 7 points less that Gonzalez. So on any planet, other than one where only WAR counts, Ryan Howard had a far better first 4 years than A-Gon.

        That being said, of course I would say that Gonzalez is better right now. As is Pujols, Votto, Fielder and Cabrera.

        If you want to categorize 1st basemen right now, I would say the following…

        Best of the best: Pujols
        Elite: A-Gonz, Cabrera
        Great: Votto, Fielder, Howard, Texiera

        In that order.

      • spindervish - Aug 12, 2011 at 3:16 PM

        Yeah, I wasn’t necessarily endorsing the rest of his list. Though looking at it again, I’m pretty good with it, sans Tex. I’ve never thought that highly of him, and especially now that he’s turned into much more of an all-or-nothing hitter than he used to be, he’s about on par with Howard as a hitter. Light years ahead on D though. I know Howard’s improved, but you can improve a lot from awful and still be not very good. I don’t care what the Philly homers say, I’ve seen enough ugliness from that guy (in recent years) to call him a mediocre defender.

        I’ll take Fielder over Howard any day. Younger, much better against lefties, far superior walk rate. He’s elite.

        Cabrera is basically Pujols without the glove. Howard is not in the same league as this guy. Really, it’s criminal how he’s still underrated.

        Votto is a beast. Check the OPS. He’s having a great year, the home runs are just disappointing. Fuck a jury. He’s legit.

        And as for Gonzalez, everyone seems to agree on him, so I’ll just add that comparing his raw numbers in Petco in a horrible, horrible lineup to Howard’s early career numbers is just flat dumb.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Aug 12, 2011 at 11:03 PM

        I thought OPS+ made up for the difference in ballparks? Also, you want to say 20 homers and 40 RBI a year for 4 years is only the result of the lineup and ballpark? You are nuts!!!! Ryan may be declining and he may not be worth the money he was paid, but he was a freaking beast his first four full years and nothing can ever take that away from the guy.

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