Justin Morneau blasts two home runs, plays through pain...
Despite scoring seven runs last night, despite--again!--leading in the 7th inning (the tenth time they've blown that kind of lead), despite Justin Morneau's cracking two powerful home runs, including a two-run dinger, the Twins fell to the Detroit Tigers last night. They're now 17-36, and the gap between them and the other shitty team in the majors--the Houston Astros--has widened to three games.
The Twins are three games out of being the next-to-worst team in both leagues. They are the absolute worst, almost historically bad.
To make matters even more frightening, according to the Strib's Joe Christensen, Morneau is playing through considerable pain, perhaps just a swing away from the disabled list.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire pulled Justin Morneau into his office last week and asked about putting the first baseman on the disabled list.
This had nothing to do with last year's concussion. Morneau had two recent cortisone shots, treating a pinched nerve in his neck that causes weakness in his left shoulder, an injury that won't subside as long he keeps playing.
After checking with doctors, Morneau decided to keep playing anyway.
Christensen goes on to report that although Morneau knows he's having a rough year, he chose to play through the pinched nerve, especially since he sat out most of last season. That's understandable--he sure as hell doesn't want to sit through this one, no matter how bad things have become.
MLB Tough guy.
There's been some yakkity-yak around town about Morneau's performance, some of it good and some of it strange. As I mentioned before, Parker Hageman at Over the Baggy broke down Morneau's swing, and found trouble. That's a great article.
Some wags, however, have suggested that Gardenhire drop Morneau in the batting order, that he should sit, etc. After all, Morneau's line isn't exactly MVP: .247/.299/.371 with four homers and twenty RBI. Let's not forget that half that home run total came last night.
Thing is, with most teams when you've got one of your top power hitter struggling, you rest him, or drop him in the order momentarily until he brings his swing back, or is fully rested and healthy. In this case, I ask you: who the hell is going to replace Morneau? Kubel? He's already up there in the third or fifth spot.
Usually when you drop a struggling hitter in the lineup, that means down to almost the bottom, where they get fewer at-bats and more time to study the opposing pitcher. Down from, say, the clean-up spot to six, seven, or eight. For the Twins, the worst offensive team in the majors, Morneau looks like the king of swing. Simply put, there's no one else to do the job.
And kudos to him for playing through a pinched nerve, taking doses of cortisone to keep playing while nearly a dozen Twins are laid out with various ailments. Though I don't like to demand people play with pain, it's nice to see a player step up and fight to get in the game.
Around the horn:
In case you didn't believe me when I said the Twins are, historically speaking, done for the season, the redoubtable Tom Verducci at Sports Illustrated has come to the same conclusion.
Reading that piece, I couldn't help but be startled by this line: "[The Twins] are an abysmal offensive team--worse than the 1962 Mets at this point and a challenge to the 2010 Mariners as one of the most inept hitting teams ever with use of the DH."
If you bother to look, there's tons of books on the woeful '62 Mets. Those guys were damn fun, with three men on base, tons of errors, throwing games away in the late innings.
One of Charlie Brown's favorite players was the Mets "Marvelous" Marv Throneberry, the guy who famously hit a triple but was called out for missing second base. When manager Casey Stengel came out to argue, the ump waved him off and said, "he missed first base, too."
Wiki Who's Charlie's favorite Twin?
When a season gets this bad, it's time to embrace your favorite misfit. Nick Nelson, at Nick's Twins Blog, is all up in a furor about Delmon Young's loafing in the field and at the plate. Those abysmal swings might just be the stuff of Charlie Brown, as might Trevor Plouffe's numerous errors, or Brian Duensing's horrid outings.
That having been said, one of the saddest parts of a dismal season--aside from the losing, that is--is watching favorite players depart for greener pastures. According to the fortune tellers at MLB Trade Rumors, it seems a sure bet that Michael Cuddyer, Kubel, Jim Thome, and Matt Caps are bound to wear different uniforms this year. I wouldn't be surprised if the Twins kept Thome around, simply because he's got a one year contract anyway, and his reaching 600 homers as a Twin is good for business.
We can't forget, of course, that Kevin Slowey's probably going to find a new home as well. But Michael Cuddyer in a Cardinals uniform? Mariners? Damn...