The tastiest words I'll ever eat
If hindsight is 20/20, then this four-eyed scribe will take his chance now to recast his pupils on Justin Morneau. (Hey, better late than never.) The Twins' first baseman, as you probably know by now, hit his 30th homer last night (for RBI 100 and 101), at the most clutch time possible. And the hometown nine took two of three in Detroit.
I'll go out on a very sturdy limb and say the guy's a top-five candidate for MVP, and the favorite if the Twins sit primed for the post-season at voting time and the east coast writers pull their heads out of their asses (better to wager on the former). With the exception of Hafner and Ortiz, there's no one in the AL who's more dangerous at the plate.
All of which makes me giddy as hell, except for one nagging matter.
Three months ago in this space, I advocated for the Twins to bench, along with Torii Hunter, the great Justin Morneau. The words are hard to read today:
"Morneau is clearly not ready to face big-league pitching, and the Twins don't miss him a bit while he's on the bench. In fact, if anything, Michael Cuddyer looks like an upgrade at the plate and a straight-up swap in the field."
Ouch ... and har-har-har. In my own pathetic defense, Morneau was flailing away with a .210 average at the time, and I was flat-out despondent over the team's false start. And it was before the kid got a pep talk from dear old dad on a Seattle road trip.
Either way, Morneau, who is the first Twink since '87 to hit 30 home runs, could end up with one of the top-five seasons at the plate this franchise has ever seen. The team record for RBI, for example, is held by Harmon Killebrew with 140 in 1969. Morneau is on pace to hit 144. To speak nothing of his gaudy average and knack for key dingers.
There are too many great seasons by the Killer, Carew, Oliva and Puckett to list here at this point (and, hey, don't forget Larry Hisle). But for the sake of comparison, let's look at fellow first baseman Kent Hrbek's 1982 rookie season. True, it's Morneau's second year, but: 1) Herbie played out the tail end of the '81 season--after starting the season in A ball and then hitting a home run at Yankee Stadium in his first big-league game; and 2) in his second full season he dropped off a bit.
That year, when Hrbek criminally came in second to Cal Ripken for rookie of the year (see east coast sports writers, above), he hit .301 with 23 homers and 92 ribbies. Morneau's already bested him in the power categories, and his average currently sits at .322.
And for that, I couldn't be happier to be so wrong.