Morneau Must Go

At the end of last season, I warned the Twins that I wouldn’t take them seriously this year if they brought back Tsuyoshi Nishioka, which they didn’t. As the 2012 season winds down, I must tell them I feel the same way about Justin Morneau. As valuable as Morneau was in the past – and for several years I proclaimed that the Twins would go only so far as Morneau could carry them – he has turned into a millstone dragging them down, as they live on the memories of what he once was and the hope that he will revive his career. As a result, they bat him fourth or fifth, where kills rally after rally, and further, he impedes the progress of Chris Parmelee, who is already a better hitter and cannot develop as the Twins’ first baseman while Morneau still casts his shadow. Maybe it’s just lack of confidence, but Morneau doesn’t even take very good swings. Half his hits are flares, lacking all authority. With two strikes, he is putty in the pitcher’s hand, totally helpless against a low, outside slider. Knowing he is dead meat once the count gets that far, he often makes up his mind to swing at the first pitch, which he will then do, regardless of its speed or location. If I have figured all this out, what must opposing scouts know, in addition? If Miguel Cabrera beats out Joe Mauer for this year’s batting title, think of the advantage he has, with Prince Fielder hitting behind him, while Mauer, now with Josh Willingham hurt, has only Morneau for protection.
I was glad to see in today’s paper that Morneau is aware that the Twins might trade him. (The problem is, who would want him, especially with his salary and concussion history.) The other rumored trade bait is Denard Span – a deal that I would oppose. Span and Ben Revere are a formidable top of the order, able to work the count, fast when they get on base, and afraid of no one. Mauer and Willingham fill the next two spots comfortably. It’s at that point that things get a little shaky. Ryan Doumit has been solid and would be even more impressive if he could bat a little lower in the order. Trevor Plouffe has shown more potential than actual Major League ability, both at bat and in the field. If he is truly a work-in-progress and can improve as much in the next two years as he has this year, he will be a keeper. He is just not good enough now to be an asset. Shortstop and second base remain holes to be filled. Given their lack of power, especially in the #3 spot, the Twins can’t afford two more players, however slick on defense, who hit .230.
As for pitching, the Twins amazingly have an effective rotation of five rookies, none of whom was with the team at the start of the year: Scott Diamond, P.J. Walter, Liam Hendricks, Samuel Deduno and Cole DeVries. This could be the start of something good – or it could mean years of mediocrity to come. Given how far each has come this year, I like to be hopeful. Jared Burton and Glen Perkins are solid anchors for the bullpen. I said at the start that Perkins was the best pitcher on the Twins, and I like him as the closer for the foreseeable future. There will be a role, too, for Brian Duensing. As for Alex Burnett, Casey Fien, Anthony Swarzak and others, I hope we can do better.