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The Greatest Twins Season that Never Happened

minnesota twins justin morneau joe mauer
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#1 Ted Schwerzler

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Posted 16 April 2020 - 07:00 PM

We’re certainly in the midst of some uncertain times both in the world as a whole, and baseball in particular. However, there was another season that popped into my mind when considering “What if?” We don’t yet know if games will be played in 2020, but 2010 included just 81 and forever altered the career of a Minnesota fan favorite.The date is July 7, 2010. It’s the top of the eighth inning and Justin Morneau is playing in front of his home nation. After driving a single to center field off Scott Downs, Morneau finds himself a part of Jason Kubel’s 4-6-3 double play. Unfortunately, this one wasn’t routine. Justin slid into the bag and upon doing so took a knee to the head from Toronto second basemen John McDonald. As a former hockey player, it wasn’t his first concussion, but this one would definitely be the most memorable.

Morneau went on to play another 597 games from that point forward. He did it in uniforms for the Twins, Pirates, Rockies, and White Sox. His .764 OPS was a lackluster one, and while he did win a batting title in Colorado during 2014, there was no denying the guy was never the same. It’s that moment during the 2010 season though that begs the question: What did we actually miss out on?

Going into that year Morneau had played seven big league seasons. He owned an .851 OPS and had already won an MVP at the age of 25. He was a three-time All-Star and two-time Silver Slugger. To say that the Twins had a superstar first basemen to go along with their elite catcher was nothing short of obvious. In 2010 though, things had reached otherworldly levels.

That season, the first of Target Field’s existence, Morneau played the first half like a man of legend. He owned a .345/.437/.618 slash line. In just 81 games he’d blasted 18 dingers and recorded 56 RBI. He was on pace for 50 doubles, which would have been a career high, and he was tracking toward surpassing 200 hits in a season for the only time in his career. To say the production at that point was unprecedented would be selling it short.

It wasn’t like Morneau was impressive just among Twins hitters either. That 2010 team won 94 games, the AL Central, and appeared in the ALDS. Through those first 81 games Morneau compiled more than 300 plate appearances. His 183 wRC+ was first in the game, topping Hall of Fame teammate Jim Thome. His .448 wOBA bested superstar Josh Hamilton. Producing 5.0 fWAR to that point, he would’ve cleared Hamilton’s league leading 8.4 fWAR by more than a full win..

Looking back on some of those numbers since the year 2000, only 16 times have we seen a player surpass 183 wRC+. Six of those instances have been generated by either Barry Bonds (4) or Albert Pujols (2). In that same time we’ve gotten 10.0 fWAR seasons just 9 times, half of those from Bonds and another two from Mike Trout. That’s the company of numbers Justin Morneau was among. He was also compiling those while playing a defensively overlooked position and without the aid of any performance enhancers.

You won’t find many (maybe any) fans around Twins Territory that don’t fondly remember Justin Morneau. It was weird seeing him in a White Sox uniform, and odd celebrating him winning that batting title with the Rockies. He’s become a mainstay in Minneapolis now, and his presence on Fox Sports North broadcast has immediately been celebrated. There’s nothing that could take away from his on-field production, and the unity as part of the M&M Boys with Joe Mauer are feelings that will never leave. None of that stands in comparison to how good 2010 could have been.

Rod Carew gave the Twins 8.6 fWAR back in 1977. Joe Mauer produced 8.4 fWAR in 2009. They both went on to win MVP in each of those years. Justin was on track to do that and more in 2010 and we all had that taken away. It’s unfair to speculate on what could have been, but it’s foolish not to recognize what was.

I’m certainly glad that the career of Justin Morneau didn’t end that July day in Canada. I’m also beyond disappointed that season was robbed from us and what was ahead became stunningly different from anything we could have expected.

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- Ted Schwerzler
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#2 DocBauer

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Posted 16 April 2020 - 08:43 PM

Koskie before Justin. Mauer just after. What a damndable curse! Injuries happen, of course, but has any team had such a run of concussion injuries to impact so many great ballplayers? Oh, what might have been for all three.
"Nice catch Hayes...don't ever f*****g do it again."

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#3 theBOMisthebomb

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Posted 16 April 2020 - 09:13 PM

Woulda, coulda, shoulda... Would the Twins and Gardy's guys have won a postseason series or three if Morneau didn't get that concussion? It might not be a huge stretch to say the Twins might have another World Series banner if Morneau and Mauer had stayed concussion free.

#4 Doctor Gast

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Posted 17 April 2020 - 06:30 AM

We had so much potential during those years & so many what ifs. Just think of what Ortiz & a healthy Koskie, Morneau, Mauer & Liriano could do along w/ others talented players like Santana. We were blessed to have a great player like Morneau & a wonderful person.


#5 John Bonnes

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Posted 17 April 2020 - 07:22 AM

This should absolutely be a series. Now do Liriano and the Twins 2006 season with Santana, Liriano and Radke in the playoffs. (RAGE)

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#6 Trov

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Posted 17 April 2020 - 07:49 AM

It would be great to have learned how well he would have done had he never got that concussion.Would he have stayed with Twins his whole career?Would he have played late in the 30's instead of only 35?Was the concussion still affecting him at that point when he retired?If he would have stayed healthy and played late in his 30's he would be HOF talk, instead of what if.

 

I am sure many teams have the what if this injury did not happen, but yes the Twins have 2 in recent history, Liriano and Morneau.Two seasons that if fully healthy would have been fun to see playoffs.For Morneau he was the leader of the M&M boys, the RBI producer constantly coming through with 2 outs it seemed.  

 

My favorite Morneau memory is a walk off he hit at Target field, only because I was living out of state watched the highlight and said oh crap that was my buddy that dropped his HR.Later to learn my buddy claimed to have called it, but forever he will on video dropping a walk-off HR ball.


#7 Dantes929

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Posted 17 April 2020 - 08:05 AM

I always thought Morneau was misused in 2007 and cost us a playoff spot.163 games played along with All Star game and home run contest. Its no wonder he faded in September. He was on pace for an MVP that year. Almost a show in for the 2010 year and who knows after that. Legitimate shot at HOF before this concussion.

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If you set a man on fire, he'll be warm for the rest of his life.

#8 JLease

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Posted 18 April 2020 - 09:37 AM

 

It would be great to have learned how well he would have done had he never got that concussion.Would he have stayed with Twins his whole career?Would he have played late in the 30's instead of only 35?Was the concussion still affecting him at that point when he retired?If he would have stayed healthy and played late in his 30's he would be HOF talk, instead of what if.

 

Hard to know if he would have spent the whole career in MN without the concussion, but I feel pretty confident they would have at least tried to keep him for another contract...and I think it's likely he would have given at least a little hometown discount to stay. 

 

I dunno if he would have been a Hall of Famer; always hard to project, but the concussion almost certainly cost him 10-15 bWAR which would have put him in the same collection with guys like Gil Hodges and Don Mattingly even with no additional seasons at the back end. Getting cut down in the middle of his best season and having the effects of that injury lead into his worst season as a pro is a huge bummer, not just for his HoF case, but for what baseball fans missed seeing.

 

Love Justin Morneau. I'm so happy he's stayed connected to the franchise and is part of things now. His era with the team is a bit of a lost era filled with what ifs and almosts, but he was still a wonderful player to watch.

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