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Former Twins Cooperstown Case: Justin Morneau


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Justin Morneau earned multiple accolades throughout his 14-year big-league career. Does he have the credentials to stick on the Hall of Fame ballot for more than one voting cycle?

 

The Twins selected Justin Morneau in the third round of the 1999 MLB Draft out of New Westminster, British Columbia. At the time, he was a catcher, but he moved to a full-time first baseman by his second season. This defensive shift corresponded with a dominant run through the minor leagues. 

As a 20-year-old, he moved from Low-A to Double-A and combined for an .886 OPS. Over the next handful of seasons, Morneau established himself as one of baseball’s best power-hitting prospects. Baseball America ranked him in their top-25 prospects in each offseason from 2002-2004. This meant the Twins had to make room for him at the big-league level, which included trading away fan-favorite Doug Mientkiewicz. 

Morneau spent ten seasons out of his 14-year career in a Twins uniform, and many of his most prominent accolades came in Minnesota. He was a four-time All-Star, and he won two Silver Sluggers. Morneau was named the 2006 American League MVP, and he finished runner-up for MVP in 2008. All four of his 100-RBI seasons and his three 30-home run seasons came with the Twins. 

While the Twins struggled in October, Morneau was able to put up solid postseason numbers. He played in 13 postseason games over four series and hit .302 with two home runs, four RBI, and eight runs scored. His best series was in 2006 against Oakland when he went 5-for-12 (.417) with three extra-base hits, including two homers. Unfortunately, only seven of his postseason games came in Minnesota as he appeared in six games with Pittsburgh after being traded by the Twins. 

Morneau wasn’t a typical power-hitting slugger as he hit .300-or-better in five seasons. During the 2014 campaign, he won the National League batting title with the Rockies. He finished that season with a .319 average, four points higher than Pittsburgh’s Josh Harrison. 

Multiple moments defined Morneau’s career. Ron Gardenhire benched Morneau during a series in Seattle and had a career-changing conversation. Morneau posted a 1.023 OPS the rest of that season and won the MVP. He looked to be heading for a second MVP in 2010 before a now-infamous slide in Toronto ended his season. His career took a different trajectory from that day forward.  

When it comes to Cooperstown, Morneau doesn’t have the resume needed to be enshrined. According to JAWS, he is the 88th best first baseman in baseball history. This ranks him just ahead of players like Tino Martinez, Paul Konerko, Joe Harris, and Brandon Belt. Many of these players had good but not great careers that are worthy of the Hall of Fame. 

Morneau’s impact on baseball will be felt long after his retirement. He has been a special assistant to the Twins front office, and he has altered the team’s broadcast experience with his insightful color commentary. He and his wife, Krista, continue to be active members of the Twin Cities community. 

For a generation of Twins fans, Morneau was the middle-of-the-order hitter of some of the best teams in franchise history. Unfortunately, any shot at Cooperstown ended with a slide into second base back in 2010. 

Do you think Morneau deserves to be more than a one-and-done on the ballot? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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2 hours ago, MGM4706 said:

No. Good player but definitely not one that when you hear his name you immediately think HOF!

Needs to refine his broadcasting skills. In a 3 game series don't tell the same story every night. The same fans are watching most nights.

Hall of Very Good along with Torii Hunter. Hall of Horrible as a broadcaster so far. Yes, he has improved since he started. He's still awful behind the mic and having Mr. Bland Dick Bremer by his side doesn't help. 

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I think the actual question is does he stick on the ballot for more than one voting cycle. The answer is still no. Morneau is an outstanding guy by all accounts and there are few, if any, Twins who I've rooted for harder, but at 27 career WAR as a position player, he won't stick on the ballot.

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It's really a shame because he was good enough.    I blame Gardy for playing him 163 games along with the AS game and home run derby in 2008.   He just wore out.   The last month cost him both the MVP and likely a playoff spot for the Twins.   Then in 2010 he had an absolute monster 1st half before the concussion.   1.055 OPS and a 4.7 WAR definitely had him as a front runner for MVP that year also.    Healthy Morneau definitely gets in.    MVP and a MVP runner up and a batting title are great credentials but just not enough.    3 MVP's should be enough but bad breaks kept him from that and maybe more.   I am a little surprised Konerko wasn't a better candidate.

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As a broadcaster, he is worth sorting through the muddle to get at what he is saying. He is very smart and has an interesting take on baseball situations. Needs to work on a shorter and more concise conversation to get there.

Have no idea on the HOF. Isn't that just for Red Sox and Yankees. 😉

 

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On 12/1/2021 at 12:15 AM, Rosterman said:

...HOF - No! Is Don Mattingly in the HOF?

This is false, but common, logic. It's like arguing everybody should be executed at age 41 because Kobe Bryant died at age 41. If Kobe didn't live past 41, nobody should!!!!

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