Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Morneau Chronicles: Pushing for retirement

Today marks the final day in a three-part series that was started at the beginning of the week called the "Morneau Chronicles." In each part of the series, I have taken a different approach to what Twins fans can expect from Justin Morneau in 2012. His role on the team is vital to the improving a team who lost 99 games a season ago. His health and well being are a concern to all fans of the organization so this series has attempted to prepare fans for the journey we will follow with Morneau in the coming calendar year.

In part one of the series, I took the positive approach and examined what next season could be like if Morneau was completely healthy and producing on the field. The second installment, which was posted yesterday, looked at what would happened if Morneau is forced to become a full-time designated hitter. The Twins have other options lined up to fill in his role but the team is still hoping the former MVP will be able to regain some of his form on the field.

Below is the schedule of posts from this week with links back to the articles that have already been posted on NoDak Twins Fan.
"Morneau Chronicles" Weekly Schedule
Wednesday: Pushing for retirement

Games Played: The 2008 season was a wonderful year for the Twins and Morneau helped the team to push to a tie breaking game against the White Sox. He was an iron man for the club and played in all 163 games during that campaign. Since that point Morneau has been hit with a plethora of injuries and he has only averaged 95 games played in the last three seasons. He has also appeared in less games every season and this is a disturbing trend for fans of the ball club. If this trend continues into next season, Morneau would lose another 31 games from his total last year and finish the year with 38 games on the field. It is hard to imagine how far Morneau has fallen since 2008 when he finished second in the MVP voting to Boston's Dustin Pedroia. 

Offensive Performance: One of the most frustrating things to watch last season was when Morneau was up to bat and he got a pitch he liked over the plate. His eyes would lock in and he would take his signature hack at the ball but to no avail. The ball would be fouled to the backstop and Morneau would be left shaking his head. He knew he missed another pitch, a pitch he was use to sending to the gap or over the fence. His poor batting line from 2011, .227/.285/.333 with four home runs, showed how far his offensive prowess had fallen. The team also struggled to score runs and finished with 619 runs crossing the plate, 25th most among MLB teams. Morneau's absence from the daily batting order hurt the club and things weren't much better when he was in the line-up.

Defensive Position: In the worst case scenario Morneau could be going into the 2012 season with a chance of it being his last on the field. Morneau has been slowly improving from his concussion related injuries but some of the symptoms have not healed all of the way. Head related injuries are tough to combat and Morneau could be dealing with these symptoms for the remainder of his career and possibly for the rest of his life. As discussed in yesterday's post, the Twins have discussed the possibility of moving Morneau to a full-time role as designated hitter. There is always the chance his concussion symptoms would reoccur while serving in this role. If that happens to be the case, the Twins and Morneau might seriously have to consider pushing him towards retirement. Being on the field in any capacity could further hinder his ability to function for the rest of his life. 

Other Players Impacted: If Morneau is not able to fit into any portion of the lineup for 2012, the Twins will have a few decisions to make in regards to multiple players. Joe Mauer and Ryan Doumit will be able to fit in at first base when they are not competing for duties behind the plate. Luke Hughes could get some reps at first but the thought of him being the everyday first baseman is not in the Twins plans. Fans of the Twins who were still watching in September got to see some positive signs from Chris Parmelee. The Twins want to start him in the minor leagues at the beginning of 2012 but further concerns with Morneau could change Parmelee's timetable to get back to the big leagues. 

Overall I think the best hope for Morneau is that he will be able to split time between first base and designated hitter in the 2012 season. The reoccurance of concussion symptoms just from diving for a ball was a scary end to the 2011 season for Morneau. Hopefully the organization and Morneau will be able to work through some defensive drills in spring training to test the chance of his concussion symptoms returning from a dive. Twins fans would love to see the triumphiant return of their former MVP in 2011 but his future well-being has to be at the heart of all decisions made about Morneau in 2012.

3 comments:

msfit said...

Recent comments from both Morneau and Terry Ryan have indicated that the full-time DH solution (in order to safeguard his health) isn't really a safe option. If it is too risky to play first base, then it is also too risky to run bases, slide, and endure even the occasional collision.

NoDak Twins Fan said...

There was a quote from Morneau put out earlier today by John Shipley on Twitter:

Morneau: "If there’s that much risk of me playing first and sustaining another concussion, then I probably shouldn’t be out there at all."

Here's the URL for the tweet:
https://twitter.com/#!/NoDakTwinsFan/status/156893591564845056

msfit said...

Shipley's article at TwinCities.com (Pioneer Press) has Terry Ryan stating, "I don't see how DH would be any less strenuous than first base .... It will be the same thing for him (Morneau); he'll have to slide, go from first to third."