• Message From The King: The Best Seats To Say Goodbye

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    There is a lot worth remembering about baseball games. We remember games and catches and our kids’ face as a stadium shook and their faith was rewarded. And we remember players, whose time in the sunshine can be far too short for our taste.

    With the trade deadline falling on Wednesday, it is likely the next few days will be our last chance to say good-bye to some Twins. And one of the most likely to move is one of Twins Territory’s all-time favorites. So let’s take a look at the best seats in Target Field for saying goodbye to our friends.

    Kevin Correia or Mike Pelfrey
    It isn’t totally crazy that the Twins, whose rotation has the worst ERA in the majors, could trade away a starting pitcher to a contending team. There are very few “ace” pitchers available, so teams are looking for innings-eaters who can keep them in a ballgame – and for whom they won’t need to give up too much.

    Kevin Correia has a 4.56 ERA, which is likely worse than you thought because it was under 3.00 through the beginning of May and under 4.00 as late as June 29th. He’s also on pace for 194 IP this year. There are teams that can find value in that for the right price.

    Alternately, Mike Pelfrey looks like he’s becoming stronger and stronger, which should be expected for someone coming back from Tommy John surgery. Here are his ERAs by month: 7.66 down to 5.90 down to 4.66 down to 2.28 in July. His strikeout rate has been climbing too: 2.8 up to 5.9 to 5.6 up to 6.5. It’s not clear if other teams recognize this progress, but that’s why they have scouting departments.

    If you would like to wish them well, you can pay top dollar in the infield, sections 3-14 are probably best. But if you prefer a cheaper option, just get a seat anyplace in Target Field and get there early. You can watch them warm up using the standing room counter that looks over the Twins bullpen in center field. I doubt either pitcher will begrudge you your frugality. After all, they were both signed as affordable alternatives.

    Josh Willingham
    You’ll have a little time on this one. Willingham is recovering from a knee injury. He’s schedule to return in mid-August, but if he clears waivers, the Twins have until the end of August to trade him. Lower seats in sections 125, 126 and 127 are probably the best spots if you’re looking to shout to him your appreciation.

    Of, if you would rather look for a Willingham souvenir, I’d recommend section 128, 129, 130 and 131. It’s in these sections – in the left field bleachers – that Willingham has been most likely to pull his home runs. In fact, of the 45 home runs he’s blasted while with the Twins, exactly zero have been to the opposite field.

    It’s also worth noting that if he returns healthy, those home runs could start flying again. He had 35 last year and four more through April 27th, when it was first reported that he hurt his knee. They also tend to come in bunches – he had eight occurrences last year where he went long in back-to-back games.

    Justin Morneau
    Section 3. It really has to be section 3. It’s right by first base. It’s what he runs towards when he flips an inning-ending ball into the dugout. He’s number 33. It has to be section 3, right?

    Of all the goodbyes that we might need to say, this one is going to hurt the most. The recognition that everyone remembers was his MVP award in 2006. But do you remember his also finished in second place for a another MVP award just two years later in 2008? And neither of those years were even close to the damage he was doing in 2010 in Target Field’s inaugural year. Through 84 games he was hitting .345, had slugged 18 HR, had drove in 56 RBI and had a 1055(!) OPS.

    Then he slid into second base to break up a double-play in Toronto. But we’ve talked about that enough the last three years.

    Instead let’s talk a little about what he did off the field. Morneau became a part of the community, hosting several casino nights that raised money for Arthritis research and founded the Justin Morneau Foundation to support underprivileged communities. He married a native Minnesotan. He’s got that whole Canadian and hockey thing going for him. And he’s been a leader on the Twins for years, respected enough internally to be the full-time locker room DJ before games.

    He passed Kirby Puckett and Bobby Allison on the Twins home run leaderboard this year, moving into fourth place. (He could climb to 3rd and pass Tony Oliva if he can hit nine more this year.) He’s also fourth in RBI all-time for the Twins and fifth all-time in doubles (though teammate Joe Mauer is nipping at his heels for that honor.) And he’s one of only five Twins to have ever won the Most Valuable Player award.

    He is certainly one of the top 10 Twins hitters of all time and you want to see those guys retire as Twins. It doesn’t always happen – not for Gary Gaetti or for Rod Carew or even for Harmon Killebrew – but that’s what we all WANT to see.

    And I, for one, would like to see him play one more time as a Twin. Even if it’s just to say “goodbye.” And “thank you.”
    Comments 12 Comments
    1. John Bonnes's Avatar
      John Bonnes -
      Off-air yesterday, Aaron and I talked about whether or not there was any chance that Morneau's number would be retired. If he were to not be traded, and then retire at the end of the season, could that happen? In sort of a "remember Oliva before the knee injury" way? And is it less likely that happen if he plays a few more years on other teams?
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      In sort of a "remember Oliva before the knee injury" way?
      This is a great point... 10-15 years from now, someone will look at Justin Morneau's numbers and say "he wasn't that great." And then we can have the memories of June 7, 2006 through July 6, 2010. Those four seasons were remarkable... Then the concussion and its aftereffects... you can't help but wonder.

      People can say the same about Kirby Puckett's career numbers too. In a weird way, Puckett's legacy "benefited" from not playing again, as a shell of his old self. He didn't have the down years.

      I love when players are able to stay with one organization, and the Twins have had many. It's the right business thing to do, to let him go, but it does make you think.
    1. Winston Smith's Avatar
      Winston Smith -
      The sad thing is that unless he picks things up he may have a hard time finding a decent paying job next year.
      * Not that he needs the money but a pride thing for a once great player.
    1. Oldgoat_MN's Avatar
      Oldgoat_MN -
      A very nice tribute to a guy who plays hard and has been a real asset to the Minnesota Twins.

      Where would he stand in all those categories had he not missed a couple hundred games of his prime? Or even if he had been able to come back at 100%?

      I can only wish Justin the very best.
    1. LastOnePicked's Avatar
      LastOnePicked -
      Thoughtful stuff, but, if I had to predict, I'd say that the goodbyes are premature. I expect all of the above to be Twins through the end of 2013.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Morneau did a lot of great things during his time in Minnesota, but ultimately his will go down as a tale of what could have been. He was right in the middle of his prime and -- as John notes -- playing the best baseball of his career when the unfortunate concussion mishap occurred.

      I felt so, so confident that he was going to return to form this year. It's been tough to watch, and it'll be tough to watch him go.
    1. Clare's Avatar
      Clare -
      Thanks for this terrific tribute John. As a Canadian, I have been a big Morneau supporter since he was first drafted. My family and I have made the trek to Minneapolis almost every year of his career just to watch him play a few games.

      Concussions or not, it's been fun to watch the long arc of his truely remarkable career as a Minnesota Twin. A big part of the joy (and wistful sorrow) of being a life time supporter of a team comes from watching the players come up, thrill us with their talent, and then see them fade away into team history.

      Justin Morneau will always be one of those special players in Twins history because, like Tony O, we will always be left to marvel at his talent, grit and dedication, and to lament what could have been. Both on and off the field, he's been a distinct credit to the Twins uniform and to playing baseball the "Twins way". I for one think it would be a fitting tribute, and a credit to both him and to the Twins, to see his uniform number ultimately retired.




      Quote Originally Posted by John Bonnes View Post
      Off-air yesterday, Aaron and I talked about whether or not there was any chance that Morneau's number would be retired. If he were to not be traded, and then retire at the end of the season, could that happen? In sort of a "remember Oliva before the knee injury" way? And is it less likely that happen if he plays a few more years on other teams?
    1. YourHouseIsMyHouse's Avatar
      YourHouseIsMyHouse -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      This is a great point... 10-15 years from now, someone will look at Justin Morneau's numbers and say "he wasn't that great." And then we can have the memories of June 7, 2006 through July 6, 2010. Those four seasons were remarkable... Then the concussion and its aftereffects... you can't help but wonder.
      That's very true. Morneau's numbers may not look too great as an average, but he truly was one of baseball's elite players for 4 years. He has the MVP for '06, finished 2nd to Pedroia in '08, and was on his way to winning the MVP in 2010 (Very good chance). Not to mention he defeated the player behind the greatest showing at the HR Derby ever. He has the accolades.
    1. NC-Twins's Avatar
      NC-Twins -
      We're going to trade him, then we're going to get him back for 2014. Just a hunch.
    1. frightwig's Avatar
      frightwig -
      Morneau should be in the Twins HOF someday, but I think retiring #33 for him would be a bit much. In his Twins career, he's hit .278/.348/.484 (121 OPS+) and has been worth 19.3 fWAR. In his 2006 MVP season, he was worth 3.7 fWAR while hitting .321/.375/.559 (140 OPS+); a very good year, but a relatively weak "MVP season." The MVP award really should have gone to Joe Mauer, his teammate, or Derek Jeter. Morneau got the award because of sportwriters' fixation on HR/RBI (he hit 34/130 that season).

      He was a good 1st baseman for 4.5 seasons, and he really was having a fantastic first half in 2010, but retired numbers should be reserved for the special elite players. Morneau isn't Tony Oliva--who was worth 40.7 fWAR in his career; a 3.7 fWAR season equates to Tony O's two worst seasons from his 1964 rookie year through 1971, his last season before his knee surgery. Morneau isn't on Kent Hrbek's level, either. Besides being a local good ol' boy and key player on two World Series champs, Hrbek had 37.6 career fWAR and four seasons worth more than Morneau's MVP year.

      You know, Corey Koskie had 22.7 fWAR, and three seasons better than Morneau's MVP year, with the Twins. He's also made Minnesota his home, and is known for doing a lot of charity work in the local communities. Torii Hunter had 21.8 fWAR, and two seasons better than Morneau's MVP year, with the Twins--and was known as "The Face of the Franchise." Is anyone talking about retiring their numbers, too?
    1. Oldgoat_MN's Avatar
      Oldgoat_MN -
      Quote Originally Posted by frightwig View Post
      The MVP award really should have gone to Joe Mauer, his teammate, or Derek Jeter.
      Sorry to pick on one line, but I cannot tell you how much this frustrates me.
      If the MVP wasn't Morneau in 2006 is should have been:
      Jermaine Dye (awesome year for CWS, dropped off badly in Sept)
      Vlad Guerrero - still played OF - 30 ganes at DH
      Joe Mauer - highest BA
      Johan Santana - great season, if you're into pitchers for MVP

      Jeter was only under consideration because he was a Yankee. Had he played for Kansas City with the year he had no one would ever have brought up his name. Even if his effect on KC was as significant as it was for the Yankees.

      edit: and I think Jeter has been an awesome player - HOF for sure
    1. snepp's Avatar
      snepp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Oldgoat_MN View Post
      Jeter was only under consideration because he was a Yankee. Had he played for Kansas City with the year he had no one would ever have brought up his name. Even if his effect on KC was as significant as it was for the Yankees.

      Captain Jetes was a top-5 WAR player in 2006, being a Yankee certainly wasn't the "only" reason he was under consideration.
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