From 2004-2013, the Minnesota Twins were largely defined by the “M&M Boys”—Joe Mauer & Justin Morneau. Two sweet-swinging lefties hitting in the middle of the order for nearly a decade.
The funny thing is, I was always more of a “Mauer guy” in terms of favorites. My brother—Zeb Koenig—was the far bigger Morneau “stan”. Any way you slice it, however, both “M’s” rank among the greatest to ever pull on a Twins uniform.
On Saturday, Morneau will be inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame as the team—fittingly—hosts Justin’s native-country Toronto Blue Jays. During his time in Minnesota, Morneau produced some signature moments, such as winning the AL MVP in 2006, claiming the 2008 Home Run Derby crown at Yankee Stadium, and scoring the winning run for the American League a day later.
As a Twin, Morneau clubbed 221 home runs in 11 seasons with a .278 BA, .832 OPS, & 121 OPS+, all numbers that would assuredly have been even loftier if not for the concussion suffered sliding into second base in Toronto midway through the 2010 season (sapping much of his prodigious power in his later Twins years).
In honor of Morneau’s HOF induction, I present to you my top five favorite memories of #33 (or #27—whichever you prefer):
#30 in ‘06
Having cut my teeth on the late 90s/early 2000s Twins squads, a batter hitting twenty home runs a season seemed like a big deal. Thirty? Unfathomable. But that’s the number Morneau achieved in early August of 2006, the first 30-spot for a Twins slugger since 1987. Even better was that it came in Detroit—the team the Twins were feverishly trying to chase down that year—against Tiger fireballer Joel Zumaya. I vividly remember listening to John Gordon’s radio call while driving my ‘92 F-150 back from my grandparents’ lake cabin.
Walk off the Sox
Apparently, driving and the radio comprise a fair amount of my Morneau memories. In May of 2007, Justin hit a three-run bomb in the 10th inning to walk-off the rival White Sox at the Dome. This time, again in the trusty—and rusty—Ford, I was heading to Morris, MN (my undergrad alma mater) for Finals Week, so I really needed the pick-me-up at that time.
From 2006-2008, Morneau played in 157, 157, and 163 games, respectively. He posted an .884 OPS and 131 OPS+ over that stretch. A truly remarkable combination of reliability and excellence. When you came to the park, you knew that Justin was going to be in the lineup.
MVP Start to 2010
Though certainly bittersweet, Justin’s start to Target Field’s inaugural year was a sight to behold: 348 PA, .345 BA, 25 2B, 18 HR, 56 RBI, 1.055 OPS, 187 OPS+. Well on his way to another MVP award, in other words. We all know what happened across the northern border in early July, of course, but until that point it was a blast.
From 2011-2013, Morneau was a shell of his former self (.726 OPS, 100 OPS+). A superstar player had been rendered league-average by concussion symptoms. In 2014, however, Morneau landed in the Mile High City and won the NL batting title (.319 BA) with an .860 OPS and 127 OPS+. Even though it never felt quite right seeing him in those Rockies getups, it was great to witness him enjoying one last MLB hurrah as a star player.
When Justin Morneau welcomes family, friends, and Twins HOF alumni to Target Field on Saturday, I’ll be in-house for the proceedings. Though Twins fans get to hear from Justin on a semi-regular basis—what with him now being Dick Bremer’s most prolific partner on Twins telecasts—it will be fun to see him stride out onto the infield again. I hope the stadium PA system still has his old walk-up tune handy.