Justin Morneau was once a feared hitter. He had a breakout season in 2006 that helped him won the MVP. He hit 30 or more home runs and drove in 100 or more runs every year from 2006 to 2009. There was no reason to think he couldn’t do this six or seven more years.
Then, July 7, 2010 happened. He suffered a concussion when he broke up a double play by banging against the knee of then-Blue Jays second baseman John McDonald. Since then, he has gone through concussion symptoms while losing his home run power in the process.
Morneau is nothing more than a fringe player at best. In the last three years, he hit .256 with 40 home runs, 184 RBIs and a .725 OPS. These numbers seem good, but let’s remember he hit .286 with 181 home runs, 679 RBIs, and a .869 OPS prior to the concussion. He hasn’t hit more than 20 home runs since 2010. He has had 212 strikeouts in the last two years.
His low output and his concussion issues made it easy for the Twins to trade him to the Pirates last summer. The Pirates thought he was not worth bringing him back after hitting .260 with no home runs and 3 RBIs in his brief stint with them.
Morneau will attempt to get his power back by playing 81 games at Coors Field after he signed a two-year, $12.5 million deal this offseason. He feels he can get his power back by playing in attitude.
The last few years have been frustrating for the former Twins slugger. Still, he is an eternal optimist. He feels he is a work in progress. He said recovering from a concussion takes time and he feels he has so much to offer.
The one-time MVP talked about being comfortable in the hitting cage this offseason. He mentioned about taking 20 swings often, which he hasn’t done in the offseason while recovering from concussion over the years. Based on that theory, he hopes that translates to success.
The one-time MVP talked about being comfortable in the hitting cage this offseason. He mentioned about taking 20 swings often, which he hasn’t done in the offseason while recovering from concussion over the years. Based of that theory, he hopes that translates to success.
Morneau is hoping he can fulfill that contract by hitting 25 home runs. That would be something if he can achieve that goal in the two years he will serve for the Rockies. That would mean hard work and rehab would pay off.
He knows there is a sense of urgency for him to perform. If he can’t be a run producer or be a threat in the lineup, he will be hard-pressed to get a contract from a Major League Baseball team after his two-year deal with the Rockies expires.
Morneau is happy he has been injury-free in the last two seasons. That means something for him since he thought he may never play again with all the concussion symptoms he has had.
Still, he wants to do more than just play. He wants to be a difference maker. He wants to be the player he was in Minnesota. He wants to show people that baseball players can recover from a concussion. He wants to be the guy.
When the former Twin blossomed in 2006, he became a presence. He took leadership of the team as result of his confidence from hitting home runs and being a MVP candidate every year. He had the ability to come through in situational hitting. He knew what he was doing.
This is the type of feeling he wants to have again. That’s why he is invested in playing and working as diligently as ever this offseason.
The Rockies are not expecting much. They hope he can be serviceable as a player. They know they have enough hitters that can produce at the plate.
Morneau does not view himself as a serviceable player. He believes he can be the player if he was with the Twins.
Good for him that he has high goals, but he has to realize it’s unrealistic to hit 30 or more home runs anymore. He has lost so much bat speed in recent years, and he is 32 years old. He is not going to be the player he was when he was in his 20s.
Still, that does not deter him. His attitude and belief could help him get his performance back on track.
Morneau is a proud player. He does not want to be remembered as a player that flamed out after having so many concussions. That’s why it’s easy to root for him when he puts it in the work in the offseason in getting his swing back.
He knows everyone is counting him out.
But it doesn’t mean he has to sell himself short.
Contact or follow Leslie Monteiro at @LightRodWriter