Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Problem spot: First base

The Twins enter today's game with the White Sox 9-18 and 10 games out of first place.

As bad as that sounds — as bad as that IS — it's not fatal. Cleveland and Kansas City still don't look like long-term contenders to me, and the Twins are within two games of both Chicago and Detroit.

But, obviously, the Twins can't keep playing .333 ball. They're in last place on merit, failing and flailing in almost every category. There are, I think, six players — Denard Span and Jason Kubel among the position players, Scott Baker and Brian Duensing among the starting pitchers, Matt Capps and Glen Perkins in the bullpen — who are doing what they're expected to do (or, in Perkins' case, exceeding expectations).

Justin Morneau hit
his first homer of the
season on Sunday.
Everybody else is part of the problem. And the sheer bulk of problems is itself a problem.

Today I'll start examining specific issues. And I'm going to start with one of the former MVPs, Justin Morneau.

I'm no doctor, but it seems fairly obvious that last season's concussion remains a problem. Even without considering his month-long slump (.225/.289/.338 with one homer), the defensive sloppiness suggests a certain lack of acuity.

Twice this season the Twins have picked a runner off first base and lost him in the rundown. Both failed rundowns began to break down when Morneau made a wrong decision. Against Toronto — in the very first inning of the very first game — he gave up the ball too soon; against Kansas City on Sunday he held the ball too long. A rundown is a rather fluid play, and he seems unable to keep up with it.

It was reported this weekend that he remains on medication and subject to fatigue. Obviously he has been cleared by the medical people to play, and I accept the assertion that he's at no greater risk of injury than anybody else, even with the meds.

But to this decidedly non-medical set of eyes, he's not ready to play.

I don't expect him to bench himself. The man has taken far too much criticism the past couple of years for missing games, he's medically cleared to play, he wants to try to earn his pay, he's important to the team.

He's not producing, and I doubt that he's physically capable of producing — not only to his accustomed standards, but merely to the level of a major-league first baseman.


  1. Nice catch, Ed. He is certainly not the player we want him to be ..yet. Some of it could be attributed to the flu as he looks thinner and weaker and just not the Morneau we are used to seeing. Some of it could be the pressure to produce while 2 or 3 other producers are out of the lineup. Gardy should think about batting him 5th or even 6th for a bit behind Kubel/Cuddy/Delmon - it can't hurt.

  2. He is noticeably thinner, probably a combo of the flu and not lifting as much in the off-season. He'll continue to struggle until he gets his strength back; he doesn't have that Mauer/Olerud style or path of the hands to succeed with less than optimum bat speed. LuckyBucky

  3. Since clinching the AL Central last season (counting the play-offs) the Twins are:


    A .272 winning %

  4. Down on the farm in High A ball:

    Aaron Hicks is scuffling along hitting .205.

    .694 OPS as a RH batter

    .464 OPS as a LH batter