Saturday, February 25, 2012

On Justin Morneau's future

A more slender Justin Morneau signs autographs
Friday at the Twins complex in Fort Myers, Fla.
Lake Crystal's most famous part-time resident spoke Friday to the assembled reporters at Twins spring training, and his comments are being dissected with the detail generally used for analyzing presidential statements on foreign crises.

Such is the importance of Justin Morneau to the Twins, not only in 2012 but beyond. A healthy Morneau is a middle-of-the-lineup force, but he hasn't had a fully healthy season since 2008, and the last two have been shortened and marred by recurring concussions.

Tomorrow isn't promised to any of us. Morneau knows that all too well.

Morneau said nothing startling -- unless you regard honesty as startling, which I suppose it is when coming from an athlete about injury -- when answering questions about the possibility of future concussions:

"I don't think there will be a career if it's something I'm dealing with (for the long term). That's the reality of the whole thing. I'm obviously not going to continue to mess around with this if it continues to be a problem. There comes a point where you can only torture yourself for so long. It's something I love to do but you keep preparing and you keep being left out. That's something that nobody wants to go through."

Yes, that sounds like a guy who has contemplated retirement. Is that really a surprise? Had he denied retirement as an option, I would scoff. Had he come out claiming that all is well, I would be skeptical. He's had a year and a half of recurring concussion symptoms, and he doesn't know if he's out of the woods yet.

He's also not ready to pull the plug on his playing days. We shouldn't be eager to do so either.

The Twins are obviously banking on Morneau. They've committed $14 million to him in each of 2012 and 2013. I'm not sure how much of that, if any, is covered by insurance. (As a general thing, teams can no longer realistically insure contracts from injuries that the player has had before, and Morneau's concussion history predates his current deal.) They have some low-priced options in reserve, but they'd much prefer to keep them in reserve.

For now, the status remains quo. Morneau is playing. He took part in the drills Friday. I'll evaluate the various Plan B's if and when he has to back off. 

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