I get asked if I ever get tired of savaging the things and players I don’t like in baseball the other day. The answer is no. It’s the perfect game, and I think we should all strive for perfection while never being satisfied with status quo. After my wife shook her head at me for my answer she asked me a question that made me smile. “Do you have any players you love like you did when you were a kid?”
The answer is actually yes. Three players that are currently playing are my “favorites.” I am going to dedicate a blog to each of them. If I’m too sappy please understand it’s the yin to my yang for the passion I feel for the game of baseball.
The three blogs will be on two-time former NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum of the Giants, Evan Longoria of the Tampa Bay Rays, and former AL MVP Justin Morneau of the Colorado Rockies which is where I am starting because he is by far and away my favorite player since Don Mattingly and Dwight Gooden.
I’m a baseball card collector (though I’ve taken a 10-year break while raising my children and having little disposable income to invest) and that is where I first found out about Justin Morneau. His Bowman rookie card boasted my second favorite prospect analysis I’ve ever read (behind a card on Alex Rodriguez). It stated something to the effect of: “think Larry Walker with less speed, but with a lot more power…” As a Twins fan who has now endured three sessions of absolutely pathetic baseball (two then), 1978-86, 1993-01, and the current stretch that started in 2011 and likely will last until Terry Ryan resigns.
The stats are the easy thing with Justin. He is a former AL MVP, he finished second two years later and, before suffering his career-changing concussion, he was on pace to have numbers that would have been better than anyone in baseball that season. He likely would have been in consideration for the MVP again. It was beyond the numbers, and it still is beyond the numbers for me.
Morneau is a leader. He is a stand up guy who doesn’t make excuses and he doesn’t let his team down. Before the concussion he rarely if ever came out of the lineup. At one point he was the active leader for most consecutive games played. I remember him getting a broken nose in a collision at home plate. I thought he was going to be hospitalized and he came back the next day.
Those are the actions of a leader. After the concussion and a nagging wrist injury stole prime years of his career away from him he has been revitalized and rematerialized in Colorado. Magically enough Larry Walker (his baseball hero) wore number 33 for the Rockies as well.
Beyond the game of baseball, his charity coat drives throughout his career in Minnesota have helped thousands of kids, and even after being traded to Pittsburgh he and his wife still raised enough money and donations to help give 1,500 more winter coats in 2013. Yeah there are tax shelters, and foundations for all kinds of millionaires to save taxes. A lot of stars in Minnesota live elsewhere because they can save money on that, but not Justin Morneau … he and his wife made a home here, and they give back no matter what.
Baseball is a kid’s game that grown men use to relive their childhoods. Thanks to Justin, I not only get to relive that, and feel the thrill of his towering homers, but more importantly because of those coats for kids … other kids have the chance to maybe play the game someday too, and one day when they are older they can give back to the community that they call home because that to me is the measure of a man … forget man … to me, that’s the meaning of being human.