Gleeman with some unhappy news for a team in the middle of a pennant race:
Justin Morneau has missed 31 games since a knee to the helmet while breaking up a double play on July 7 left him with a concussion and manager Ron Gardenhire revealed today that the Twins have decided to abandon any timetable they had for his return.
Prior to the concussion Morneau was having an even better season than he had while winning the award in 2006, hitting .345/.437/.618 with 18 homers and 25 doubles in 81 games to rank second in the league with a career-high 1.055 OPS. Michael Cuddyer will continue to play first base in his absence, with Jason Kubel and Delmon Young in the outfield corners and Jim Thome at designated hitter.
Morneau might not play again. Or he might, but it seems unlikely to happen anytime soon.
And yet, the Twins have thrived in Morneau's absence and have to be considered slight favorites to win their division even without him. And for that, we should thank two moves made by management last winter.
Or rather, one move and one none-move.
The move was signing Thome, who's been merely fantastic while playing (mostly) against right-handed pitchers. Thome actually opened the season as a bench player, but his performance, and now Morneau's injury, have pushed him into the regular duties he obviously deserves. And his presence frees up Kubel for the outfield. Frankly, Kubel's such a lousy outfielder that he's not much of an asset in this role. But he's better than the alternative.
The non-move was keeping Delmon Young. The Twins saw something I didn't, first when they traded Matt Garza to get him, and then when they kept giving him chances he didn't seem to deserve. Like Kubel, Young's a liability in the outfield. But did anyone expect Young to out-hit Kubel? Young entered this season with a .290/.322/.416 batting line, sub-acceptable for a corner outfielder. Did anyone expect him to post this season's .319/.350/.518 line?
I don't think even Bill Smith expected that. Give the Twins credit, though. Faced with a devastating injury to their second-best player, they haven't missed a beat, thanks to two players who were little more than afterthoughts just a few months ago.