The Twins have something no other team in the MLB has: two former Most Valuable Players. In 2006, Justin Morneau won the honor and in 2010 Joe Mauer took home the hardware. Ever since July 7, 2010 when Morneau made that fateful slide into second base, the duo has never been the same.
You can blame injuries, you can blame Target Field, you can blame Ron Gardenhire, you can blame the two men themselves, but there are a few reasons that Mauer and Morneau may just become the M & M Boys once again.
For the first time in a long time, both Mauer and Morneau enter the season seemingly fully healthy. Last year they played a total of 151 games combined. In comparison, that’s only 12 games less than Morneau played himself in 2008 which included the first game 163.
It is an obvious point, but a point that has to be made. If Mauer and Morneau stay healthy they will do two things: boost their own stats/legacy and help the Minnesota Twins win some more ballgames.
It’s been a long time since the Twins have had a legitimate power threat in their prime, but it looks as though that’s what they have in Josh Willingham. After Tuesday’s game, Willingham leads the American League with five home runs.
Willingham plays a crucial role in the reemergence of the M & M Boys. No longer can teams pitch around Mauer and Morneau, because right there with them is Willingham who will make opponents pay. Manager Gardenhire sandwiched Willingham between Mauer and Morneau on Monday and it worked in the Twins favor beating the Yankees by a 7-3 score.
Believe it or not, there is a bright side to the departure of Jason Kubel and from that same vein the absence of Jim Thome. With those two gone, the designated hitter position is really up for grabs between the M & M Boys. Granted, Kubel can play the outfield, but either he or Thome were always filling that spot.
It looks now that Morneau will be the DH for an extended period of time, to help avoid any concussion-like symptoms. Even when Morneau played first on Monday, Mauer took over the DH spot. Through the Twins first 11 games DH has been manned by only two Morneau (9 games) and Mauer (2). The availability of the DH will keep these two healthy and keep their potentially dangerous bats in the lineup.
It’s a cliché to say that star players have to step up when the going gets tough, but that’s exactly what has to happen for the Twins. The Twins are a mess, pitching woes are all around, and so that’s where Mauer and Morneau come in.
The pitchers aren't going to throw up to many shutouts this year. Francisco Liriano had a wonderful spring and now can’t get deep into a ballgame; he only went 2.1 innings on Tuesday against the Yankees. In order to win some games and not lose 99, Mauer and Morneau will need to hit the ball.
When the Twins beat the Angels on April 12 by a score of 10-9, Mauer and Morneau both hit home runs. This was the first time in Target Field history that both Mauer and Morneau homered in the same ball game. Granted this is only year three of Target Field and both players have had injuries, but this is an incredible stat. Mauer doesn't hit a lot of home runs in the first place, but you think it would have happened once by chance.
Like the M & M Boys need Willingham for protection, they need each other for protection as well. Mauer and Morneau just go well together, it’s a deadly one-two punch when they are both healthy and in the lineup together.
Team-wise, there is practically no pressure on the Minnesota Twins. That’s what happens to a team that lost 99 games the year before. This works to Mauer and Morneau’s benefit.
Without the pressure of winning too many ballgames on their mind, the M & M Boys can just go out there and do what they’re good at, playing baseball. Sure, you play the game to win, but it’s sometimes easier to perform when the pressure is off. Who knows, if the M & M Boys come back to form, the wins might just come along with it.