Once pillars of the Minnesota Twins, will Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer shake hands someday in Cooperstown?
Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are two players who will be prominently featured in the history of the Minnesota Twins. Each has won an MVP award, but together they've been vital cogs in what has been a banner period for the franchise, with six division championships in nine years during the 2000s.
Despite their record of success together, nobody knows if the two will someday shake hands in Cooperstown or if they'll both be members of the Twins Hall of Fame (which I assume will someday be added onto a wing of Target Field.)
However, the two players' careers have certainly headed in different directions.
Mauer has taken the role of the face of the franchise after signing his massive contract extension prior to the 2010 season. Despite the bickering of some fans, he has mostly performed at a high level, with the exception of the 2011 season, which was largely lost due to injury.
As a catcher, Mauer has won three American League batting championships. There are few players who can take claim to three batting titles, but nobody can say they did it behind the plate in the AL, as Mauer was the first to even win one, let alone three.
Mauer's defense has propelled him to win three Gold Gloves. That's a big reason why despite the bilateral leg weakness and a recent concussion, the Twins refuse to move him from behind the plate.
When it comes to catchers, it simply doesn't get any better than the St. Paul product in his 10 seasons with the Twins.
We know we'll see Mauer enshrined in the Hall of Fame someday, but what about his partner in crime, Morneau?
Morneau got off to a slow start in his first full season in 2005, but he took off after the midway point of the 2006 season, which saw him win his only MVP award to date. Winning one is an incredible accomplishment for any player, but it's staggering when you consider that he could have been a three-time winner.
The Twins overachieved in the 2008 season, and Morneau was a big reason for that, hitting .300 with 23 home runs and 129 RBI. An MVP award was possible, but the team fell to the Chicago White Sox in a one-game playoff for the division championship, and the nation fell in love with Dustin "The Little Guy" Pedroia so much that voters leaned toward the Boston Red Sox's second baseman.
Morneau also was on his way to an incredible season in 2010 with a career-high .345 average and 18 home runs in his first 81 games of the season, but that's where his turn for the worse began after taking a knee to the head from Aaron Hill on July 7.
Will Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer make it to the Hall of Fame?
Before the injury, Morneau enjoyed a stretch between 2006 and 2010 where he dominated the American League and had a line of .298/.372/.528 with 136 home runs and 526 RBI. Since his return in 2011, those numbers have declined to .257/.318/.411 with 38 home runs and 79 RBI in roughly three seasons.
Does a five-year stretch get a player into the Hall of Fame? I don't believe so.
If it were up to me, I would put Morneau in the Hall of Pretty Good. He was a leader for the Twins and will probably have his No. 33 jersey retired by the club someday, but he's an example of what could have been if it weren't for his laundry list of injuries.
Chris Schad is a Minnesota Twins Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. His work has also been featured on the Yahoo! Contributor Network and Pro Football Spot. You can follow Chris on Twitter @crishad.