Justin Morneau, The Next Aaron Burr (The Man Who Beat Hamilton)
Justin Morneau came into the 2008 State Farm Insurance (Or Is It The Century 21) Home Run Derby and Reggie Jackson Show as merely an afterthought.
I mean, why not?
Every Twin that has competed in a Derby was basically just picked to fill a spot. He played last year and just missed the 2nd round. Torii Hunter and Gary Gaetti also had dismal performances in their stints in the Derby, in 2002 and 1986, respectively, and Tom Brunansky tied for 2nd with 4 other guys in the original Derby in 1985.
So for Morneau, who had 2 fewer homers than everybody else in the Derby, got picked, it was more of an "oh, okay..." moment rather than a "look out Yankee Stadium, here he comes" moment.
Well, Morneau did what he had to do.
He made Josh Hamilton make he wish he hadn't knocked all his strength out in his first-round masterpiece, what the sports radio world is calling a performance that changes the way we think about sports. Morneau, that canuck that plays for the Twinkies, won the whole darn thing.
As Morneau said, the luck all came in the glorious score reset after the second round, and he won using the rules that the Commissioner Built, in the House that Ruth Built. But, always humble, after Hamilton lined to short left for the final out, they stood next to each other and Morneau gestured to him. Afterwards, he said, "This was his show. He deserved to win it. That was one of the best performances I've ever seen."
I love great stories, and Josh Hamilton is the greatest story of 2008. His dream, his vivid dream about competing in just this event at just this place, is touching. His turnaround story of redemption and forgiveness from God is spectacular, no doubt about it. His 28 HRs in the first round--mind-boggling.
However, it was also strength-boggling, as it seemed to wear on him to the point where he only hit 4 home runs in 5 outs in his second round, and only 3 in the final round. He lost fair and square, no matter what ESPN tells you.
Not to worry though. Tonight, Morneau keeps the trophy, and everybody just enjoys the memories. And those memories definitely include Hamilton.
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