I've said it over and over: Justin Morneau is more valuable to the Minnesota Twins than Joe Mauer. Before recognition this year, Morneau was always shafted in terms of attention due to the depth at first basemen in the American League.
Morneau has consistently been a top-tier first baseman, but has been overshadowed by the likes of Mark Teixeira, Kevin Youkilis, and Carlos Pena.
If that wasn't bad enough, he didn't even get the most attention on his own team, despite being the Twins' best player. Joe Mauer, after his marvelous 2009 season, continues to be one of the most popular players in America, even when he isn't performing well.
Mauer signed the fourth-largest contract in MLB history in the offseason, netting a whopping $184 million over eight years. So in 2012 and 2013, Mauer will be making $16 million more than Morneau.
Now Mauer isn't having a bad season by any means, and is still the best catcher in the American League. But his numbers have dipped from last year. Here's a comparison for what he's on pace for this year and his numbers from last year.
Mauer's numbers are all projected to be down, despite him missing a month of baseball in 2009. I am not saying Mauer isn't a great player. However, after signing that huge contract, it is clear he is underperforming.
While Morneau is on the disabled list with a concussion, he is second in the AL in OPS (1.055) and third in batting average (.345). He's got 18 home runs and 56 RBI in only 81 games played this season.
Now why is Morneau valuable than Mauer? It's clear by Morneau's absence. In games without Morneau this year against teams with a .500-plus record, the Twins are 4-7. In games with Morneau against teams with a .500-plus record, the Twins are 30-22. The Twins win tough games with Morneau and lose without him.
In contrast, in games with Mauer against teams with a .500-plus record, the Twins are 28-25. In games without Mauer against teams with a .500-plus record, the Twins are 5-0. The Twins can win without Mauer. They cannot win without Morneau.
Before you say the Twins have been on a hot streak as of late with Mauer and without Morneau, we need to recognize that their opponents were three of the worst teams in baseball in Seattle, Kansas City, and Baltimore.
So whenever Justin Morneau's next contract extension talk comes up, his deal should be just bigger than Mauer's. But it won't be.