Mackey: It's incredible to see how far Morneau has come in two years
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
In February, 2012, Justin Morneau stood in front of his locker inside Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, genuinely unsure about the status of his career. He missed the entire second half of 2010 with a severe concussion, then played only 69 games in 2011 due to a handful of injuries that also included a second concussion.
To give you an idea of how tenuous Morneau's situation was two years ago - and just how close he was to accepting early retirement as a very real possibility - here's what he said upon reporting to Fort Myers that spring:
"I don't know how I'm going to feel tomorrow and how I'm going to feel a week from now, but today I feel good. Just go from there. ...
"I don't think there'll be a career if (the concussions are) something I'm dealing with. That's the reality of the whole thing. I've kind of come to grips with that. I'm obviously not going to continue to mess around with this if it continues to be a problem. There comes a point when you can only torture yourself so long. It's something I love to do, but you keep preparing and keep being let down, that's something that nobody wants to go through, obviously. It's been a tough winter that way. I try not to think about that kind of stuff. ...
"Obviously (retirement) has crossed my mind, and something I've had to think about. But when that stuff comes into my mind I just continue to look for something positive and look how far I've come in the last week, or how far I've come in the last month, or whatever it is, and just continue to hope it goes well."
Concussions weren't the only thing bothering Morneau at the time. Prior to the 2012 season he also underwent procedures on his neck, wrist, knee and foot. The neck surgery even caused residual numbness in his left arm and hand.
All of these problems combined with whatever effects the multiple concussions had led to very pedestrian numbers for Morneau between 2011 and 2013 - a .256/.319/.406 batting line with 40 home runs in 355 games. Certainly not atrocious, but a far cry from Morneau's MVP season of 2006. Or the first half of 2010, when Morneau was the best hitter in baseball before the concussion, hitting .345/.437/.618.
But nearly four full years after that knee to the head in Toronto sent his career into a nosedive at age 29, Morneau, now 33 and playing in Colorado, is mashing once again. After driving in six runs on Tuesday night, Morneau now has 57 RBIs for the season to go along with 13 home runs, 18 doubles and a .304/.340/.522 batting line.
Ordinarily when a Twins player struggles then finds success with another team, we breathlessly search for guilty parties to blame in the Twins front office and coaching staff (see: David Ortiz, J.J. Hardy, Francisco Liriano, etc.), but Morneau's situation feels different.
Morneau gave the Twins great production for many years, and just when it appeared he was reaching a new plateau during the prime of his career in 2010, it was all taken away.
Now, he's back. Maybe not 2006 back or 2010 back, but he's definitely back to being a feared hitter.
It's great to see.