Zulgad: If he gets it, Morneau's All-Star moment would be memorable
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Michael Cuddyer was a teammate of Justin Morneau's with the Twins from 2003 to 2011. The two were reunited this offseason in Colorado when Cuddyer's sales pitch to his buddy proved successful and Morneau signed with the Rockies as a free agent.
Cuddyer's familiarity with Morneau gives him credibility when it comes to addressing the issue of the first baseman attempting to sell himself this week in order to become the top vote-getter among the five National League players in the Final Vote for the NL All-Star team that is being done on the Internet.
"He wants it really, really bad, not just for him but also for the fans in Minnesota," Cuddyer said Tuesday during an appearance on 1500 ESPN. "But he's not a guy that would ever talk about himself, he's not comfortable talking about himself. That's what makes him Justin Morneau. That's why we as a group have to get behind him and do it for him. It's definitely not his thing and he's not very good at it either."
Morneau's goal is simple and, unlike is the case with so many athletes these days, has nothing to do with being selfish. He simply wants to return to Target Field next Tuesday in order to play in front of the fans who saw him go from an immature kid to an MVP to a guy whose career looked as if it was going to be derailed by concussions and other assorted injuries.
The sad thing is that Morneau even has to go out of his way to attempt to get on the NL team. Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt was voted by fans to be the starter at first base, leaving NL manager Mike Matheny to pick a backup.
Matheny, who manages the St. Louis Cardinals, elected to go with Atlanta's Freddie Freeman, who entered Tuesday hitting .299/.390/.507 with 26 doubles, three triples, 13 home runs and 47 RBI in 89 games.
Freeman is having a fine season, but Morneau's numbers (.315/.347/.514 with 20 doubles, two triples, 13 home runs and 59 RBI in 85 games) made him just as deserving, if not more so. Morneau's RBI total is tied for second in the NL, just three behind league leader Giancarlo Stanton.
Where Matheny and those who helped pick the NL roster really swung and missed was in understanding what the All-Star Game is all about.
The immediate response from the geniuses who went into a complete panic after the tie-game debacle of 2002 is that the Midsummer Classic means something because it decides home-field advantage for the World Series.
They don't get it.
What this game is really about is moments. Unforgettable snapshots that last in the memory the way only baseball moments can.
Pete Rose slamming into Ray Fosse in the 12th inning in order to score the winning run to lift the NL in 1970. Dave Parker throwing a bullet from right field and catcher Gary Carter knocking Brian Downing off the plate and applying the tag for an out in 1979.
Bo Jackson's monstrous home run leading off for the AL in the 1989 game in Anaheim. The Twins' Torii Hunter scaling the wall in Milwaukee in 2002 to take a home run away from Barry Bonds and a laughing Bonds picking up Hunter as he left the field and throwing him over his shoulder.
Morneau's unforgettable moment might not be a significant play at all, but rather simply getting the chance to enter Tuesday's game and take a few minutes to acknowledge the ovation of a fan base that never got the opportunity to say goodbye.
He was traded from the Twins to Pittsburgh last August after a game in Texas. The deal did not come as a surprise and left few, if any, upset. Morneau, now 33, was going to hit the free-agent market, the Twins were in the midst of a third consecutive terrible season and there was little chance the relationship between the two sides was going to continue.
No hard feelings, time to move on. Morneau went so far as a to write a goodbye letter to Twins fans.
Morneau's best years were long behind him at that point. Named the American League MVP in 2006, Morneau hadn't been the same since suffering a concussion when he took a knee to the head in a July 2010 game in his native Canada against the Blue Jays.
There were other injuries that followed and it got to the point where Morneau, at times, seemed to openly wonder if it might be time to walk away.
That's what makes his story such a compelling one and why it would be even better if Morneau gets the chance to write a chapter of it at Target Field.
MLB gave its first update on the final ballot voting on Tuesday, revealing Morneau led a "tight race" after the first 36 hours of voting. Voting will continue until 3 p.m. Thursday.
Morneau's willingness to politic for votes should help his cause and he appears to have plenty of support from his native country as well as the Rockies, Twins and a few other big-league teams.
One has to hope that is enough to get him in the game.
After all, in a game that is all about moments, Morneau's presence in Minneapolis next Tuesday has a chance to create an ever-lasting one for Twins fans and, just as importantly, himself.