Justin Morneau to return to Twins lineup on Friday

One of the Twins' biggest bats is about to return to their beleaguered lineup. Justin Morneau is set to join the team tomorrow in their opening game against the Cleveland Indians.

According to the Star-Tribune's La Velle E. Neal III, Morneau's taking some cuts today at AAA Rochester before hopping on a jet plane and racing back to the Twin Cities.


Morneau's been tearing up the minors in his rehab assignments, batting .423, including a 2 for 4 game on Wednesday, which included a two-run blast in the ninth inning.

Apparently, our man's been chomping at the bit to get back into his Twins uniform and help this club, er, contend. The Strib's Patrick Reusse reports that Morneau texted GM Bill Smith "Get me the fuck out of here." That august paper's guidelines prevented Mr. Reusse from printing "fuck", choosing to call it a "graphic adverb". I'm sure it wasn't "heck".

Now, I know what you're thinking: that's all well and good, and I'm excited to see the M & M boys together for the first time since before Morneau cracked his noggin. But really, the season's over, right?

Now, hold on a second. I've been doing some research, trying desperately to spin this year's not-quite-basement-dwellers, not-quite-contenders, and I think I've found an angle.

Earlier, when the Twins were stinking worse than anyone, I wondered whether they were an incarnation of the '62 New York Mets, those lovable losers that made Charlie Brown look like the next Mantle. Well, now I'm hoping, praying, begging and pleading that these guys might take a page from the 1973 New York Mets... the "You Gotta Believe!" Mets.

On August, 5 1973, the New York Mets were 12 games under .500, and 11.5 games out of first place, dead last in a six-team division. They'd just lost three straight to division-leading St. Louis, and things looked bad, real bad.

So bad, in fact, that minority owner M. Donald Grant gathered the team together for a pep talk. Probably never in the history of the great game had there been a less inspiring talk than that one.


Apparently, one player found inspiration: Tug McGraw, relief pitcher and future father of country western star Tim McGraw. The elder McGraw, most likely mocking the owner (though Tug later denied this), leapt up and yelled "You're right, Mr. Grant! You gotta believe!"

The Mets won that game and then... went on to go 5-5 over their next ten games. So what? They went 34-19 for the rest of the season (at one point leading the division with a 77-77 record!), and won the NL East with what remains the worst record for a division winner in history: 82-79.

Unbelievably, in the playoffs they also beat the heavily favored Cincinnati Reds, 3 games to 2, and then took the Oakland A's, again heavily favored and predicted to sweep, to the full seven games, losing the World Series 4 games to 3.

You gotta believe, indeed. The Twins beat the formidable Boston Red Sox last night, and Joe Nathan got his record breaking (for the Twins) 255th save, and maybe he's back, too. Could this be the beginning of the Twins' run for the pennant?

Now, the Twins definitely don't have a one-two punch in Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman, as the Mets did. But then again, the Mets didn't have Mauer, Morneau, Cuddyer, Kubel, Young and Thome in the center of their line-up, either. That is, if those dudes can find their swings.

The Mets passed five teams to win their division and take the pennant with only 82 wins (one game was rained out.) The Twins would need to go 31-14 to win 83 games, which is nearly impossible, but then again, Detroit, Cleveland, and Chicago seem totally incapable of taking the AL Central flag.

More than likely this is a pipe dream akin to hoping the lottery comes through just this once. The Twins aren't likely to contend anywhere but in my own addled mind. But still, it doesn't hurt to believe, right?

NOTE: A nod to the dear departed Dana Brand, "the Proust of Mets bloggers", for the story of Tug McGraw and the '73 Mets. Brand's Met's Blog was one of the essential reads on the internet (or in book form.) His death, at 56 of pulmonary embolism, was a great loss to anyone who loves great writing, baseball or otherwise.