Will Justin Morneau's Attitude and Contract be a Distraction in 2013?

By Brian Wille
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

If you have read any of the stories coming out of Minnesota Twins‘ spring training thus far, the majority will consist of stories dripping full of optimism; however if you have heard the recent comments by Justin Morneau, you will notice a sharp contrast.  Morneau is entering the final year or his contract this season and from all indications, he is prepared for this to be his last season in Minnesota. Morneau has been a staple of the Twins organization for the better part of this past decade. His presence–along with Joe Mauer–have ignited the fan base and has given the franchise two cornerstones in the M&M boys. With his wife hailing from Minnesota and having played his entire career with the Twins, one would think Morneau would have some attachment with the Twins organization.

In reality, it seems as if the losing is taking its toll on Morneau and the first basemen doesn’t want to spend the twilight of his career on a rebuilding team. In addition, I also wonder if he also has some bitterness toward the Twins because of the team failing to extend the first basement after this season. Whatever the reason, Morneau’s comments this past week have raised red flags for the success and mindset of the Twins’ first basemen heading into 2013.

Morneau was asked this week if he or his agent have discussed a contract extension with the Twins or if he expects there to be a discussion regarding his contract status. Morneau responded by stating he does not plan on having contact extension talks this season and instead, he plans on becoming a free agent at the end of the season. Not that these comments should be or are surprising by any means, but heading into the season–a possible final season with the organization that drafted you and you have spent the best years of your career with–most players would be talking more optimistically about their personal future and their team’s hopeful success; not Morneau. Morneau did not make any derogatory or rude comments about the organization or his teammates, but he instead seemed irritable and impatient about his situation and his team’s prospects for success in 2013.

In my opinion, Morneau should instead be deflecting attention from himself and be promoting this team’s potential and belief they can be competitive this season. Not only would that show veteran leadership to younger players and the organization, but it would also maintain a positive image that Morneau has always had for when he is looking for a new team next year or at the trade deadline.

I have said it before, but baseball is a strange game and a lot can change and happen in one year. The Twins do have a chance to improve and compete for a division title and playoff spot this season–albeit a smaller chance compared to others–but a chance nonetheless. If the Twins are to succeed this season, they will need Morneau to play well and be a leader. If Morneau is to get traded to a contender and market himself for next off-season, he will need to play well and demonstrate veteran leadership; so to begin the final season of your contract with your current organization by seeming irritated and non-committed  beyond this season, doesn’t make a lot of sense.

What if the Twins play well, Morneau plays well, and the team competes for the playoffs and the Twins want to extend Morneau’s contract, then what will Morneau do? Will he want to stay knowing more reinforcement and talented prospects are on their way? Will he want to stay and finish his career as a Twins’ player knowing he will be closer to his home and will preserve his legacy of being one of the greatest Twins in history?

It’s too early to tell and so many things have to happen before we get to that type of a conversation; but by making these types of comments, Morneau is putting himself in a position to be scrutinized. Morneau instead needs to reflect on his situation and comments and begin to show leadership and dedication to this season and this team. If he does this, Morneau will put himself in the best possible situation to succeed whether he is playing for the Twins or someone else next season. It is my my hope that he is with the Twins next year and finishes his career here at a cheaper price.

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