For years, the Minnesota Twins have used their version of the M&M Boys—Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau—as their cornerstones by which to build their franchise around. For the most part, the strategy to build around Morneau and Mauer has been a good one which has produced two MVP awards, nine All-Star appearances, three Gold Gloves, three batting titles and three division titles. However over the past few seasons, both Mauer and Morneau have faced their fair share of injuries and criticisms due to their lack of performance, which has had a detrimental effect on the success of the Twins.
Was the criticism warranted? Perhaps, but the main reason that Morneau struggled was because he suffered from concussion issues that derailed the better part of three seasons in his career. Mauer’s “injuries” were a little more difficult to swallow, as they seemed less serious and often were clouded in mystery. Couple the injury troubles of Mauer and Morneau with their large contracts that eat up a majority of the Twins’ payroll and you have a recipe destined for criticism.
Morneau’s current contract expires at the end of this season; but when his contract was signed for six years and 80 million dollars following the 2007 season, Morneau was only a year removed from his MVP winning season. Based off of the age, 27, and the career projection that Morneau had at the time he signed the contract, the deal looked justified and the Twins were happy they had locked up their first cornerstone.
Then came the record deal that Mauer inherited following his 2009 MVP season. Mauer signed a 184 million dollar extension that raised the eyebrows of many fans, but in the end was seen as reasonable in order to keep one of the best catchers in the history from leaving town for a larger market. Couple those factors with the fact that Mauer was a hometown kid and a hero in Minnesota and it seemed like a great deal for all parties involved. Yet, when Mauer saw his next few seasons riddled by injury, fans began to question whether or not Mauer had gotten lazy and soft now that he received a record extension.
For all of the criticism that Mauer and Morneau have received, 2013 has the makings of another productive year which should remind fans why the Twins have chosen to build around these two stars. When healthy, these two players can produce and make the Twins’ lineup one of the best in all of baseball as long as they are surrounded by a quality supporting cast. Mauer, despite a 0-21 slump, is having a “Mauer-like” season hitting for average and providing great defense behind the plate. Currently, Mauer is hitting .298 with 34 hits, two HR and 10 RBI. Morneau, on the other hand, has gotten off to a slower start, but has turned it on as of late and has accumulated overall stats of a .259 batting average with 29 hits, two HR and 18 RBI, with nine of his RBI coming over his last 10 games.
Since this may be the last year of the M&M Boys in Minnesota, it is important to appreciate all that these two players have done for the Twins’ organization. While their price tags may be on the high side, it is the price that the Twins had to pay at the time they signed the contracts in order to keep their best players in Minnesota. Some may believe that the players haven’t lived up to their new contracts; however, for all that these two players mean to the Twins’ organization and for all of the criticism the Twins would have received if either of the players weren’t resigned, I believe that each player was worth the money the Twins gave them. Both players earned their contracts with their previous performances and to see them leave would be crushing to a franchise that was in the midst of winning division titles in large part to the M&M Boys.
While we may not know what the future holds for the M&M Boys, there is no time like the present to enjoy watching them play out the remainder of their contracts in a Twins’ uniform. Let’s hope that this isn’t the end of their careers in Minnesota and that each can retire with the Twins and one day have their numbers retired among the greats at Target Field.