Justin Morneau was acquired by the Pittsburgh Pirates from the Minnesota Twins to be a run-producer and provide a steady bat in the cleanup spot in the lineup. While he didn’t do much of that, it wasn’t like he didn’t ever get on base. From the way people talk about him, they make it seem like he’s the worst hitter alive, but that just isn’t the case.
Sure, Morneau isn’t the power-hitter that he used to be, but he still has a good eye and a decent glove at first base. He only played in 25 games with the Pirates, totaling just 92 plate appearances. In those 92 appearances at the plate, Morneau hit for a .260/.370/.312 slash line with no home runs, three RBIs and four doubles.
Even though he didn’t drive in runs, Morneau provided something else — a guy who is on base a lot for other players to drive home. In his time with the Bucs, the veteran first baseman actually walked more than he struck out. Of his 92 plate appearances, 13 resulted in walks and 12 ended with a strike three. I don’t believe all that much in the intangible aspect of baseball, but I do think it matters some. Having veteran leaders doesn’t matter much, but one would think it does calm some of the younger players down to see a veteran acting cool and calm in pressure situations. For opposing pitchers, seeing the Pirates’ lineup card with Morneau, a former MVP, is surely a bit more worrisome than seeing the card with Garrett Jones on it.
Defensively, Morneau is probably as average as it gets. For the Pirates, though, he looked like a Gold Glove first baseman. The Pirates have suffered through so many games with Jones at first base. They have seen so many bad throws to second base from Jones and so many mistakes. Morneau didn’t make those mistakes; he made the plays he should have made.
Even though he did disappoint in his time with the Bucs, let’s stop acting like bringing him back would be the worst possible scenario. He isn’t going to go 25 games without hitting a home run very often. He hit 17 home runs with the Twins last year; there is still some power in his bat. He isn’t an All-Star, but he isn’t the worst first baseman in baseball either.