HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
November 27, 2006

Morneau deserves the votes he got

By Matt Kane

Leave it up to a bunch of sports writers to get something right.

Well, 15 writers, anyway.

That’s how many first place votes it took for Twins’ first baseman Justin Morneau to win the American League most valuable player award.

While his .321 average, 34 homers and 130 RBI are certainly deserving, at least one sports writer, this one, was surprised with the announcement, which came Tuesday.

I mean, how often does anyone representing a Minnesota team get more recognition than someone who works his trade under the bright media lights of New York City, as Yankees’ shortstop Derek Jeter does?

Jeter batted .344 with 14 home runs and 97 RBI.

Morneau had better offensive numbers than Jeter in two of the three categories, but the plain fact that Morneau is not the captain of the New York Yankees had me a little skeptical as to whether he would be looked at in the same light as Jeter.

Many talking heads, AKA sports analysts, have been arguing that Jeter should have won the award, despite his lower numbers, because he plays a more demanding position, shortstop.

That argument doesn’t hold any water, because, if the demand of a player’s defensive position played that much of a factor, Morneau’s teammate Joe Mauer, a catcher, should have been named MVP.

Mauer beat Jeter to win the AL batting title with a .347 average, and hit 13 home runs and drove in 84 runners from a lineup not even close to the Yankees’ in potency.

Mauer placed sixth in the voting and his battery mate and recent Cy Young award winner Johan Santana was seventh. Santana also won the Cy Young in 2004.

Santana was the only player besides Morneau and Jeter to receive a first place vote.

Morneau’s MVP award came four days after he and Mauer were named Silver Sluggers for their positions.

By winning the MVP award, Morneau became the fourth Twins player to do so.

He joins Zoilo Versalles (1965), Harmon Killebrew (1969) and Rod Carew (1977) in that elite class of Twins players.

That’s right, the most popular Twin of all, Kirby Puckett, never won the MVP award. Hard to believe.

In winning, Morneau, a New Westminster, British Columbia native, also continued the Canadian invasion of United States-based major sports leagues.

The reining National Hockey League Hart Trophy (MVP) winner is Joe Thornton, a native of London, Ontario, and Phoenix Suns’ guard Steve Nash, from Victoria, British Columbia, is the back-to-back NBA MVP.

What’s next, someone from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan throwing for 50 touchdown passes in the NFL?

Maybe baseball isn’t just America’s game anymore. Actually, maybe that has been the case longer than we think.

Since 1996, when Juan Gonzalez won the American League most valuable player award, seven of the 11 recipients were born outside the borders of the United States.

Over the same span in the National League, only Albert Pujols (2005), Sammy Sosa (1998) and Larry Walker (1997) were MVP winners who haled from places outside the United States.

Walker was the last Canadian to win the award. He did so in 1997 when he hit .366 with 49 home runs and 130 runs driven in as a member of the Colorado Rockies.
Good year, eh?

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