"Let us go forth a while, and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our closed rooms...
The game of ball is glorious."

--Walt Whitman

Monday, June 13, 2005

My Kingdom for a Hitting Coach

Star Tribune:
Justin Morneau has had a challenging week. He recovered from a sore left elbow while searching for his swing. And he weathered suggestions that he didn't know how to play with aches and pains.

After his performance Saturday night in the Twins' 5-3 victory over the Dodgers, it's now known that instead of getting a cortisone shot for his achy elbow, he just needed some time with his father, George.

Morneau did the heavy lifting Saturday, driving in four runs with a two-run single in the first inning and a two-run homer in the third. His effort came in a game in which five homers were hit off of sinkerballers Derek Lowe of Los Angeles and Carlos Silva of the Twins.

In addition to dealing with his elbow, Morneau also was struggling at the plate during a 1-for-22 skid that had dropped his average to .285 from .328 on May 24. That's where George Morneau comes in.

George Morneau was born in British Columbia but lives in Gilbert, Ariz. So when the Twins played at Arizona last week, George paid his son a visit.

Morneau had taken a cortisone shot for his elbow. On Tuesday, Morneau entered the game as a substitute, walked and scored. On Wednesday, he was 1-for-4 with a run scored in a 10-0 victory over Diamondbacks.

After that game, George greeted a group of reporters as they waited for the clubhouse to open. One of them asked, "So what do you think of your son's swing these days?"

Said George: "We've worked on that. I had him out in the yard [Tuesday]. He must have hit 300 whiffle balls. He had started to turn his front foot toward the pitcher. I said, 'When did you start doing that?' He said, 'I don't know.' "

Justin Morneau admits that his father probably knows his swing better than anyone. It shows. Morneau has had a hit in all four games since returning to the starting lineup. On Friday, Morneau ran out a triple when his liner skipped by Jason Grabowski in left. On Saturday, his single up the middle scored Lew Ford and Luis Rodriguez in the first, and he crushed a 2-0 fastball from Lowe in the third for a two-run homer. The Twins led 4-0 behind Morneau's rediscovered swing.

Right. Now raise your hand if, while reading the excerpt above, you found yourself wondering where the hell the Twins' hitting coach was during all this.

Perhaps I'm simply misinformed as to the duties of a hitting coach, but when your very best power hitter goes into a slump so hideous it could only be explained by a) a change of mechanics, b) injury or c) being replaced by an incompetent lookalike, isn't it his job to notice that a change in mechanics has actually occurred? Preferably before people outside the organization and indeed outside the game itself do?

I wonder if George Morneau is looking for a job.

3 rejoinders:

SBG sounded off...

My sentiments exactly.

Fourth pew, center sounded off...

Apparently everyone was too busy trashing him in the media.

frightwig sounded off...

*raised hand*

It also should be asked, loudly and often, why so many young players coming up in the last 5 years hit a plateau after arriving and Minnesota and struggle to develop beyond that point. Torii and Jacque still tend to struggle with the same problems that dogged them 4 years ago. Guzy/Rivas never progressed. Restovich arrived full of promise and boasting an impressive track record, but didn't make the jump. Cuddyer is still scratching to get over the hump. David Ortiz only blossomed after leaving for Boston. Now Morneau goes to his father for advice to correct a problem.

Has Scotty Ullger helped *anyone* as Twins hitting coach? Why hasn't he been fired?