With Harmon Killebrew-like numbers, the Canadian-born first baseman has been instrumental in the Twins' exciting resurgence.
The Twins' most valuable player strolled onto the field Thursday afternoon wearing bushy sideburns, unleashed that classic lefthanded swing, then shrugged in front of a bank of minicams.
The Twins' MVP lives in St. Paul with a teammate, bears the initials JM and might be the biggest thing to hit the Twin Cities since heated parking.
The Twins' MVP in this surprise party of a season, though, is not St. Paul's own Joe Mauer.
No, provincialism aside, their MVP is Canada's own Justin Morneau, who on Thursday wore fake Mauer sideburns as an homage to his roommate on a day when every Twin should have been paying homage to Morneau.
"Morneau is by far our MVP," said Torii Hunter.
"Joe is having a great season," the Twins center fielder added, "but if you look at homers and RBI ... well, if it wasn't for Morneau, we wouldn't be in it."
Wednesday in Detroit, Morneau became the first Twins player to reach 30 homers in a season since 1987 by hitting a game-winning two-run shot, pulling a 97-mile-per-hour fastball from the Tigers' Joel Zumaya into the bleachers.
Morneau is only the fourth Canadian-born player to reach 30 homers in a season.
Two winters ago, Morneau dealt with appendicitis, chickenpox, pleurisy and pneumonia, then struggled through a season that called his future into question.
This winter, Morneau regained his strength, decided to room with Mauer and established himself as the Twins' most intimidating slugger since The Killer.
"A lot of things have helped," Morneau said. "Learning the league, getting used to the pitchers, batting in one spot. And living with Joe. He's a good influence."
Catcher Mike Redmond said he was surprised Morneau actually wore the promotional sideburns. "He never does anything different," Redmond said. "The other day on the road, Michael Cuddyer and I were inviting some guys to breakfast, and we asked Joe. Morneau was like, 'Joe, you're hitting .360, you can't go to breakfast.' I had to tell him, 'Joe isn't hitting .360 because he sleeps until noon every day.' "
Morneau's routine involves sleeping until noon before night games, eating macaroni and cheese, wearing a Todd Bertuzzi jersey, hitting in the same group at the same time in batting practice and developing superstitions about anything he does on a day he hits a home run.
"Hey, it's working," Redmond said. "He's made the most improvement of anybody on our team. I know [hitting coach] Joe Vavra has worked hard with him, too.
"Deep down, though, he still thinks he's a hockey player. It's just nice he could hit 30 homers in the big leagues, too."
Thursday, Morneau tried to talk Mauer into shaving his sideburns. "I was going to tell people I snuck into his room and shaved them off, but then people would hate me," Morneau said.
So if Mauer gets a Sideburn Night, how should Morneau be honored? "Maple Leaf Tattoo Night," Cuddyer said.
The Twins spend millions on drafting and developing young players. They should cut the budget and just move all their prospects into Mauer's St. Paul apartment.
|Boston - WP: M. Ott||4||FINAL|
|Minnesota - LP: M. Hoffman||3|
|San Francisco||2||Top 5th Inning|
|Colorado||1||Top 2nd Inning|
|LA Lakers||42||2nd Qtr 0:23|
|UC Santa Barbara||38|
|San Diego St||73|
|Utah Valley U||83|
|Cal State Fullerton||56||FINAL|
|Long Beach State||66|
|Sam Houston St||70|
|Alabama A&M||60||2nd Half 4:19|
|Eastern Mich||49||2nd Half 8:45|
|UC Riverside||41||2nd Half 4:54|
|CS-Bakersfield||53||2nd Half 7:57|
|Rhode Island||55||2nd Half 9:35|
|Portland State||52||2nd Half 4:36|
|Fresno State||53||2nd Half 11:28|
|Oregon||51||2nd Half 6:45|
|Northwestern||55||2nd Half 3:33|
|Miss State||44||2nd Half|
|Georgia Tech||32||2nd Half 17:57|
|ULM||40||2nd Half 16:31|
|Marquette||32||2nd Half 18:11|
|West Virginia||14||2nd Half|
|Charlotte||7||1st Half 15:35|
|Boise State||10:30 PM|
|New Mexico St|
|Miss Valley St||68||FINAL|
|(22) Middle Tennessee||69|
|William & Mary||65|
|Old Dominion||42||2nd Half 16:47|
Poll: How many games will the Gophers win in the Big Ten tournament?