Jim Souhan: Morneau, Mauer share a lot -- but not MVP award

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 15, 2007 - 3:23 PM

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.

Jason Bartlett grabbed a bunk last year, and he's hitting .355. Josh Rabe is the newest tenant, and he's hitting .317. Mauer may become the first American League catcher ever to win a batting title, and Morneau is threatening to become the most feared Canadian hitter since Marty McSorley.

"I think the whole team is going to try to move in," Redmond said. "I'm asking for the couch."

That should work, as long as Redmond sleeps until noon and wears sideburns to batting practice.

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Pittsburgh - LP: F. Liriano 0 FINAL
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