Twins fans have been treated to some pretty good baseball so far with Minnesota starting the season 8-4 and winning in a variety of ways.
They’ve also been getting acclimated to hearing more of a different voice on Fox Sports North broadcasts — and for the most part they seem to be loving that, too.
Former Twins player Justin Morneau has been the analyst working alongside play-by-play voice Dick Bremer for all 12 games so far this season. He started working into the rotating cast of analysts last season, but having him work so many consecutive games at a time when more people are paying attention has generated a lot of buzz about his work.
I’ve found him to be knowledgeable and interesting — maybe a little dry at times, but that probably means Morneau isn’t trying to be something he’s not, and maybe a little too soft-spoken. But those are minor nits about delivery. The content is excellent.
Morneau and Roy Smalley are my two personal favorites among the FSN Twins analysts because they both reinforce how fun and interesting it can be to think along with the game.
Morneau did a nice job Saturday during the ninth inning as Blake Parker struggled with his split-finger fastball, explaining how catcher Jason Castro did very well to coax Parker through a scoreless inning for a save in the 4-3 victory by getting him to mix in his third pitch, a slow curve.
On Sunday’s broadcast, Morneau marveled at Nelson Cruz fouling off tough pitches and noted how much of a separating ability that is between established long-time veterans and guys who fade into shorter careers. It was a minor point, but a good one.
Twins President Dave St. Peter, when asked about Morneau’s work so far, said this on Monday: “We are thrilled to have Justin as part of our television broadcast team. My sense is he is getting more and more comfortable sharing his unique perspective with each telecast.”
In the very unscientific world of Twitter, the consensus seems to be that most fans like him and the minority of those who don’t think he’s too quiet or boring. A quick sampling:
We’ll have a chance to compare and contrast as the season moves on. Jack Morris, a regular in the Twins booth over the years, is working the Toronto series starting Monday at Target Field. And longtime voice Bert Blyleven still has the most games this year of any analyst.
The breakdown before the season started was this: Blyleven: 50 games; Morneau: 40 games; Smalley: 24 games; Morris: 22 games; LaTroy Hawkins: 18 games; Jim Kaat: 10 games; Tim Laudner: 3 games.
Bremer is slated to do play-by-play work on all 160 FSN Twins broadcasts. (You’ll notice that the analyst numbers add up to more than 160. That’s because a three-person booth will be utilized in some cases).
It’s interesting, though, that Morneau was given the second-most games of any analyst. Blyleven’s role has been reduced over the years, from being in the booth for virtually every game, to a five-year stretch when he did 100 games a year, to 80 games in 2017 and 2018, to 50 games this year and then just 30 next season.
While there are definitely a lot of Blyleven fans out there, it’s easy to see the opportunity for others to step forward.
Morneau has done that so far this season, and I’m looking forward to hearing more as the year goes on.