Justin Morneau is leading the American League in runs batted in and is a candidate to win a second league MVP award, but he gives all the credit for his run production to the baserunners ahead of him and points out what a great difference outfielder Denard Span has made as the leadoff man since he was called up from the minors.

" ... You can't do that if guys aren't on base," Morneau said. "Denard's done a great job since he stepped into the leadoff spot. He's scored a lot of runs for us.

"Joe [Mauer] is on base in front of me 41 percent of the time, and him being out there, running around ... he's got good speed for a catcher, he's scored a lot of times from first when I've hit balls. It's a team thing. You can't drive in runs if there's not guys on base, so you've got to give credit to the guys there, too."

Before Thursday's game Morneau talked about what a great contribution Span has made, and then Span went out and did just that in the 7-6 victory that gave the Twins a sweep against the White Sox.

Span went 3-for-4 with three RBI and scored a run.

"Yeah, he's done a great job. If he would have come up at the beginning -- who knows? -- we might be talking about him for Rookie of the Year," Morneau said. "He should get some votes anyway just for what he's done. He's stepped in and he's done a great job in that leadoff spot. He stepped in for Cuddy [Michael Cuddyer] being hurt and without him we wouldn't be where we're at right now."

Morneau and the rest of the Twins would have better statistics if they played better on the road.

"A lot of that stuff is mental," Morneau said. "We got on the road, we got out of whack, started trying to do a little too much. You get back home and just relax and enjoy the game."

How good a ballplayer is Morneau? A scout told me the other day that some clubs have him rated one of the 10 best players in baseball.

McKinnie situation

On Monday, Bryant McKinnie will have served his four-game suspension for the trouble he got into in Florida and will be able to enter Winter Park for the first time since NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell punished him.

There is no doubt that Zygi Wilf and the Vikings ownership are very upset with McKinnie after they made it clear how embarrassed they were by the Love Boat incident and other episodes off the field. McKinnie knew one more off-field problem would get him suspended and that his move set a bad example for the rest of the players.

In addition to hurting the team, McKinnie cost himself $746,000 -- his salary for four games.

McKinnie hasn't worked out with the team for four weeks, so I don't expect him to break into the lineup immediately. And it wouldn't surprise me if McKinnie were traded if the right deal could be made.

Tough match

Asked if the Gophers match up well with Ohio State, which is a 17-point favorite Saturday, Gophers coach Tim Brewster said: "I don't know that. I think it is pretty optimistic to say we match up well with them. We are starting two redshirt freshmen and three redshirt sophomores on the offensive line. I think Ohio State might have the best defensive front I have seen. They are extremely active and tough and physical. I'm not ready to say we match up well with Ohio State."


Twins President Dave St. Peter said the team budgeted for attendance of 2.1 million to 2.2 million and depending on how the race finishes could draw 2.3 million. St. Peter said manager Ron Gardenhire is signed through the 2009 season and no decision has been made regarding a contract extension. Although St. Peter didn't say so, look for some appreciation to be shown for the great job Gardenhire and his coaches have done this season. The coaches were all signed to one-year contracts, but there doesn't seem to be any reason why all won't be back, considering the team's great finish, the team's good future and the new ballpark opening in 2010.

Twins relief pitcher Matt Guerrier had a pre-All-Star-break ERA of 3.35 and a record of 5-4. His post-All-Star-break ERA is 8.75, and his record is 1-4. His ERA in August was 10.13 in 13 games, and in September it was 9.82 in 10 games. Overall he is 0-4, ERA of 10.42 in his past 24 appearances since July 31, with seven homers given up and an opponent's batting average of .356. But Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson said he is not giving up on Guerrier. "He's just making a few mistakes and not getting away with them," Anderson said. "Well, it's not like he's not trying. We keep running him out there because we believe in him.''

Eddie Einhorn, the vice chairman of the White Sox who is in town for the series against the Twins, recalled that his group -- which includes Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf -- bought the White Sox for $25 million in 1961. He said the team's value has skyrocked because the team owns half of the local television network that carries the club. The Twins attempted to run their own TV operation but failed. It's ironic that both teams now have 42-26 home records after the Twins' sweep. Einhorn, who said that the White Sox's payroll is $100 million-plus compared to about $60 million for the Twins, is a great admirer of the Twins organization. One fact he likes is that if the teams are separated by a half-game after Sunday's games, the White Sox will have to play a makeup game against the Tigers on Monday in Chicago.

Former Twins catcher A.J. Pierzynski was hitting .400 against Twins pitching when the current series against the White Sox started and was at .382 before Thursday's game.

Taylor Grant, brother of current Gophers linebacker Ryan Grant, is only a junior at Eden Prairie, but he's an outstanding tight end and quarterback and is getting some recruiting attention from some top Division I schools. He is 6-4, 230 and can move. Incidentally, Ryan has told Brewster that he would prefer to redshirt this year and have four years of eligibility after this year. ... Former Edina athlete Mike Tice Jr., the son of the former Vikings coach who started his college career at Central Florida, has transferred to Northern Iowa. ... Former Gophers running back Gary Russell, who had been paid $21,750 a week before being released by the Steelers, has been added to the Steelers' practice squad, where the pay is $5,200 per week.

Gophers baseball coach John Anderson reports that starting in 2009, the Big Ten conference baseball schedule will feature a three-game series with three nine-inning games, instead a four-game series with two nine-inning games and two seven-inning games.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on his Podcast once a week at www.startribune.com/sidcast. shartman@startribune.com