Justin Morneau and the curse of Minnesota sports

I’ll make this introduction short. I’m from Minnesota, and for the most part I stand behind my home-state athletics. I won’t share my religious views, but I don’t subscribe to karma, because as a fan of Minnesota sports believing in it would be depressing.

I don’t want to sound like another member of a tortured fanbase, but Minnesota’s luck with injuries the past few seasons is starting to rival Job of the Bible’s luck.

Recently, however, Adrian Peterson went against that trent by rehabbing a torn ACL faster than any man should and then destroyed more men on the football field than he did pre-injury, as described beautifully in Steve Marsh’s Grantland piece.

Peterson won the MVP and dragged a team with a quarterback whose ability to throw beyond 10 yards is still questionable, and a wide-receiving corps toting a slot receiver as its top option, to the playoffs, while nearly breaking Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards.

That’s it, right?!? We’re turnin’ it around! Now Ricky Rubio’s knee is gonna heal, and even better: Christian Ponder will turn into a real quarterback, the Wild will turn their all-star free agents into a cohesive unit and by some miracle the Wolves will get the rights to wear the powder blue Minneapolis Lakers jerseys again. But we know better.

Peterson’s recovery only rights a wrong done by the sporting gods to another Minnesota MVP. Not to mention they just screwed Peterson by somehow finding a spot for him on the Madden 14 cover.

In 2006 Justin Morneau manufactured a run – starting after his benching June 7 – that included a .362 batting average, 23 home runs and 92 RBI in an effort that earned him MVP honors. He was also essential in the Twins’ playoff berth that season. Eighty-one games into the 2010 season he was making a convincing campaign for his second MVP award when Morneau slid into John McDonald’s knee going for a double. The resulting concussion benched Morneau for the rest of the season, and his head hasn’t been out of the fog since.

Justin Morneau

In 1,006 at bats post-concussion, Morneau is batting .260, with an anemic 25 home runs and 145 RBI. The Twins have failed to make the playoffs in those three seasons after reaching the postseason in three out of five years from 2006-10.

Having a healthy Morneau would not solve all the Twins’ problems, but his story is a sad one. The future of the Twins looked bright and now it’s as muddled as Morneau’s batting stats, and that’s not his fault. But Morneau and Joe Mauer were supposed to anchor the Twins for years. Now it looks as though Morneau will forever be a “what could have been” story, as the injury knocked him out of his prime in a time when the Twins had something to play for.

Morneau hasn’t had a home run since April 28 (a good column on his search for power is here). His contract is up after the season, and a rebuilding Twins team with all its up-and-coming prospects (seven in the MLB.com top 100), can’t risk giving Morneau more money for diminishing returns. Twins fans may be watching the last season of their former future as the team is likely to once again fall back to its fail-safe farm system. Unfortunately Morneau will be a victim of the curse that putting on a Minnesota uniform can bring.

The Pew Forum’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey estimates that just one percent of Minnesotans are Buddhists, I’m guessing few of that one percent watch sports on a regular basis, because the principles just don’t apply.


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