Don't call it a setback: Morneau won't join Twins in Chicago

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The hope was that Justin Morneau would be able to join the team in Chicago on Monday in order to participate in batting practice on Tuesday and Wednesday. No dice, apparently.

While refusing to call it a setback, Twins general manager Bill Smith told Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that there was a change in plans.

“He’s made good progress the last week,” Smith said. “Chicago was a
possibility, just like Cleveland was a possibility [this past weekend],
depending on how things went last week. But Justin’s very comfortable
with the facilities at Target Field, so he’s going to continue doing his
workouts there.”

Morneau was given the day off Monday, but is expected to resume his workouts at Target Field on Tuesday. There was some chatter over the weekend about a possible minor league rehab
assignment later this week — and that could still very well happen — but Smith cautioned that due to the nature
of the injury, they have to be “careful about the forecasts.”  

Morneau hasn’t played since suffering a concussion from a knee to the head by Toronto’s John McDonald on July 7. Continuing to ride the wave of outstanding seasons from Carl Pavano and Delmon Young, the Twins are 18-10 since that day and have picked up a game in the standings. They currently sit just a half-game behind the White Sox in the American League Central and could pull dead even if the ChiSox lose to the suddenly-hot Orioles tonight.  

Justin Turner is a postseason monster

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A not-insignificant amount of the Dodgers’ success in recent years has to do with the emergence of Justin Turner. In his first five seasons with the Orioles and Mets, he was a forgettable infielder who had versatility, but no power. The Mets non-tendered him after the 2013 season, a move they now really regret.

In four regular seasons since, as a Dodger, Turner has hit an aggregate .303/.378/.502. His 162-game averages over those four seasons: 23 home runs, 36 doubles, 83 RBI, 80 runs scored. And he’s also a pretty good third baseman, it turns out. The Dodgers have averaged 95 wins per season over the past four years.

Turner, 32, has gotten better and better with each passing year. This year, he drew more walks (59) than strikeouts (56), a club only five other players (min. 300 PA) belonged to, and he trailed only Joey Votto (1.61) in BB/K ratio (1.05). He zoomed past his previous career-high in OPS, finishing at .945. His .415 on-base percentage was fourth-best in baseball. His batting average was fifth-best and only nine points behind NL batting champion Charlie Blackmon.

It doesn’t seem possible, but Turner has been even better in the postseason. He exemplified that with his walk-off home run to win Game 2 of the NLCS against the Cubs. Overall, entering Wednesday night’s action, he was batting .363/.474/.613 in 97 postseason plate appearances. In Game 4, he went 2-for-2 with two walks, a single, and a solo home run. That increases his postseason slash line to .378/.495/.659, now across 101 plate appearances. That’s a 1.154 OPS. The career-high regular season OPS for future first-ballot Hall of Famer Albert Pujols was 1.114 in 2008, when he won his third career MVP Award. Statistically, in the postseason, Turner hits slightly better than Pujols did in the prime of his career. Of course, we should adjust for leagues and parks and all that, but to even be in that neighborhood is incredible.

In the age of stats, the concept of “clutch” has rightfully eroded. We don’t really allow players to ascend to godlike levels anymore like the way we did Derek Jeter, for instance. (Jeter’s career OPS in the playoffs, by the way, was a comparatively pitiful .838.) Turner isn’t clutch; he’s just a damn good hitter whose careful approach at the plate has allowed him to shine in the postseason and the Dodgers can’t imagine life without him.