Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Seriously: "Accolades not important to Cuddyer"

Articles like this are what make me kind of dislike Michael Cuddyer.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Michael Cuddyer led the Twins last year in home runs, while finishing second on the team in doubles, third in hits and fourth in RBIs. But that, of course, wasn't the most impressive aspect of his breakout season. That part came in less than a month, when a mid-September back injury put slugger Justin Morneau on the shelf for the rest of the season.

More impressive than leading the Twins “Last year in home runs, while finishing second on the team in doubles, third in hits and fourth in RBIs?!?!” Do tell.

At that point, heading into Sept. 13, the Twins found themselves two games below .500 and 5 1/2 games behind the division-leading Tigers with 20 games -- eventually 21, actually -- left to play.

On the 14th day of September, God created Cuddyer.

You know the story thereafter: Cuddyer filled in for Morneau at first base -- a position at which he had only played 46 career games prior -- and batted .325 with eight homers in his last 21 contests to lead the Twins to a postseason berth nobody thought they had any business capturing.

Um, yeah. A very nice job moving to the easiest defensive position in baseball for 21 games, Michael.

But then came the results of the voting for the American League Most Valuable Player, an award superstar catcher Joe Mauer was a lock to win. Cuddyer -- he of a .276 batting average, 32 home runs, 94 RBIs and a heroic September -- ended up with just one eighth-place vote and one 10th-place vote.

The “heroic September” button on my calculator doesn’t work, so I’m not sure how to quantify that statistic. The other three statistics (there are only three) appear slightly above average for a corner outfielder/first-baseman. Then, of course, factor in the -16.9 UZR and you have a very average player.

Two votes -- that's it?

Ah, that’s about right, actually.

That's how it is for Cuddyer, the longest-tenured member of the Twins and one who's constantly overshadowed by the presence of Morneau and Mauer in the lineup.

That’s just not right. Michael Cuddyer has been friendly, preformed magic tricks, and even undertook the grueling defensive task of first-base for a month last year. And just because Morneau and Mauer have won MVP Awards, Cuddyer gets overshadowed. Newsflash: Mauer and Morneau don’t even know magic tricks.

But he's just fine with it.

God Bless him.

"I'm not a guy who seeks individual accolades or individual notoriety or any of that stuff," said Cuddyer, who will be in the starting lineup when his club gets started with Grapefruit League games on Thursday, facing the nearby Red Sox at their place beginning at 7:05 p.m. ET. "What drives me is winning. As long as my teammates respect me and my coaches respect me, I'm happy with that."

That’s right. Cuddyer is not one of those seekers of “accolades or individual notoriety.” This is something Mauer and Morneau will never know…because they have both accolades and individual notoriety. If only they would be solely driven by winning, like Cuddyer.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire certainly does.
Minnesota's skipper spoke after Wednesday's workouts at Lee County Sports Complex about how he has no qualms putting Cuddyer in center field in the case of a short-term injury to Denard Span, and Gardenhire reiterated the obvious when he said, "We would've definitely not won our division if it hadn't been for Michael Cuddyer."

Wait. Gardenhire said, “We would’ve definitely not won our division if it hadn’t been for Michael Cuddyer.” And that quote is evidence that Gardenhire has “no qualms putting cuddyer in center field in the case of a short-term injury to Denard Span”? I’m sure there are some qualms.

"He's pretty much top of the line here," Gardenhire added. "[He] doesn't get enough credit for that because he gets outshined by a few people, but not in a lot of people's books. He's right there at the top."

It must be hard managing the 1927 Yankees. With all the outshining players, and what not.

The man Cuddyer ended up being at the end of the 2009 season was the man he was projected to be all along.

The 30-year-old righty-hitting right fielder was the Twins' No. 9 overall Draft pick in 1997. But with the exception of a solid year in '06, he initially didn't live up to the billing, and he hit rock bottom in '08 -- batting just .249 with three measly homers while being limited to 71 games.
That year, Cuddyer dealt with a series of hand injuries, which, as he said, "It's like telling a surgeon to go in there and have open-heart surgery without his eyes. You can't do it."

I hate to say, “He told you so.” But you should have given Hal Rocklage a call.

So, last year, it was all about being healthy -- and, perhaps, selfless.
"Last year, I was able to be healthy pretty much the whole year," he said. "And I think the main thing about having success individually is not worrying about your individual success. You're just strictly worrying about the team, and that's all I really worry about. If we win, I'm happy."

Well, you couldn’t have been that gloomy in 2008. You won 88 games! That’s one more than you did in 2009!

Cuddyer may never point to himself, and there may not be many outside the Twins' clubhouse here at Hammond Stadium that give him much credit. But his teammates sure notice what he brought.

Yeah, poor Cuddyer. Nobody outside of the Twins’ clubhouse likes him. Fans hate his guts.

Especially the one he filled in for so admirably.
"The things he does for this baseball team are amazing," Morneau said. "He's our best baserunner, he comes to play every day, he's definitely one of the main leaders in this clubhouse, he'll play anywhere you ask him to, he'll do anything you ask him to and he loves the game.
"He typifies what it means to be a Minnesota Twin."

Morneau just described every utility infielder to every play in the Majors. When you talk about great baseball players, I doubt “He’s our best baserunner” is how you would start the sentence to list his accomplishments.

And that isn't a half-bad thing to be these days. Not when you consider the reigning American League Central champions currently have a healthy Morneau and Kevin Slowey, plus a new All-Star second baseman (Orlando Hudson) and shortstop (J.J. Hardy) and a potential Hall of Famer on their bench (Jim Thome).

There is nothing to mock in this paragraph. We are going to be awesome.

Cuddyer -- greatly influenced by the likes of Corey Koskie and Doug Mientkiewicz when he came up to the big leagues -- said it's the best team he's been on since he started with the big league club in 2001.

Gosh, I loved those guys.

On paper, at least.
"On paper it looks good," Cuddyer said. "But I'm not one who really gets caught up on paper, because there's been years where we come in and, on paper, it doesn't even look like we're going to finish in the division in the top three, and we go out and win the division."

Truth. I’m finding myself less-and-less cynical as this article gets me more-and-more jacked about the upcoming season.

After a season in which he racked up a career-high in homers, hit for the cycle, blasted two home runs in the same inning, posted a phenomenal September and finished up with a .429 batting average (6-for-14) in three postseason games -- all losses to the Yankees -- in November, the Twins picked up Cuddyer's $10.5 million option for the 2011 season.
The move signified how much the Twins value Cuddyer -- regardless of how MVP voters may feel.

Good for the Twins. Sometimes they give contracts to players that don’t even receive ANY MVP votes! Can you imagine?!?!

"I was hoping to see him get a few more votes [for AL MVP], get the appreciation that he deserves, but, hey, being the guy that he is, he'll tell you he's happy that he just got one vote," Morneau said. "That's not what he plays for."

You know what Cuddyer plays for? Orphans. Cuddyer donates 100 kitten-giggles per win for every orphan in Minnesota.

Nope. What he plays for is this: "When this game is all set and done, as long as my teammates remember that I was a good teammate and somebody they enjoyed playing with, that's what motivates me," Cuddyer said. "That's what I really care about."

So you keep your awards, and money, and fame. Cuddyer will put his pants on one leg at a time and cherish the respect he has earned and the wins he as been apart of…and nurturing unicorns back to health with effort-accumulated rainbow-dew-drops.


Bryz said...

I thought I clicked on a link to Alright Hamilton!, not Fire Joe Morgan.

Doesn't matter, I still liked this.

haasertime said...

see this is weird because I'd always thought that individual accolades were very important to Michael Cuddyer. Busting commonly held opinions and making us think: that's just good journalism.

If Gardenhire has no qualms about putting Cuddyer in centerfield, he's the worst manager ever.

TwinsWin83 said...

Does this mean I have to get rid of that 'Michael Cuddyer Magic Hat and Rabbit Magician Starter Kit' that I got?

Anonymous said...

Don't blame Cuddyer for articles like this. Blame the rather low journalistic standards of MLB.com and the hack writers they employ.


kjamison said...

he is going to get lots of accolades on mlb10 the show. he mashes in that game...just sayin