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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Back on Track: Michael Cuddyer

In 2009, Michael Cuddyer was instrumental in the Twins' run down the stretch. Without his offensive contributions, and his ability to play a halfway-decent first base, the Twins would not have come close to forcing a game 163 against the Detroit Tigers. In 2010, after Justin Morneau went out with his concussion, and when Joe Mauer simply wasn't playing very well, Delmon Young carried the offense on his back for much of July and August. He racked up tons of RBIs, and it seemed like everything off his bat was hit very, very hard. Later in 2010, Mauer came alive, essentially carrying the team for several weeks. Time has shown that there are only a few players that can carry this team offensively.

Although I have ragged on Michael Cuddyer a little with respect to his current contract, the magic tricks, and his failure in the clutch the first two months of the season, it is only fair to give credit where credit is due. Here, credit is due to Michael Cuddyer. He (along with Alexi Casilla -- go figure -- Delmon Young, who is coming alive, and even Ben Revere, is carrying the team). Over the Twins' recent 12-2 stretch, I have Cuddyer batting .377 with 10 extra base hits and 14 RBIs. And, oh yea, he stole 3 bases last night in a very important game against the White Sox. A classic speedster.

Of course, Cuddyer won't continue at the .377 pace, and of course the Twins won't continue to win 85 percent of their games, but what Cuddyer has shown in this stretch is the definition of veteran leadership: playing well when times are tough, and when there is no one else to turn to. If Cuddyer continues to lead the team in this manner, even if the Twins are out of the AL Central race in July, the front office is going to have a tough time prying Cuddyer from Gardy's death grip.

I'm not sure how to quantify the dollar value of veteran leadership. Yes, I'm only talking about a few weeks of games here in which Cuddyer has thrived. But let's face it: if the Twins had lost even 2 or 3 more of these last 14 games, we'd still be looking at a double-digit deficit in the standings. At least now we have a fighting chance in a weak division. Cuddyer is performing when it counts. This season, unfortunately, the pressure is on in June. Two weeks ago, I thought there was a very good chance Cuddyer would be gone by the trade deadline; now, not so much. The Twins certainly won't be paying him $10 million next year, but if his leadership on the field continues, it's going to be tough to sever the relationship.

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