But with the departure of Torii Hunter this past offseason and an injury-plagued season for Michael Cuddyer, Morneau has seen more pressure this season to carry the middle of the order. And in that role, he's delivered.
Morneau is currently leading the American League in RBIs and is two away from tying his career high of 130 in a season. He's batting over .300 for the second time in the last three seasons, and his 46 doubles ties the Twins' single-season record, set by Marty Cordova in 1996.
That level of production has Morneau currently being mentioned in discussions for a second potential AL MVP honor this season, and it's also earned him the Twins' nomination for the Major League Baseball Hank Aaron Award presented by Sharp.
This coveted honor is awarded annually to the best overall offensive performer in each league, with each club having a nominee. Fans can vote until Sunday, Oct. 12 to select the winner in each league. The winners will be announced prior to Game 4 of the World Series on Sunday, Oct. 26. Last year's winners were Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez and Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder. Originally introduced in 1999 to honor the 25th anniversary of Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's all-time home run record, the Hank Aaron Award was the first major award to be introduced in 30 years.
Although it would seem difficult to improve upon an MVP year, Morneau feels that he's seen quite a bit of growth as a hitter since 2006.
"My at-bats are probably more consistent," Morneau said. "I never wanted to be known as someone that is just a power hitter. I wanted to be a good hitter that hits for power. It's more important for me to be a complete hitter. A guy that can go out there in a situation where we need a single, I can make an adjustment in my swing and go out there and have a good at-bat."
As a result of some of those changes, Morneau's power numbers are down from years past. He has just 23 homers on the season and is doubtful to finish with 30-plus homers for the third straight season.
But while there is the one downside, Morneau has seen many more plusses -- including his clutch hitting. Heading into Friday's game against the Rays, Morneau was batting .362 with runners in scoring position and an even more impressive .429 with the bases loaded.
"What's impressive is, here is a guy who is now hitting .300-plus and can drive the ball out of the ballpark and is one of those clutch hitters," Gardenhire said. "He's really grown as a player and hitter. And if there is a game on the line, there is no hitter that I'd rather have up there at the plate than Morneau."
In terms of compliments to a hitter, there would seem to be no better one than that.