This evening, it has been widely reported that Michael Morse has been traded to the Seattle Mariners for prospects A.J. Cole, Blake Treinen and a player to be named later in a three team that also featured the Oakland Athletics.
This deal had likely been in the works since the Nationals completed the contract for Adam LaRoche. With LaRoche re-signing, the opportunity for Morse to play every day was largely gone, as the set outfield of Harper/Span/Werth didn’t have a place for Morse that would give him the playing time that he deserves.
Before he goes, though, I need to tell you what he meant to me as a Nationals fan.
Michael Morse was involved in my two favorite moments of the 2012 season, both of which I observed as a fan from the stands (or in front of the TV), and not as a credentialed blogger. The first was the phantom grand slam from September, which saw Morse hit a long ball off the second wall at Busch Stadium in Saint Louis, which caromed back onto the field. With the bases loaded, they threw the ball back in and tagged out Morse on his way back to first as the runners were forced back into position.
On review, the umpires declared the ball a home run, but, as they wanted to make sure everyone touched ‘em all, Morse took a phantom swing – no bat in his hands – to start the whole play anew and set the runners in motion so they didn’t pass one another on the base paths. Instant classic there as Morse stood with Yadier Molina as the umpires waited to set things in motion.
The second was probably the best moment of the regular season: As the Nationals were playing the Phillies on October 1st at Nationals Park, the team clinched the Playoffs with a Braves loss in the middle of the 9th inning. After a pause to celebrate, Michael Morse stepped into the batters’ box as the PA played A-Ha’s Take on Me, his signature late-innings walk-up music. As had been the case for most of 2012, and much of 2011, the crowd joined in the chorus. It was one of the most joyous moments I’ve seen at Nationals Park, or since baseball returned to the Nation’s Capital.
There was, in that song, whenever it was played, something that belonged just to Washington sports – just to the Nationals – that wasn’t something that was transplanted or orchestrated or outright stolen.
It was ours.
Morse, in so many ways, represented the built-up strength of the Nationals. He was a misfit from the Seattle organization. A talented player who needed a place that could work with his skills, and that was definitely the Nationals. While he wasn’t a defensive wunderkind the way someone like Ryan Zimmerman or Bryce Harper was, he did have that offensive spark that just came to life in the humid summer on the shores of the Potomac.
Morse embodied the moxie that the Nationals built. His confident approach at the plate paid off through 2011 (.303/.360/.550) and 2012 (.291/.321/.470), in which he combined for 49 HRs and 157 RBI, and won the hearts of Nationals fans across the city. There was much lamentation, first when the Nationals re-signed LaRoche (and started this process), and then again when the trade was reported tonight, that losing Morse was losing a piece of the Nationals’ soul.
In many ways, those feelings are ones that I share. I understand why it was necessary, and why the roster is stronger now than it ever has been.
But it doesn’t mean I have to like seeing Morse go.
Thank you, Beast, for living as this city’s baseball swagger, for being the heart of the 2012 Nationals, and most of all for teaching this city how to hit the high notes, all together.
Here’s hoping we get to sing A-Ha again for you soon.