You see I became a Michael Morse fan in 2010 when he smacked 15 Home Runs for the Nats in 98 games. I had no idea who he was and at the time I was only really coming around to giving the Nationals a chance. I knew who most of the players were but like much of the DMV I didn't pay too much attention to the Nats because, well they sucked. This Morse fellow though, he had that something special to me as I looked over the box scores. The team boasted power from Adam Dunn, the seemingly oft-injured and "under performing" (to my expectations) Ryan Zimmerman, and the slow trotting and underrated Josh Willingham. Morse hit one less Home Run in nearly 160 at-bats less than Willingham, good enough for fourth on the team.
In 2011 Morse had a strong Spring Training but was kept in a platoon in Left Field with Laynce Nix. Because of this The Beast struggled mightily through May before being relegated to the bench. In late-May Morse was given a shot at first base when Adam LaRoche went down for the season due to injury and Beast Mode swept across NatsTown. The legacy began and, in my mind, Michael was the biggest character on the team. A team mired in a losing culture for so long had an identity. There was playfulness, there was excitement, and while winning can do that, you knew that Morse had a huge hand in that. By season's end Morse finished in the Top 10 in batting average, home runs and RBI, and fourth in Slugging Percentage.
After the season I came across this article regarding Ryan Braun's PED case and was surprised to read about Morse's situation from year's before. The story actually made me more of a fan. Here was an athlete that accepted the punishment handed too him. He didn't make an excuse, he didn't deny it or lie or go through some charade. Then to see that he was suspended three times for the same thing because of a technicality, I felt bad for the guy but knew I'd support him for the rest of his career. He was refreshing. Not a Lance Armstrong or a Barry Bonds.
Morse started 2012 on the disabled list and didn't return to the lineup until June. Once back Morse was the team's primary Left Fielder and added protection to a line-up that consisted of rookie phenom Bryce Harper, LaRoche, Zimmerman, and eventually Jayson Werth upon his return from injury. As Natitude soared throughout DC many a fan became accustomed to participating in Morse's late inning walk-up music A-Ha's "Take on Me." Morse helped lead the Nats to the best record in baseball and had possibly the highlight of the year when he had to replay a grand slam after the umpires had to go to the video replay.
A season that saw a Morse bobblehead, females who loved him, and males who had man crushes on him didn't come without some hate. Despite being a huge part of the team and being knowingly slower than most of the players Morse drew the ire of some fans, we'll go with intoxicated since they thought they could play it better, when he failed to get to some balls hit to Left Field in the team's first home post-season game in history. I sat their and listened to the negativity all the while going "hey dumb asses you realize he's playing with a sore hamstring AND they have him shaded too far towards center when a right handed batter is up?" But I digress.
For me I was lucky to attend the bobblehead game and I was lucky to attend that first home playoff game, a game in which I sat in Left Field right behind Morse. Loving The Beast like I did I started a card collection of him and was able to grab some very rare cards. My favorite, which started the collection was a card from Topps Tier One that he inscribed "BEAST MODE," I later picked up a Topps Tribute auto inscribed "The Beast." They are by far two of my favorite pieces in any of my collections. At the playoff game I also ended up picking up a game-used bat which is just amazing to look at and for Christmas I bought myself a Morse jersey.
Unfortunately the off-season came to early for the Nats and certain players would be staying and certain players would be going. Morse was a bubble player. It would depend on what transpired between the Nationals and LaRoche. Before the Nats and LaRoche contact talks got serious, the Nats added Denard Span to play CF. That move meant Harper would play LF and Werth would be in RF. Morse was now a option at First Base or a trade chip because you're not going to have a guy getting paid $7 million getting paid to come off the bench...this isn't the NBA and in baseball guys making that much tend to either start or spend time on the disabled list...I'm looking at you A-Rod.
For months the saga between LaRoche and the Nats played out with LaRoche wanting a 3 year contact and the Nats holding steady on a 2 year offer. The drama went on for so long because if LaRoche signed somewhere else then the team signing him would forfeit a 1st round draft pick to the Nats. Many fans, especially me, preferred the Nats save the money on a LaRoche deal and use it for help in the bullpen. This month however the Nats and LaRoche agreed to a contract and that set in motion the move that would eventually make Morse a member, once again, of the Seattle Mariners. There was talk of Seattle, Boston, New York (Yankees), Texas and Baltimore all being in on Morse. I'd have loved Baltimore since I'm a fan of theirs as well and they're still local so I could go to O's games, he'd be reunited with his pal Adam Jones and I could see him play over 100 games in the season.
The move is unfortunate since I feel that LaRoche will not only not duplicate his production from last season but I feel he's likely to get injured again. I didn't like the signing two years ago and I'm not too fond of it now. I love how well he produced last year and I get the team needed a left handed power option in the lineup but Morse is THE MAN, even if he is addicted to those Real Housewives shows. The team also has durability issues with Zimmerman and Werth so if either of them goes down the team will be missing more power from the line-up and Morse could fill in in the outfield. The team also could have rotated players allowing them to rest, of course not keeping a regular lineup or routine can hurt more than help.
As I mentioned the Nats decided it was in their best interest to stick with LaRoche as well as stick with younger options on the bench in Roger Bernadina and Tyler Moore who will most likely supplant LaRoche in a year or two. My preference would be to see the team trade LaRoche after the season and re-sign Morse since he'll be a free-agent at the end of the year. Injury riddled or not, which Morse admittedly has been, the kid has talent and power, he's hit some of the longest home runs I have ever seen and playing first base will limit his injury risk compared to being in the outfield. And while he's not as good defensively at first base as Roach he's not much of a dropoff.
You better believe the first thing I'll do when MLB The Show comes out is I'll be trading Roach for Beast the second it enters my PS3. Yes I'm really gonna miss Michael. From his long flowing locks (man crush) to his running around the field and high-fiving fans when the team clinched a playoff spot to his laid back joking demeanor to his presence in the lineup I will miss Beast but will also cherish so many memories from his time here in DC. While I'll still be able to follow and interact with him on Twitter I'll always be saddened that he's no longer rocking the Natitude. Thank you Michael for all that you did for the team and the fans. Hopefully that ballpark doesn't stunt your numbers out there on the West Coast and hopefully you'll be back on a team in the DMV after the season. Keep BEAST MODE alive!