Throughout the offseason, The Nats Blog will look back at every player’s 2012 season to summarize and analyze his performance, and we’ll look ahead to his possible role in 2013. We’ll go from #1 Steve Lombardozzi all the way to #63 Henry Rodriguez until Spring Training. Enjoy.
Michael Morse didn’t participate in Act One of the Washington Nationals’ rise to prominence in 2012, but the goofiest National didn’t let his team have all the fun without him.
Morse returned to the lineup on June 2 after being sidelined for the first two months of the season with a lat injury. His batting average steadily climbed through the month of June, and his numbers stayed consistently high all season as he continued to make solid contributions to a Nationals lineup that grew more potent at the season progressed.
In 102 games, Morse put together a power hitter’s slash line of .291/.321/.470 with 18 home runs and 97 strikeouts. And for all 406 at-bats, Nats fans were there cheering on their beloved slugger.
The fans were there to encourage him when he struggled. Morse’s strikeout rate was almost as high as Xavier Nady’s, but instead of complaining when he struck out, the fans would continue belting “Take On Me,” even if the at-bat was over before the song was, as a kind of encouragement saying, “It’s okay, Mikey. You’ll get em next time.”
The fans were also there to celebrate with him when he succeeded. They watched him pat himself on the head every time he hit a ball out of the park, even if the ball in question was invisible. And if he wasn’t the one who hit it, you could be sure he’d be the first to shower his teammate with a bucket of bubble gum or a cooler of Gatorade after the game.
In 2012, “87.5 percent of Nats celebrations heavily involve Morse. He’s basically just a full-time celebration smile hug party," Dan Steinberg wrote in the Washington Post’s DC Sports Bog.
There isn’t a better way to describe him. Morse is a special player because not only did his Beast Mode performances on the field give fans something to cheer about, his fun, outgoing character off the field didn’t give fans a choice but to love him. He allowed the fans to have a special connection with him – to experience his ups and downs as he did – because of how much of himself he shared with them.
From his Samurai Cobra Snake to his locker room pranks, he gave this team a personality. Reminiscing on the many Morse moments of last season (some of which The Nats Blog has chronicled here) and lamenting his absence on the 2013 roster is already making me appreciate 2012 for the very special season it was.
Next Year: After three years in Washington, Morse will return to the team he made his major league debut with, the Seattle Mariners. In a three-team trade, which also involved the Oakland Athletics, the Nationals sent Morse to Seattle to presumably play outfield and DH, in exchange for former Nationals pitching prospect A.J. Cole and two other players. The Nationals don’t play the Mariners in 2013, but the Orioles should expect to see a lot of Natitude at Camden Yards when The Beast comes to Baltimore on August 2-4.
Up Next: #40 Chien-Ming Wang, #41 Sandy Leon, #45 Ryan Perry