One has to hand it to Michael Morse, the man certainly has a magnetism that goes far beyond his abilities on the playing field. After finagling his way on to a collision course with the opening day roster, in a manner that sounded like the beginning of an ’80s comedy (washed up ballplayer shows up to wedding, less than sober GM says “What the hell, give ’em a shot!”) Morse finds himself on the shelf with an injury that will keep him out beyond the start of the regular season. If this sounds familiar…well, you know the rest.
Injuries have been a constant throughout Morse’s career, a major reason he has amassed more than 400 plate appearances just three times in 12 big league seasons. This time it’s a “significantly” pulled hamstring, the result of mad dash to uh, first base. Yet this is the guy that was causing the Giants coaching staff to back track on their anti-platoon stance in left field? Ok, granted, the ability to at least not embarrass oneself in left does seem to be a mandatory admissions requirement for any of the Giants non-roster invitees trying to land an opening day job this spring. In the event Morse had stayed healthy, the back-up first base role should have and would have been his primary defensive assignment.
Morse, shown here making a soccer mom faint, seems to be a round peg for a square hole when it comes to the Giants on-the-field needs. (Photo courtesy of ProSportsDaily.com)
Still it appeared the team was looking to do whatever they could to somehow justify a roster spot for Morse, because as Bruce Bochy says, “If the bat plays, you find a spot for him.” A fair enough statement, but let’s try to peel back the over-the-top Morse bias for a moment and evaluate a couple of the other candidates using the same “if the bat plays” criteria.
We’ll start with Mac Williamson, who was going to be beat out by Morse even before suffering his own leg injury that will keep him out beyond opening day. Before going down at the midway point of March, Williamson was 11-34 with two doubles and two homers, good for a .324/.378/.559 line. At that point he had the same amount of extra-base hits as Morse (and still does despite missing the last week) and, now here’s the kicker, he’s not useless on defense! Yet by virtue of those infernal minor league options remaining, it seemed Mac was doomed to start the season in Sacramento regardless of whether he hit .400 with 10 bombs or struck out in 20 consecutive at-bats.
The former being a feat Jarrett Parker could very well accomplish at some point this season.
Next, let’s move on to the player who gained the most from the Morse injury, Chris Marrero. You may recognize him as that guy who can fill the exact same role the Giants were planning on jamming Morse into, albeit without the same dazzling smile. Marrero leads the team in games played, home runs, and slugging this spring, and is second in RBI. He’s notched four multi-hit games, and his average currently sits at .292. Sounds like the bat plays.
Marrero’s six home runs this spring not only leads the Giants, but the entire Cactus League (Photo courtesy of mercurynews.com)
And the glove? He’s played the corner outfield positions in pro ball before, and has gotten 24 innings of outfield work thus far this spring. Doubtful he’s going to give Starling Marte a run for his money as a defender, but could he really be any more of a liability than Morse in left? Marrero is seven years younger than Morse, possesses all the same tools, and doesn’t appear to be nearly as fragile (544 PA’s with Pawtucket in 2016).
Is there something I’m missing here? Or is the Morse mascot militia really that influential?
An old saying a former coach of mine seems to be ringing true: “The game knows.” Fingers crossed it will be the guiding light as the Giants make their final roster cuts.