The inevitable trade of Michael Morse by the Washington Nationals took place Wednesday, when the team sent him to the Seattle Mariners in a three-team deal which will bring Oakland Athletics pitching prospect A.J. Cole back to Washington. Morse will be returning to the Mariners after being traded by Seattle to the Nationals in 2009.
Though everyone saw the deal coming, it is still sad for the team and fans, because Morse was a favorite of both. He was a good teammate who did whatever the organization asked. Though not a great glove man, he did well enough to earn a starting job in left field. When first baseman Adam LaRoche was lost to injury in 2011, Morse stepped in and had the best season of his career. He led Washington in home runs with 31, and drove in 95 runs.
To fans eager to embrace the Nationals and looking for some true stars, Morse became one of the most popular players on the team. He may not have been as popular as pitcher Stephen Strasburg or third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, but Morse was just what the fans wanted. He was a player who had done his time, paid the price and was finally reaching his potential. The fact that he hit tape-measure home runs and had A-Ha’s ‘Take On Me’ played whenever it was his turn at bat endeared him to them even more.
After the 2011 season, Washington locked up Morse for two years, with the option for a third. It was well known that when rookie Bryce Harper came up to the team that someone would be expendable, with Morse being the most likely candidate. His name came up often in trade talks during the 2012 season. When the Nationals traded for center fielder Denard Span and resigned LaRoche, it became time for Morse, the team and the fans to say their goodbyes.
In sports, whenever a good player plays for a bad team, there is no guarantee that they will be thought of as part of the solution to make them better. Baseball history is full of players who helped teams improve and then were traded away when the organization found someone better. Morse did nothing to warrant the Nationals needing to trade him. He simply became expendable, because the team got better players.
No matter what happens in Seattle, Morse will not get a chance to help Washington complete the process of winning a championship which he helped start. Nationals fans will not get to cheer for him or sing ‘Take On Me’ when he comes to the plate. Unless General Manager Mike Rizzo knows something that we don’t, the Michael Morse years in Washington are over.
He leaves as a fan-favorite and is wished well by everyone.