Never was it more evident that baseball is a business than when the San Francisco Giants parted ways with Michael Morse, who signed on with the Miami Marlins during the offseason. Morse roared into San Francisco, initiated a bro-mance with Hunter Pence, and then proceeded to seduce the entire Giants’ fan-base not only with his offensive prowess, but with his engaging personality.
View him as left fielder, picture him as consummate teammate filling in at first base for the injured Brandon Belt, or envision him a Viking Warrior with a broad sword and you are on the right track. Images of Morse, Pence, Pablo Sandoval, and a dugout of others leaping in multi-part harmony in celebration of the latest heroics, remain indelibly stamped on fans’ memories.
There had been some contact between Morse and Bruce Bochy prior to his signing because had Bochy managed a team with Morse on it during the Taiwan All-Star Series in 2011. Bochy liked what he saw, went to Brian Sabean and asked him to keep Morse in his mind. Despite a wrist injury in 2013 and a defensive game that contrasted sharply with that of Gregor Blanco, Bochy felt the investment was worth it.
Jun 17, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; San Francisco Giants left fielder Gregor Blanco (7) tries to catch Chicago White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham (not pictured) 2-run home run in the third inning against the San Francisco Giants at U.S Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports
He proved correct and got more than he ever bargained for when it came to enthusiasm and team sportsmanship on the part of Morse, who started off the season dynamically, propelling San Francisco to an eventual 43-21 win/loss record before the leather lacing holding the whole works together began to unravel, leaving the Giants no choice but to improvise.
In an effort to recap some of Morse’s highlights, I have chosen ten games to briefly revisit in chronological order, from May 25th through Game Seven of the 2014 World Series, three just before the team collapse, and the other seven after the fact. Like many of the great ones, Morse put together some astonishing single-game fireworks, and I’m here to refresh your memories with ten last glimpses of this charismatic player.
The sole criteria for my choices consisted of skimming through my binder of scoresheets, which I did religiously for all games I recapped on Around the Foghorn, for ten examples of the Morse Force in action. It was that easy.
May 25th: Morse knocked in the Giants’ second run of the game in the bottom of the first inning with a sacrifice fly, doubled and scored on a sac fly by Brandon Crawford in the third, doubled in three more runs in the fifth, and doubled still one more time in the eighth to send Pablo Sandoval to third. Sandoval then scored on an infield groundout by Tyler Colvin to notch the eighth and final run in an 8-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins. (3 H, 1 R, 6 TB, and 4 RBIs)
May 29th: Morse homered in the second inning to tie the game with the St. Louis Cardinals, 1-1. He struck out in the fourth, flied out in the seventh, and then with the score tied at 4 in the eighth, drove in Angel Pagan and Sandoval with a double, making the score 6-4 in a game the Giants would eventually win, 6-5. (2 H, 1 R, 6 TB, 3 RBIs)
June 6th: In the only game I attended this past year, Tim Hudson had his shortest outing of the season to that point, hurling three innings in which he allowed three runs on nine hits and three walks. Nine hits and three walks resulting in only three runs? In itself, quite a feat.
Morse was definitively flat, going 0-4 with two Ks and two infield groundouts until the bottom of the ninth inning, when the Giants mounted an improbable rally. Angel Pagan led off by striking out on a 1-2 pitch that skipped past catcher Anthony Recker, allowing Pagan to reach first although he was initially called out. Bochy praised Pagan’s effort, noting that many guys get too deflated after a strike out to be able to put that much enthusiasm into reaching first base.
Jul 22, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; San Francisco Giants right fielder Hunter Pence (right) is congratulated by Giants left fielder Michael Morse (38) as Pence makes his way back to the dugout after scoring a run in the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Eileen Blass-USA TODAY Sports
After instant replay reversed the call, Pence doubled Pagan home and then in the second example of team hustle that inning, advanced to third base on a fly ball out by Buster Posey. Up stepped Morse to a drawn-in outfield, and when he hit the ball to the track, not one outfielder moved so much as an inch, the ball clearly way out of reach by any Herculean effort that might have been provided. (1 H, 0 R, 1 TB, I RBI)
June 12th: Michael led off the second inning in a game against the Washington Nationals, by singling up the middle and scoring the game’s first run when Tyler Colvin tripled immediately afterward. He singled to center again leading off the fourth and he repeated the feat still once again in the sixth, scoring when Ehire Adrianza singled up the middle to bring the score to 4-1, in a game the Giants would go on to win 7-1.
The win snapped a string of three consecutive losses to the Nats, in what was later recognized to be the start of the long downward spiral the Orange and Black went through during the middle two months of the season. I’d refer to it as a swoon, but that would fall short of what might be more appropriately described as a team that was catatonic.
July 18th: In a 9-1 thrashing of the Marlins, Morse went three for four, with a single and two doubles, scoring twice and driving in two. Interestingly enough, in this same series, Casey McGehee went 5-10 with a home run and 2 RBIs as a Marlin.
August 16th: Morse tripled, walked, and doubled twice while scoring one and driving in one, in a come-from-behind victory over the Phillies, 6-5.
Morse walked, doubled twice, and tripled in this come-from-behind win over the Phils.
In the decisive sixth inning, when San Francisco scored four runs to tie the game at five, Morse doubled in Buster Posey with the third Giants run and scored the fifth himself when Gregor Blanco singled to left field. Blanco not only drove in the tying run in the sixth, he knocked in the winning run in the eighth. (3 H, 1 R, 1 RBI, 7 TB)
August 17th: Morse went 4-4, with three singles and a double, while scoring three times. With one out in the second, he singled; he then led off the fourth, sixth and eighth, with two singles and a double, respectively, in a game the Giants won 5-2, while shaving their deficit behind the Dodgers to three-and-a-half games.
August 30th: Morse went two for four with a double in the fourth inning which drove in two of the Giants’ three runs in a 3-1 win over the Brewers. The big news was that Jake Peavy took a no-hitter into the eighth inning and ended up giving up only the one hit in seven-and-two-thirds innings. Santiago Casilla gave up the single run in the ninth inning.
Sep 5, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Jake Peavy (22) pitches in the sixth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
October 16th: Having missed not only the month of September, but also the Wild Card game against Pittsburgh and the National League Division Series, Morse was thrilled to be on the roster for the National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. He made the most of his pinch-hitting appearance in Game Five, hammering a tying home run in the eighth inning to set up Travis Ishikawa’s pennant-winning, three-run shot, one inning later.
October 30th: Finally, in arguably the most clutch performance of his career, Morse knocked in two of the Giants’ three runs, in Game Seven of the 2014 World Series. In a game decided by one run, 3-2 in favor of the Orange and Black, without his two RBIs, where would San Francisco have ended up?
At six feet five inches tall and 230 pounds, Morse was imposing enough, without having to prove larger than life on the diamond as well. As fans we encounter so many ball players over the course of time, that for one to stand out the way Morse does, says something about the way he conducted himself while a Giant.
Morse played the game the way Giants fans have become accustomed to seeing it played: with panache. What’s more, he molded himself into the prototypical Giant by weaving himself into the fabric of what has made the team so successful over the past five years.
Morse conducted himself as a gentleman and a scholar and a fine judge of whiskey and women and I for one wish he were returning. But Brian Sabean knows better than to run a baseball team with his heart rather than his head and more’s the pity.
I just wish he could have made an exception.
Jul 5, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants left fielder Michael Morse (38) before the game against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports