The first blush of comments are in on the trade of Michael “A-ha” Morse to Seattle, and the reviews are mostly negative. That is to say: they’re mostly negative in Seattle. “Lookout Landing,” the high profile Mariners blog, calls the trade “just brutal,” while “Baseball Nation” gives the Nationals an “A,” leaving a gaping “no comment” for the forever struggling Navigators.
Washington Nationals fans undoubtedly have a different perspective. Gone is the big galoot with the eccentric warm-up swing, the “Take On Me” walk-up music — and all the good memories. Which includes a well-I’ll-be’damned 2011 season in which the former White Sox prospect lifted the D.C. Nine from cellar dwellers to “most talked about.”
Morse’s 2011 season is worth remembering — a .303 BA with 31 HRs. The season lifted Morse into the stratosphere, with descriptions of how a “late bloomer” can finally find his way into the game. That reputation was only sullied slightly by an injury marred 2012, in which (if truth be told), Morse never could find his stride.
“Quite simply, the Nationals dealt from a position of excess (Morse) to replenish their farm system (starting pitching),” the Washington Post’s Jame Wagner writes. That’s true, but the Morse swap also is a certain signal that Mike Rizzo’s four player shipment to the A’s during the last off-season (another “gone in 60s seconds” moment), might well have left the G.M. with an untidy feeling that perhaps the Nats had shipped out one prospect too many.
Howitzer armed A.J. Cole now finds his way back to Washington, and you can see why Rizzo wanted him to rejoin the fold. Despite his problems last year (which includes an ugly line at Stockton), Cole’s fastball has been clocked at 95 mph and he has “a devastating curve.” The downside is that Cole’s troubles last year means he has work to do. The upside? The upside is that he’s been compared to Justin Verlander . . . For God’s Sake.
The Verlander comparison aside, Cole looks like a typical Washington Nationals pitcher: he’s Detwiler thin, has a smooth and easy motion and is all confidence. At some point, perhaps two years down the line — and if things go according to plan — he’ll fit in just fine with Strasburg and Zimmermann (et. al.).
But (a further truth), the discomfort of Seattle fans comes from the swap of catcher and fan favorite John Jaso to Oakland — which, need we mention, means that the White Elephants (winners of the A.L. West last year, by the way) have strengthened themselves behind the plate. In exchange? In exchange (Seattle fans aver), the Mariners get a guy back who they originally shipped out for Ryan Langerhans: who’s in a career long batting slump.
Mariners fans can be forgiven if they think this is par for the course. The Morse-for-Langerhans theft makes The Great Train Robbery look like the amateur hour, particularly when paired off against that other act of genius — Seattle’s swap of Adam Jone to Baltimore for Erik Bedard. (The trade was so bad, I first heard about it from an irate taxi driver in Beirut — who described it as “very stupid, habibi.”)
Mike Rizzo, on the other hand, continues to look like a genius. Morse had nowhere to play in Washington, was due to make $6.75 million this coming year and has a history of coming up lame when least expected. The 6.75 offsets the avalanche of green that greeted the arrival of the desperately needed Rafael Soriano (Rafael Soriano!) and creates more playing time for ya-gotta-play-’em sleeper slugger Tyler Moore.
Who. . . Is . . . On . . . His . . . Way.