“Better late to the party than never. June 1 is my opening day,” said Morse, wearing shoes — with “Opening” on the back of one heel and “Day” on the back of the other. Morse had the spikes made for the Nats’ first game April 5, but he’s glad to wear them now. And he won’t mind waiting a day after Friday’s game, which should’ve been called earlier amid torrential rains and tornado warnings, was postponed 20 minutes before game time.
“There is so much more potential here. We haven’t hit our stride yet,” Morse said. “It’s really going to be fun.”
The 6-foot-5, 245-pound Morse has been the Nats’ missing link. Some think his .303 batting average and 31 homers last season were flukes. That ignores all evidence. In his last 716 at-bats in Class AAA, he hit .317. The last two years in D.C., another 788 at-bats, he has hit .298 with a star’s .896 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage). He’s streaky, but when the final numbers are counted, he produces.
For weeks, the most annoyed and frustrated man in a Nats uniform has been Manager Davey Johnson, who said, “Morse has been telling us for the last month that he felt great.”
When did baseball change so that players had to be “100 percent” recovered from any and all types of injuries before the entire organization would sign off on letting their prized assets play?
“That’s a good question,” Johnson said. Long ago, “if you pulled a hamstring, you shot up and played. I’m not saying that was wise. But we might have gone a little overboard on ‘100 percent.’
“I’m not a real fan of the MRI. Maybe it’s the culprit,” Johnson added, half-kidding. “We study everything. Why don’t we do some studies of MRIs on healthy guys to give us a baseline.”
In Davey’s view, if you took an MRI exam of a burger and fries, the meal would be put on the 60-day disabled list.
“To me, the question has always been, ‘If he plays, can it get worse?’” Johnson said. “If the answer was ‘No,” then it was a question of pain tolerance. Now, it’s ‘no,’ but we want to let the inflammation go down.”
When it comes to injuries such as catcher Jesus Flores’s current pulled hamstring, which can get re-injured more severely, Johnson is an ultra-cautious manager.
The frustration is over for Morse, who says, “Throw me in now.”
The Nats will still be without outfielder Jayson Werth for two more months and catcher Wilson Ramos for the rest of the season. But that damage shouldn’t be overestimated. The whole sport is riddled with injuries. And rookie Bryce Harper has, so far, actually exceeded Werth’s production in right field. Harper’s .861 OPS (for a full season) would be the second-highest in history for a teenager, behind only Mel Ott. The loss of Ramos hurts; he has more power than replacement Flores, but the gap in their value isn’t large.