As Michael Morse goes, so go the Giants
Posted on August 19, 2014
Michael Morse #38 of the San Francisco Giants runs the bases to leg out a triple against the Philadelphia Phillies during the game at AT&T Park on Saturday, August 16, 2014 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Brad Mangin)
Heading into tonight’s game in Chicago against the Cubs the San Francisco Giants are still hanging around both the top of the National League West and the wild card. After the last two months of dismal play it is a miracle they are still in the playoff picture at all. The reason they are still close is because they got off to such a great start, posting a 42-21 record on June 8 before it all went bad. One of the reasons they won so many ballgames in the first two months of the season was the play of new left fielder Michael Morse. One of the reasons they lost so many ballgames in the last two months of the season was the play of new left fielder Michael Morse.
The new Giant drew my attention when I first got down to spring training in Scottsdale when he was cool enough to pose for a quick portrait with my iPhone on picture day (see above). The swagger and charisma just dripped off him, garnering him many fans right away, especially when he showed his power and flashed his smile.
In Scottsdale Morse quickly formed a bond with the clubs spiritual leader Hunter Pence. The two fed off each other and shared great enthusiasm for playing the game and having fun. This new friendship helped Morse become an early fan favorite in San Francisco, and when he started walloping home runs the fans grew to love his long hair and walk-up song Take on Me by A-Ha. It was no coincidence that when Morse was hitting the club was winning. Then it all stopped.
The Giants June Swoon coincided with an incredible cold spell for Morse. Was he hurt? Was his back acting up? All I know is the guy went out and played every day and struggled to hit the ball hard like he had earlier. The scalded line drives that used to come off his bat were now ground balls and pop ups. The swagger was gone. Morse wasn’t hitting, teammates were getting hurt, and team kept losing. Every day.
I was super excited when the Giants signed Morse to a one year free agent contract over the winter. His career had been slowed down by a rash of injuries, most recently in Seattle last year when a hand problem kept him on the shelf most of the season. He had been a Giants killer a few years back when he terrorized pitchers as a member of the Washington Nationals. He took a mighty swing at the plate and always showed emotion when he played. This guy would be a dream to photograph every day wearing the orange and black, and he was, when he was hitting. The joy in his face when things were going well was contagious. When he was happy everyone else was happy, and the team was winning. When the team started to lose the smile disappeared from his face. There was no joy in San Francisco.
Last week the Giants won a few games at home, and the right-handed slugger with #38 on his back started hitting again. And again. And again. The smile was back. The swagger was back. He legged out a triple on Saturday against the Phillies and seemed to be laughing all the way into third base (see picture at the top of this blog post). Morse started hitting. Morse started smiling. The Giants started winning. No coincidence there. This is the formula for success in 2014 for this ball club.
Time is running out for the Giants this season. They can’t worry about the Dodgers or anyone else who is ahead of them in the standings. They just need to win ballgames, starting tonight at Wrigley Field. The only thing I know for sure is this: If Morse hits the Giants win. If Morse hits he will smile. If Morse smiles the Giants win. See a pattern here?