One of the more popular players, both with the fans and his teammates, for the Nationals was acquired by Washington in one of the most lopsided trades in team history. On June 28, 2009, Washington traded talented defensive outfielder Ryan Langerhans to the Seattle Mariners for a player more noted for his potential power bat than for his glove. The deal brought Michael Morse, who turns 34 today, to DC and the fun times soon began.
Morse had first played in DC as a Mariner back during the team’s 10 game home winning streak in June 2005. I remember sitting in the upper deck at RFK Stadium watching a very large shortstop play for the Mariners and thinking that Seattle had this guy in the wrong spot. By the time Morse became part of the Nationals, he had grown into a corner outfield/first base role and he would certainly make his mark before being traded back to Seattle in a three team trade in January 2013.
The powerful right-handed hitter showed signs of development in 2010, posting a 1.3 WAR in a reserve role and hitting 15 home runs and driving in 41 runs in limited playing time.
Beast Mode became a catch phrase in Washington in 2011, as Morse put up the best year of his career. His .550 slugging percentage was the fourth best in the National League, and Morse hit 31 home runs and had 95 RBI to give Washington some of the production the team lost when Adam Dunn left in free agency and newly acquired Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche struggled in their first seasons in Washington. On May 27th of that season, Morse provided one of the highlights of the year when he drove an 0-0, no out pitch from Mike Adams of San Diego deep into the seats to give Washington a 2-1 walk-off win.
Morse did not play as significant a role in the division championship season of 2012 as he had in the previous year, but he still hit .291 with 18 homers and 62 RBI as the Nats took the National League by storm. His grand slam home run at St. Louis off of Kyle Lohse on September 29th of the year, which was repeated sans bat and ball in humorous fashion following a check of the replay was one of the highlights of Washington’s magical year.
Anyone who pulled for the Nats and Morse will also remember the big slugger kindly every time he or she hears the 80’s song “Take on Me” by a-Ha, which probably is the most memorable walk-up song in Nationals’ history.
So far in 2016, Morse is hitting .333 in 24 at bats for the Pittsburgh Pirates and appears to be on course to play a key role for the Buccos as they look to get back to the playoffs again.
The affable Morse brought a big bat, a big personality and lots of fun to the Nationals during his tenure with the team from 2009 through 2012. One suspects that he’s enjoying his birthday today with the same vigor and zest he showed while wearing a curly W cap!