Michael Morse has more than a few reasons for pride in his baseball career. And a few reasons to look back in amusement. Now he may have a reason to look back in dismay, at least to Memorial Day, when a teammate launched a brawl that may cost him his career.
Nobody including Morse says its anyone’s fault but his, when he poured in from first base to join his mates and collided with pitcher Jeff Samardzija, a pregnant pause after Hunter Strickland was stupid enough to drill Bryce Harper on the right hip with malice aforethought, over a two-and-a-half-year-old home run.
Unwritten rules or no unwritten rules, nobody sent any Giant out at gunpoint. But maybe Morse’s fate will start causing more than a few people not named Jake Arrieta to start thinking twice that maybe too much of this unwritten rules business is monkey business.
Morse suffered a concussion in the collision. He’s still feeling the effects, from headaches to dizziness, especially when his heart rate accelerates. He hasn’t been seen on the field since, and now he’s heading to his Florida home to continue recuperating and, maybe, begin thinking about a future without baseball.
The outfielder/first baseman was said to be furious at just about everyone inside the clubhouse after he collided with Samardzija. Except that now, apparently, you have to tell him that. He told the San Francisco Chronicle in June he had almost no recall of the brawl and its aftermath. But apparently his anger had long since subsided.
“You know me,” he told Chronicle writer Henry Schulman in June. “Whatever happens, happens. I’m a happy-go-lucky guy. I’m happy to be with these guys. They’re going through such hard times. I want to be with them, if not on the field, then off the field, helping them mentally if not physically.”
Morse has had reasons to feel happy-go-lucky over much of his previous injury-riddled major league life. There were the laughs, such as the 2012 night on which he was forced to pantomime the grand slam he’d just hit, after an umpire ordered all runners to retreat back to their starting points to be sure they’d touched all the bases.
He was a Washington National then. In that postseason, he let Matt Holliday score a twelfth Cardinal run in division series Game Two after bobbling Allen Craig’s double. But in Game Five Morse did his part to try getting the Nats near the League Championship Series, when he sent Adam Wainwright out of the game in the third by driving one into the left field bullpen for a 6-0 lead blown in due course.
Two years later, Morse was a Giant. And he set the table for the club’s second most memorable pennant winner, re-tying LCS Game Five at three all, when he drilled a Pat Neshek service down the line and into the left field seats, an inning before Travis Ishikawa—exploiting Cardinal manager Mike Matheny’s reluctance to use shutdown closer Trevor Rosenthal in anything but an obvious save situation—parked the pennant atop Levi’s Landing.
Then Morse drove in two of the three Giants runs in World Series-winning Game Seven, including what proved the game winner.
After signing with Miami as a free agent for 2015, Morse suffered a down 2015 and, after being moved to the Pirates, a lost 2016, when the Pirates released him in April. On a handshake agreement with Giants general manager Bobby Evans at Hunter Pence’s wedding, Morse got a return invitation to the Giants and made the 2017 team in spring training.
He wasn’t exactly having a comeback season when Memorial Day arrived, Strickland drilled Harper, and down went Morse on the Samardzija collision. Now manager Bruce Bochy says Morse “at some point” will have to decide about his baseball future.
In the immediate moment the collision was like Hanna-Barbera’s ancient three goofy guards, Yippee, Yappee, and Yahooey, colliding with each other in the middle of yet another of their frat house-style entrances at the call of their king, usually causing a little damage to the throne room if not to His Royal Personage himself. (His invariable response: “I need some guards to guard me from my guards.”)
Then came the word of Morse’s concussion. Nobody wanted to holler yippee, yappee, or yahooey anymore.
Morse faces two issues, only the second of which is the truly important. With the sinking Giants on the threshold of pushing a rebuild button, there may be little to no room for a veteran with a long injury history who hadn’t even been in the Show the previous year.
But with his concussion and its lingering effects, there may be little to no room anymore for baseball for a 35-year-old fellow whose best swings are probably long enough behind him. The postseason headaches Morse helped give Mike Matheny—whose own playing career was stopped by post-concussion syndrome—was nothing compared to the one that now decides Morse’s baseball future.