Michael Morse brings bat, veteran presence to Marlins clubhouse
MIAMI — Ace Madison Bumgarner stole headlines with his historic performance in Game 7 of the World Series, but Michael Morse drove in the winning run as the San Francisco Giants captured their third title in five years.
When the Miami Marlins front office entered the offseason searching for a bat to protect slugger Giancarlo Stanton in the lineup, Morse’s name kept coming back into the discussion.
His resume checks several boxes, but most importantly that of a veteran presence in the clubhouse.
Much like the organization did the winter before by signing catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Jeff Baker, Garrett Jones and Casey McGehee, it hoped to add postseason experience. Morse could check that off after the October run.
When president of baseball operations Michael Hill and general manager Dan Jennings met with Morse at Marlins Park prior to last month’s winter meetings, both left the visit calling Morse a perfect fit for "what we’re trying to do."
"(He said) ‘Deep down I’m a Marlins fan’ and you appreciate that he has a sense of the history of our franchise and what we’ve gone through," Hill said. "He’s coming from the mountaintop. One thing that we discussed as we talked about him specifically was he just won. How hungry is he going to be to do it again? He just won.
"When I say we were excited when we left the meeting was an understatement ’cause you talk about a guy who’s been to the mountaintop but wants to do it again in his hometown and wants to be a part of raising that trophy again in South Florida and will do everything in his power to make that happen. It resonated with both of us."
His character and championship pedigree stood out. His determination to impart his experience on his new teammates — young but talented — did as well.
As a recent high school graduate, Morse signed a deal with the Chicago White Sox after being selected in the third round of the 2000 draft. At a gym off Red Road, he shared a trainer with Mike Lowell, Cliff Floyd, Pudge Rodriguez and Preston Wilson. Morse picked the brains of those Marlins greats, who took him under their wings and made his journey less stressful.
"Anytime you have experience it’s very important," Morse said. "At the same time a lot of guys on this team have experience like Jarrod Saltalamacchia. He’s done it, he’s a winner, he’s been there. A lot of these guys have so much talent. You don’t have to tell them much. You just have to point them in the right direction."
Jennings sees Morse being able to do the same thing for the clubhouse already in South Florida.
Christian Yelich is a Gold Glove recipient. Stanton finished as the runner-up for National League Most Valuable Player. Marcell Ozuna became a reliable run producer, while Adeiny Hechavarria vastly improved at the plate.
"Each guy (we acquired) in their own way mentioned it and I think it speaks volumes to what they’re wanting to accomplish," Jennings said. "Certainly in Michael Morse’s case he’s been to the top of the mountain and these two guys (Dee Gordon and Mat Latos) want to get there. When you look at the quality of people they are and what they bring to really an already young and exciting team we feel very confident and look forward to the 2015 season."
It took his 10th big-league season to become a champion, but Morse got there with the Giants in 2014. In 704 games, he is a .281 hitter with 99 home runs and 333 RBI.
During that meeting at Marlins Park, Hill and Jennings wanted to get a feel for him, see whether winning had tempered his motivation and drive. Turns out it just made him hungrier to succeed elsewhere.
"When you get a trifecta of an organization that is on the rise, in it to win it now, I’m playing at home and I’m playing on a team where these guys are great — they have the attitudes you want, the positivity and the chemistry," Morse said. "You put that together and you get winning baseball. I’ve seen it, I’ve been a part of winning baseball, and this is very close to what I was part of in San Francisco."