Michael Morse explains why he chose to sign with Giants
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SAN FRANCISCO – Michael Morse wasn’t a member of the Misfits that careened through a World Series parade on Market Street in 2010.
He wasn’t a part of those frenzied, sunflower-seed sprayed huddles that preceded every one of the six elimination victories on the way to another championship in 2012.
But can there be any doubt that Morse could’ve been a shaggy face in those crowds?
He has long locks. He is big enough to have descended from a beanstalk. He strikes a self-described “samurai cobra snake” pose in the on-deck circle. His walk-up music is a paean to the ‘80s that inspires 40,000 people into off-key falsetto. (Tell me you haven’t forgotten A-Ha.)
Morse is big as a nightclub bouncer but with none of the surly disposition. And he can’t wait to fit in with the Giants.
“I like to have fun,” said Morse, on a conference call to announce his $6 million contract, which includes an additional $3 million more if he reaches incentives based on plate appearances.
“I think if a team plays fun, they’re relaxed and your best baseball comes out when you’re relaxed. Good teams have fun. They play together and win together. That’s very important, and it’s something the Giants do.”
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This offseason didn’t set up for much fun, as Giants manager Bruce Bochy saw it. He had two starting pitchers, one outfielder and loads of question marks. Now a week before Christmas, and with $172 million worth of commitments, the Giants have Hunter Pence, Tim Lincecum, Ryan Vogelsong and Javier Lopez back in the fold. They have Tim Hudson adding experience to the rotation and Morse’s power bat addressing the need in left field.
They still have a lot of health risks. They still must rely on some Flubber-like bounce-back years. But other than Pence, they haven’t committed a dime beyond 2015. And Bochy likes the way they’ve spent.
“I didn’t know which way a lot of it would go,” Bochy said. “In left field, this is the guy I really wanted. I told Brian that. It’s more than just keeping our club intact. I think we’re a better club now, with more depth.”
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Bochy reiterated what he told CSN Bay Area last week: Morse will be the everyday left fielder, and his ability to play first base eliminates the need for extra coverage at the position behind Brandon Belt.
That’s good, since GM Brian Sabean made it clear the team is tapped out, having pushed ownership just to approve the Morse signing. The Giants won’t have to cut any payroll commitments before Opening Day, Sabean said. But they’re probably through adding anyone on a major league contract.
“To get this done, we really had to massage our budget and make things work,” Sabean said. “We did have other trade options we were weighing that were developing slower.
“Frankly, I don’t think we could have done any better. I was not optimistic we could find somebody like (Morse). I thought the dollars would be out of reach or people would be geared to longer term contracts.”
Morse did have other options, including the Houston Astros, and although he didn’t come out and say it, the Giants probably didn’t have the highest offer. But Morse made it clear he didn’t want to play for a second-division team.
“As a player your one goal is to win and to win a World Series,” Morse said. “Not only have the Giants won, but they’ve won two. What other team would a guy want to play for, especially with Boch as the manager?”
Morse is coming off a down year with the Orioles and Mariners that included quad and wrist injuries. He initially hurt his hand when he was hit by a pitch, then overcompensated with his other hand when he tried to play through discomfort. He said he’s 100 percent now with no restrictions.
Asked if he could replicate his 2011 season with the Washington Nationals, when he hit 31 homers and for much of the year challenged for the NL batting crown, Morse said he’s optimistic he could.
Morse also gives the Giants a big bat they can stick at DH for interleague games; the Giants got waxed in AL Parks, averaging just 2.4 runs while losing eight of 10 games.
And what about first base? Because Morse can play there, should we prepare for more daily drama about whether Belt plays or sits?
“Well I don’t think it’s going to affect Belt,” Bochy said of the Morse signing. “Maybe an occasional day off.”
Bochy said he plans on giving Hunter Pence an occasional breather as well. Pence started all 162 games last year – the first Giant since Alvin Dark in 1954 to start every regular-season game.
Mostly, though, expect Pence and Morse to be on either side of center fielder Angel Pagan. And expect Pence’s crazy, elbow-dislocating warmup swing to be challenged by the Samurai Cobra Snake.
That’s what Morse calls his very conspicuous stretching move as he prepares to hit. He started doing it after Rick Eckstein, his hitting coach in Washington, told him to free up his hips more in his swing. He stepped out of the box, overexaggerated to get a feel for it, and got a hit. So it stuck.
Same thing with his walk-up anthem, “Take On Me,” – the unquestioned pinnacle of Norwegian pop in the ‘80s -- which requires so much vocal range to sing that it could cause injuries at karaoke bars.
Morse is keeping the music. Expect 40,000 folks to sing along at AT&T Park.
Or hurt themselves in the attempt, anyway.