It’s Logan Morrison’s birthday today. Now 32 years young, “LoMo” is in his tenth big-league season… albeit just barely. He’s seen action in just seven games this summer, having toiled exclusively in Triple-A prior to being called up by the Phillies on August 14. Two years removed from a 38-home-run campaign with the Tampa Bay Rays, Morrison has essentially morphed from a bona fide slugger into a player barely hanging on.
His winter had been a waiting game. A free agent as of Halloween, Morrison received a few non-roster invites, but coming off of hip surgery he didn’t want to risk “showing up and then getting cut from camp.” In search of more security, he bided his time.
Morrison eventually signed with the Yankees in mid-April, joined Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre in early May, and played there until July 1. At that point, with his chances of a promotion seemingly scant — this despite a healthy .999 OPS — he executed the opt-out clause in his contract. He then hooked on with the Phillies following the All-Star break.
Never a shrinking violet when it comes to expressing an opinion, LoMo was candid when addressing the limited interest he received over the offseason.
“It sucks when you feel you can help a team win, but there are only eight teams out there truly trying to win,” Morrison told me earlier this week. “You look at rosters and know that you’re better than guys, but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter because of the economic situation. Having someone under control for six years is more important than them actually being good. The game has turned into where being young is a tool. If you ask baseball people, and fans who want their teams to win, that shouldn’t be the case. Unfortunately it is.”
Morrison earned $5.5M with the Minnesota Twins last season, and his total career earnings are approaching $20M. Regardless of where he hangs his hat next year, growing his family’s nest egg is a primary goal.
“I’m turning 32 years old, right?” explained Morrison. “I have made a pretty good amount of money in my career, but I’m not going to be able to make anywhere close to this in the non-baseball world. With my background — I spent one year at a community college — this is pretty much my outlet to make money. At the end of the day, you only have a certain window to do that. Being able to put my kids [a three-year-old, and another who is five months old] in the best position I can, and also do the things I want to in life… those are important things to me.”
Don’t be surprised if the outspoken slugger is playing overseas next season. He’s already begun exploring the possibility, and while money will factor into his decision, it’s not the only reason Japan and Korea are on his mind.
“The experience of another culture is appealing,” explained Morrison. “Having talked to guys who have gone over there… one has a 10-year-old who is learning three languages. It would be a cool thing to have my kids starting off on that kind of footing. Growing up and enrolling in college, if they want to become business people — maybe international business, where they’re communicating in Japanese, Korean, or Mandarin — would be awesome. If I go over there, I probably won’t come back. I’ll stay there and play until it’s over.”
But first things first. Morrison is in Philadelphia now, and he’d love nothing more than to help his current club secure a playoff berth. The Phillies are currently within 1.5 games of the second Wild Card. As for his expectations, let’s just say he’s happy to be hanging on.
“I know the opportunities here are going to be limited,” Morrison said. “I just want to be a good teammate, and if I’m called upon do the best job I can. I’m not going to put too much pressure on myself. I’m going to cherish this, and have fun, because this might be the last time I ever step on a big-league field.”
Morrison has three hits in 12 at bats with the Phillies. He slashed .308/.369/.640 with 18 home runs in 233 plate appearances between his two Triple-A stops.
The Texas Rangers were six games over .500 when they played at Fenway Park in mid-June. Not expected to be contenders, they somehow were — at least to the extent that being in the hunt for a Wild Card slot 60-plus games into the season constitutes contending. The trade deadline within sight — six weeks doesn’t require high-power binoculars — it was only natural that buy-or-sell questions would be directed at Jon Daniels.
The Texas GM had made the Boston trip, and with yours truly in attendance he fielded a litany of them in the visiting dugout prior to one of the games. Equal parts cautious and forthcoming, Daniels told a small group of reporters the following:
“Where we go from here is going to be dictated by how the club plays, and also the opportunities that are in front of us. We want to continue to develop some of the guys here. We’ll stay true to our mindset of trying to balance, but we’ll continue to place a priority on the next few years. I don’t see us looking to shortcut anything, but you’ve got to be openminded. These guys have played very well, and I don’t think it’s been luck, but it’s still early.”
Call that GM-speak if you will, but to my ears what Daniels divulged was fairly clear. Barring a precipitous surge in the standings (and maybe not even then), the Rangers brain trust was going to stay true to their plan.
“There’s not going to be a huge swing of the pendulum based on a hot streak, one way or the other,” said Daniels. “We have a pretty good sense of where we want to go over the next few years.”
The Rangers largely stood pat at the deadline, with their most notable move being the acquisition of Kolby Allard from the Braves, in exchange for Chris Martin. They currently sit 64-67, a dozen games in arrears of the second Wild Card. Their improving farm system is ranked 14th on THE BOARD.
RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS
The Royals and Red Sox completed a suspended game at Fenway Park on Thursday afternoon. Knotted at four apiece in the 10th inning when resumed, it ended a mere 12 minutes later on a walk-off hit by Brock Holt. The two teams then retreated to their respective clubhouses, packed up, and headed to Logan Airport — Boston bound for San Diego, Kansas City for Cleveland. A crowd of 16,441 headed for the exits, the youngest among them first filing onto the field to run the bases.
Needless to say, it was short-and-strange day.
Before the truncated contest got underway, Royals broadcaster Ryan Lefebvre told me about a suspended game that took place nearly two decades ago. It happened in Milwaukee, and featured a record-setting performance by a relatively obscure player.
“The first year of Miller Park, we there for inter-league play,” recalled Lefebvre. “It was June 16, 2001, and the lights went out a few innings in. Now, they could have continued to play, but they knew it would be an abbreviated game — they’d have to stop once it got dark — so they just stopped it then. The stadium being brand new, they didn’t know why the lights had gone out. It became a suspended game.
“The next day, we completed the suspended game, then played the regularly-scheduled game. The Royals’ record for consecutive strikeouts — this is in the 51-year history of the team — is eight. Blake Stein, in Milwaukee on June 17, 2001. There are all these great pitchers we’ve had, and who the heck is Blake Stein? Right?
“They have the retractable roof at Miller Park, but they also have glass in the outfield, which is also retractable. Again, this was the first year of the stadium, so they’re still learning all the nuances of it. Well. they played the game with the glass closed. It was a middle-of-the-afternoon game and the sun was reflecting off the glass. Nobody could see the ball. That’s how Blake Stein became the Royals’ record-holder for consecutive strikeouts.”
Stein pitched for the A’s and Royals from 1998-2002 and retired with a 5.41 ERA.
Jared Hughes reached a milestone on Tuesday. As the 34-year-old reliever related to me in Fenway Park’s visiting clubhouse, he’d now been in uniform in all 30 MLB venues. He proceeded to pitch the following day, making Toronto the only city he’s visited while on an active roster but didn’t see action in. Tampa Bay barely made that list. As the ever-affable hurler pointed out, he faced just one batter in his lone Tropicana Field appearance “and didn’t even get an out.”
Hughes — now a member of the Phillies — retired three of the four batters he faced in Boston. He clearly relished the experience.
“As soon as you walk into Fenway Park you get the chills,” said Hughes “There’s all the history; the games that have been played here, all the players who have walked down this hall. There’s the beauty of the ballpark. And again, it’s cool to have now played in all 30.”
Adley Rutschman, a 21-year-old catcher in the Baltimore Orioles system, is slashing .325/.413/.481 in 92 plate appearances with short-season Aberdeen. The switch-hitting Oregon State University product was the first-overall pick in this year’s draft.
Bobby Witt Jr, a 19-year-old shortstop in the Kansas City Royal system, is slashing .257/.313/.342 in 166 plate appearances with the rookie-level Arizona Royals. The right-handed-hitting native of Colleyville, Texas was the second-overall pick in this year’s draft.
Andrew Vaughn, a 22-year-old first baseman in the Chicago White Sox system, has slashed .280/.389/.457 in 211 plate appearances between three levels since being taken third-overall in this year’s draft. The Cal-Berkeley product is currently with high-A Winston-Salem.
JJ Bleday, a 21-year-old left-handed-hitting outfielder in the Miami Marlins system, is slashing .256/.304/.393 in 125 plate appearances with high-A Jupiter. The Danville, Pennsylvania-born Vanderbilt University product was taken fourth-overall in this year’s draft.
Riley Greene, an 18-year-old left-handed-hitting outfielder in the Detroit Tigers system, has slashed .275/.353/.401 in 207 plate appearances between three levels since been taken fifth-overall in this year’s draft. The Orlando, Florida native is currently with low-A West Michigan.
Quiz time. With two out in the ninth inning of Tuesday’s Phillies-Red Sox game, Philadelphia’s Adam Haseley was on first base when Andrew Knapp struck out, only to have the pitch elude Boston catcher Christian Vazquez. Knapp reached first base safely, while Haseley, who was running on the pitch, cruised into second.
Did Haseley get a stolen base on the play? The answer follows the next segment.
This past Monday, a New York Post headline read “Michael Kay is terrified his Yankees return won’t last.” Two days later, the longtime Yankees broadcaster responded on Twitter, saying that while the Andrew Marchand-written article itself was representative of his words, the headline wasn’t. Kay, who is returning from vocal cord surgery, explained that he never said the word “terrified,” which he considers inaccurate. He began the Tweet with “I was a newspaper writer and know someone else writes the headline.”
Reading that, I was reminded of something Alex Cora said in one of his pre-game press conferences when the Yankees visited Fenway Park earlier this season. The Red Sox manager was responding to a question about New York’s now-29-year-old shortstop.
“I’d said that Didi Gregorius is one of the reasons the Yankees took off,” Cora told reporters. “And I got crushed. That was the year after Derek Jeter retired. They took it like I was pushing aside Derek, and that wasn’t the case. [Gregorius] is a good player, man. Very physical. Kind of like Xander… he’s a power-hitting shortstop. He’s been good for the Yankees.
“What I said, all of a sudden they put it on the website and the title was something like, ‘Cora Crushes Jeter.’ All of a sudden the phone was going crazy. That’s when I learned that [reporters] have somebody else putting the titles on the thing. That’s part of the learning part of it; when you get a big-league manager job, don’t get mad at people, because there’s somebody else [writing the headline].”
The answer to the quiz is yes, Haseley did get credit for a stolen base. As the official scorer explained, because Hasely was running on the pitch, and it was NOT a 3-2 count, it is to be treated as two different plays; a stolen base was awarded as it would have been had the pitch not been strike three.
LINKS YOU’LL LIKE
Chris Thomas, the sports editor at The Detroit Free Press, explained what happened between Justin Verlander and Anthony Fenech, and why the action taken by the Astros media relations department was inappropriate.
MLB players never know what day of the week it is. Jesse Dougherty explained why at The Washington Post.
Over at New Jersey Advanced Media, Steve Politi wrote about how he once was a bird-flipping Little League menace, but it was time to come clean.
Not baseball, but noteworthy nonetheless: US Women’s National Team soccer stalwart Carli Lloyd kicked a 55-yard field goal at Philadelphia Eagles practice, and David Weinberg wrote about it for The Press of Atlantic City.
RANDOM FACTS AND STATS
Brewers reliever Josh Hader has faced 220 batters this season, and has issued 17 walks and recorded 106 strikeouts. Braves reliever Josh Tomlin has faced 275 batters, issued seven walks, and recorded 44 strikeouts. Each has been taken deep 13 times.
The West Michigan Whitecaps played three one-run games this week, and were victorious each time. Why does that merit mentioning? As of last Sunday, Detroit’s Midwest League affiliate was 7-31 in one-run games, including a 2-21 mark since May 23.
Jay Groome,hom the Red Sox drafted 12th overall out of a New Jersey high school in 2016, took the mound on Wednesday for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery in May 2018. The southpaw, who celebrated his 21st birthday on Friday, threw a scoreless inning for Boston’s Gulf Coast League entry.
On August 26, 1965, Giants’ outfielder Matty Alou pitched the final two innings of San Francisco’s 8-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Alou logged three strikeouts, with Willie Stargell accounting for two of them.
On August 28, 1962, New York Mets left-hander Al Jackson threw his fourth complete-game shutout of the season in a 2-0 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. Jackson, who died earlier this month at age 83, was the only Mets pitcher to blank the opposition that year.
In 1949, Red Sox right-hander Ellis Kinder went 23-6 with an AL-leading six shutouts. In 1953, he came out of the bullpen 69 times and led the league with 27 saves.
David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.