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Farewell, Michael Morse

It was certainly an inevitable situation as Mike Rizzo tinkered with and cemented the Nationals line-up for the 2013 season, and now, Michael Morse’s time in Washington has come to an end. The Beast was traded yesterday to the Seattle Mariners in a three-way trade that will bring AJ Cole back to the District.

It was his 2011 campaign that truly brought him to the forefront as his bat did the work and his antics made fans swoon. His impact on so many games that season is undeniable and he was the offensive spark in the otherwise lackluster Nationals line-up. That season brought the Nats to the verge of taking the team to the division title the next year and his contributions will not be forgotten.

Singing his signature song, his cobra snake pre-bat routine, his elaborate schemes to smack shaving cream in teammates’ faces, and the phantom grand slam, among others, made Morse seem like the guy you could strike up a conversation with and instantly like him. And it felt like he’d enjoy it just as much.

Morse was the personality that made the Nationals in 2011-2012 so incredibly likeable. The Nats have a plethora of likeable personalities that seem, at times, to just be shy. Morse brought out those personalities. Not only did he make the fans smile, but it was clear he was that eccentric spark in the clubhouse that made fans cherish the roster they had.

Morse’s final at-bat came directly after the 45,966 in attendance at game 5 of the NLDS sang him one last tune, his signature late-game walk-up music of Aha’s “Take on Me.” To be perfectly honest, the above video nearly brought me to tears. It certainly became a tradition for the faithful and one that should follow the Beast on the rest of his journey through his career. So long, Beast. You will be missed.

Oh yeah, I’m also thankful he got traded to the other league. Thanks, Rizzo.

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Bryce Harper might break the internet

“Dear Internet Friends, I give you Harper-cat.”

Those are eight words I thought I’d never hear, but I’m beyond glad I have now. The only problem I have with this video is that it isn’t 10 hours long. Get on it, internet friends.

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Michael Morse shows you how to go Beast Mode

2011 was Michael “Beast Mode” Morse’s breakout year and while he’s largely been ignored by the national media, Nationals fans love their stunning star. After Adam LaRoche went to the disabled list, Morse stepped up and did what few believe he could.

And now he’s getting some attention. So here he is explaining how his pre-plate superstition and the secret behind his swing for ESPN The Magazine’s Technique. Our Nats deserve the attention, especially after an off-season where the team picked up some players that add serious depth to the rotation in Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson.

This is a great video with some cool visuals so definitely give it a watch.

Morse led the team by hitting .303 and provided a bright spot in the lineup even without Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth struggling in the first year of his seven-year contract. He hit for power, he drove in runs, and most of all, he was clutch.

Here’s to hoping for bigger things for Morse in 2012. We’re counting on you, bud.

BONUS: Morse just posted this spread from ESPN The Magazine. So beast.

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Welcome to DC, Gio Suave

Photo via www.natsnq.comPhoto via http://www.natsnq.com

Welcome to DC, Gio. Or as Nationals Inquisition calls him: “the freaking James Bond of the Nationals rotation.”

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John Wall should stick to basketball.

The Nationals won their seventh game in a row as they took down the Orioles (eight today). John Wall threw out the first pitch and my goodness, it was awful. Possibly one of the worst throws I have ever seen.

Here was the exchange between MASN announcers F.P. Santangelo and Bob Carpenter:

“That was a bounce pass. That was fine,” Santangelo said.

That was horrible,” Carpenter countered.

Yep, sure was.

Also of note: The Nationals are in sole possession of third place in the NL East. Don’t think I’ve ever said that before.

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Bubba Starling another “once in a generation” talent.

Today’s MLB draft has been called one of the deepest draft classes in the last five years. It also features another “once in a lifetime” talent in Bubba Starling, a 6’5″, 193 boy wonder from a small town just south of Kansas City.

Starling’s lore is founded on 500-foot home runs, 395 yard rushing performances and roof-lifting dunks. Where those who have not seen him doubt his god-like talents, those who have are able to back-up the phenom’s generational talent.

[Read: ESPN profile on Bubba Starling. Definitely a must-read.]

Already committed to Nebraska to play quarterback, Starling will have to make a life-changing decision when he is drafted later today. Which way he is leaning remains unclear, though he has said he will be ready for practice in Lincoln when practice begins in late July.

The question is whether Starling truly is a “once in a generation” talent. The past two MLB draft’s have been host to two other generational talents, the National’s Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. It can be tough to justify three consecutive years of praise for top talent in the draft, so the superlatives laid on these three may only be justified when the trio have actually excelled in the majors. By then, there will likely be others who will have the generational tag bestowed upon them.

What they have at this point in their lives is promise. In the 46 years of the MLB draft, no number one pick has ever made it to Cooperstown.  Even if they are not labeled the “once in a generation” talent by the end of their careers, they will need to show their worth. They will need to prove their talents as they have done on the lower levels of competition they’ve excelled at.

While it is incredibly possible Starling, Harper and Strasburg will excel in the majors, it is also possible they can flame out. Strasburg’s first season was cut short by Tommy John surgery and his violent throwing motion has been called into question very early on.

We’ve also been warned to be wary of the generational superlative. Ryan Leaf  could never cut it in the NFL. Sam Bowie’s talent could not overcome his injuries. Kwame Brown was too young and inexperienced. Tony Mandarich cracked under the pressure.

The list goes on and on.

Things change when you play in different environments and there’s a reason to wary when Starling isn’t in Kansas anymore.

Whether Starling lives up to the hype in the bigs (or even opts to go the baseball route altogether) will take time to evaluate. For now, though, we should praise this mammoth talent from a small town south of Kansas City.

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Nationals need a coup to prove they mean business.

The Washington Nationals have a lot of questions marks involving personnel this offseason including who to bring back and what players to pursue in free agency or through a trade. Forget the budget for the Lerner’s and let’s get serious.

If the Nationals want to be competitive in 2012, they have to get aggressive this offseason. The time is now to start filling the rest of the holes in the roster or the franchise will be not be successful as they expect when Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper come back. They need a coup de gras in free agency.

Mark Zuckerman has a great breakdown of the Nationals payroll and projects just $47 million tied up for the 2011 season, $17 million under the 2010 Opening Day payroll. The team first needs to tie up a big bat, which I expect them to do by bringing back Adam Dunn. Even then, the team would have $22 million just to get up to the league median.

The franchise hasn’t been willing to shell out big contracts unless re-signing in house, but Mike Rizzo needs to be aggressive. This off-season, the Nationals need to contend for elite players, and that means competing with the likes of the Yankees and Red Sox.

That means going after a player like Cliff Lee.

I’ll be upfront, this kind of signing would absolutely break the bank with possible market value for the Ranger ace at 5-years, $125 million, but if the Nationals want to deliver on their promise of making this team a contender they have to take risks. Lee has been downright ridiculous this postseason making him the most desirable free agent in baseball this offseason. The Nats need to make the move. They need to get Cliff Lee.

Is it wishful thinking that the Nationals could land such a coveted player? Well, obviously, but what’s the problem with that? What’s the problem with hoping the front office is willing to compete in the open market?

Even if the team can’t land Lee, they have to make moves to improve the rotation. Tampa Bay’s Matt Garza and Kansas City’s Zach Greinke are two other possibilities that would make sense as well. Any way you write the script, it has to end with the Nationals taking chances in the market. They have to show that if they want to be competitive on the field, they have to be competitive in signing players.
 

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