Our guess is that Kendrys Morales hasn’t celebrated a single one of the 22 home runs he has hit since May 29, 2010. That day, the newest Mariner, acquired by the club Wednesday in a trade for LHP Jason Vargas, learned a valuable – and painful – lesson about the negative effects of unbridled enthusiasm.
In the bottom of the 10th inning against Seattle at Angel Stadium, Morales came to bat against Brandon League in a 1-1 game after League put three runners aboard. On League’s first pitch, Morales hit a ball to deep center that cleared the fence and scored Maicer Izturis, Bobby Abreu and Reggie Willits.
As Morales rounded third en route to his walk-off grand slam, Angels players surrounded home plate in anticipation of Morales’ arrival. Ten feet from the dish, Morales removed his batting helmet and flung it, took four more steps and leaped with the idea of landing emphatically on the plate.
It appeared that when Morales came down, he landed on a teammate’s foot and twisted an ankle. But after reviewing the play, manager Mike Scioscia said Morales simply slipped on the plate, and that all of his 225 pounds landed on his turned ankle, breaking his leg.
“This is bad,” said teammate Torii Hunter. “Right now, he’s the best hitter on the team.”
It was bad. Morales didn’t play the rest of the 2010 season and then missed all of 2011 when complications impaired his rehabilitation.
Morales returned to the Angels last year and hit .273 with 22 home runs, 73 RBIs and a .787 OPS in 134 games, mostly as a designated hitter. Those 22 homers would have led the Mariners, which, coupled with his other numbers, means that GM Jack Zduriencik probably just landed the guy who will be his best hitter in 2013.
In acquiring Morales, Zduriencik also added to the logjam at the first base and DH positions (Justin Smoak, Mike Carp and Jesus Montero, when he’s not catching), muddled the catching situation, probably took a lot of at-bats away from John Jaso, and punched a huge hole in the rotation.
Following Felix Hernandez now, as John Hickey pointed out here, are Hisashi Iwakuma, who has had one good half-season in the majors, two young pitchers in Erasmo Ramirez and Blake Beavan, another young pitcher in Hector Noesi, a flop at big-league level last year, and some highly prized prospects.
After sending his No. 2 pitcher to a division rival, Zduriencik said, “I’m very comfortable this (trade) makes us better.”
Are you as confident?