If you don't like the People's Champion Michael Morse...Why don't you like Michael Morse? The Washington Nationals' LF/1B was on MLB Network Radio Monday night talking to Cliff Floyd and Mike Ferrin from the bedding department in Sears about the 2012 Nats and what the future holds for the nation's capital's favorite team. The 29-year-old former White Sox and Mariners' prospect acquired in a June 28th '09 trade for Ryan Langerhans had a breakout season in 2011 after a strong end to the 2010 season. In 146 games and 575 plate appearances last year, the 6'5'', 230 lb slugger hit 36 doubles, 31 HR's and drove in 95 RBI's while putting up a .303/.360/.550 line, leading the Nats in all six stats. Here's some of what Morse had to say during tonight's interview...
• Michael Morse on his breakout season:
Michael Morse: "The biggest thing for me was I got an opportunity. I got an opportunity to play and I got an opportunity to get that comfortable feeling and get a chance to just relax and tell myself that, 'You know what, if I don't get a hit today, I'm going to be in there tomorrow.' It's not kind of like I'm there one day, not there [up] to a week. It's a great feeling, and playing every day is such a great thing."
• On the start of the season, not playing every day early:
Michael Morse: "In 2010, I finished strong. I hit 15 HR's. I hit .289 or something, and I thought I did well in right field. So in the offseason, we went out and signed Jayson Werth. At that point I was like, 'Man, what does it take for me to get a job?' Everything I did was just like BOOM, all of sudden it's something, BOOM all of a sudden it's something. But Jayson, he's a heck of a player, [it] was great for the team, and then I started thinking, okay, what does that mean for me? Where am I going to go?
"But, in my career, I never had that guaranteed job, so I always had to fight. It was nothing new, so I went into Spring Training with that mentality of, 'I have to make this team.' I had a good Spring. It was my first time playing Opening Day. It was my second time on the squad Opening Day. But I got an opportunity to play, I didn't play much at the beginning. I platooned a lot. At one point I pretty much lost my job to Laynce Nix in the outfield and I was on the bench. And then Adam LaRoche got hurt and I stepped in, played first, and I went off from there."
• On Werth and the pressure he felt:
Michael Morse: "He signed this big contract. I guess with a big contract comes big responsibility. He felt that he had to go out there and hit 40 HR's and hit .320. That's not necessarily his game. When he was with Philly, he was a guy that, you couldn't pitch around [Ryan] Howard. You had to challenge him. And, I think when he came here, he thought that he had to carry the whole team on his back. It sucked. I felt bad for him, but you know, he's such a professional that you would never know he was struggling or anything. He helped the team, and especially in the clubhouse.
• On the Prince Fielder rumors? Having to play left if the Nats did sign Fielder:
Michael Morse: "Oh my gosh! Are you kidding me? I mean, I'll catch. I'll pitch. Whatever it is. If we can get our hands on Prince. That is huge. Especially in our division. And especially with the lineup we have. We have [Ryan] Zimmerman. We have Werth. We have a lot of power righties and to put him in there? He's a monster. He's a game changer at any time of the game."
• On what Davey Johnson's meant to the team?:
Michael Morse: "I like Davey a lot because he believed in me. He's old school. He lets the guys run out there. You play. You do your thing. He's not going to mess with you. He's not a "Ra Ra" guy. You go out there and you get the job done. If you need a break, if you need a day, he understands that. He plays his bench. We see it as, he's like a grandfather in baseball. He's been around. He's seen it all. He's real respected. Real respect in the clubhouse. Real respected with the guys. And I love him to death, because he believed in me. He threw me out there and basically pretty much told me, 'You're going to play every day. Go get'em."
• On having a former player for a manager:
Michael Morse: "I think it's pretty cool. There was a couple of times during the year me and him would joke about some home runs...I would hit a real good home run, a real far one. And he would come over to me and be like, 'Back in [whatever year it was] I used to hit the warehouses back over there. You young bucks can't do that now.' He would say some stuff...it would make you just...just out of nowhere. It was hilarious. Davey's such a great guy, man."
• Can the Nats compete in/win the NL East?:
Michael Morse: "Absolutely. I mean, I think, in the next year, we have a healthy [Stephen] Strasburg, we have a Jordan Zimmermann, we have a John Lannan, guys at the top of the rotation that are going to win games and then we have a lineup that has a lot of power. Like Wilson Ramos. He had a lot of problems just a while ago in Venezuela, but he's one of the most powerful hitting catchers I've seen. This guy, when he hits the ball, he hits it. He's a big target behind the plate. The pitchers love him. We have Drew Storen closing. We have Tyler Clippard. He throws an invisi-ball. No one can hit him. There's a lot of pieces to the puzzle and they're all there.
"Mike Rizzo, our GM, he's put this together and people might have thought a couple years ago he might be crazy. But he had a vision and it's all come together. We've got Ryan Zimmerman, he's healthy. Last year he had [an ab tear] early in the year. We were missing [Adam] LaRoche all year. He's going to be healthy. He's a big bat. And we've got Jayson Werth for the next six years. And there's so much upside, also, I'm even leaving out Ian Desmond. And we've got Bryce Harper waiting... But he's part of the young crowd. We've got Danny Espinosa at second base, who's a great infielder, and he has pop. We've got Ian Desmond and Bryce Harper. These are all young guys that are going to be around, and except for Bryce, these guys are getting their feet wet now. So, this team...I mean, people have got to watch out. They're coming. The Nationals are coming."