Mike Morse waiting to learn fate as Nationals’ fallback option

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On the strength of hitting .289 with 15 homers in 266 at-bats as a part-timer Mike Morse emerged as a possible everyday player for the Nationals in 2011, but Ben Goessling of MASNSports.com writes that his role hinges on whether they sign a veteran first baseman.

Washington has been linked to just about every free agent first baseman on the market, so Morse’s chances of heading into Opening Day with a starting spot seem slim, but for now he serves as a fallback option at first base who could also shift to the outfield to platoon with Roger Bernadina.

Of course, as well as Morse hit in limited action last season he’s hardly a sure thing to be a productive regular. For one thing he’s 29 years old and has never received even 300 plate appearances in a season, spending 2006-2009 primarily in the minors. For another thing his numbers at Triple-A are much closer to good than great, as he hit .292 with a .354 on-base percentage and .461 slugging percentage in 307 games.

Whether or not the Nationals would be smart to sign a veteran first baseman like Derrek Lee or Adam LaRoche is up for debate, but whatever happens Morse is likely best suited for a part-time gig.

The Indians are unveiling a Frank Robinson statue on Sunday

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The Cleveland Indians will unveil a Frank Robinson statue at Progressive Field on Saturday.

Robinson’s tenure in Cleveland was not long, but it was historic. On April 8, 1975, he became the first African-American manager in Major League history. He was a player-manager. One of the last ones, in fact. He spent two years in that role and then a third year — a partial year anyway — as a manager only. Robinson would go on to manage the Giants, Orioles and the Expos/Nationals, compiling a career record of 1065-1176 in 16 seasons. He is now a top MLB executive.

Robinson was, of course, a Hall of Fame player as well, lodging 21 seasons for the Reds, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels and Indians. He won two MVP awards and hit for the Triple Crown in 1966. Overall he hit 586 home runs – 10th all time – and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. For an inner-circle Hall of Famer with that kind of resume he is still, strangely enough, underrated. I guess that happens when your contemporaries are Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle.

Anyway, congrats to Frank Robinson for yet another well-deserved honor in a career full of them.

Hey kids: don’t swing a weighted bat in the on deck circle

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Here’s an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal. It’s about some studies of hitters who use weighted bats or doughnuts on their bats in the on deck circle. Turns out that, contrary to conventional wisdom, using a weighted bat for practice hacks does not speed up one’s swing when one uses a naked bat in the batter’s box. In fact, it slows it down.

There are lots of caveats here. The sample size in the studies are small and they all involve college and high school players, not big leaguers. The results, however, are consistent with previous studies and they do make some intuitive sense. This is particularly the case with batting doughnuts, which add weight to a very concentrated portion of the bat, thereby changing the center of gravity and thus the swing mechanics of the hitter.

Whether this is applicable at large or to higher level hitters or not, I still find it kind of neat. I always like it when people scrutinize ingrained habits and ask whether or not that thing we’ve always done is, in fact, worth doing.