On Christmas Day, I wrote this column on all that went wrong with Brandon Morrow and his development with the Mariners, starting with draft day in 2006. I leveled some criticism at a few people, but here’s a condensed version of that criticism with pictures! So let’s look at who’s to blame in what went wrong with Morrow and his progress.
So much to write about the man above, I don’t even know if there’s enough memory on our server to hold my thoughts, rants and complaints. But here’s the start of all the things that went wrong. First it started with drafting of Morrow with the fifth pick of the 2006 draft, some five spots ahead of a guy named Tim Lincecum. Obviously, the criticism about drafting Morrow instead of Lincecum will never cease, even with Morrow gone.
But it’s not as if Morrow was without talent. Unfortunately, the man above allowed the decision making with Morrow to become detrimental. In the early stages, when the initial mistakes would lead to future issues, Bavasi was in charge and the fact that he didn’t or couldn’t see some of these problems coming says plenty about his ability as a GM, just as much as trading five players for Erik Bedard, or signing Carlos Silva to a 4-year, $48 million contract.
This truly is the man that started Morrow down the path of indecision. It was Hargrove during spring training of 2007, who became enamored with Morrow’s power fastball. Of course, Hargrove once called him “Stephen Morrow” to the media. But he wanted a kid with all of 16 minor league innings experience on his big league staff.
Here are three quotes …
“First, you think of what the club needs,” Hargrove said, “then you look at what’s best for the kid, too. When you run across a talent this dynamic, it’s hard to see that pitching in the majors would set him back.”
I had plenty to say on this in the column … but here are two more ..
“He’s pitching setup-quality baseball,” Hargrove said. “We’re not going to let him waste away.”
Oh you’re aren’t going to let him waste away, but instead it seems more prudent to set back his progress two seasons? Waste away after 16 minor league innings? Waste away at age 22? Oh, but it gets worse.
“It won’t be made by one man; it’ll be a matter of many discussions,” Hargrove said. “The kid has pitched in a major college program, he’s closed. Some managers have trouble seeing a kid make that jump – I had Manny Ramirez make it impossible to leave him behind in 1994. I’m not having a tough time with it this year.”
There is so much wrong with this comment. I don’t even know where to begin. But comparing a pitcher to Manny Ramirez is just ridiculous. They were also keeping a set-up guy with innings and work restrictions that severely limited how much of a contributing factor he could be, and yet … they still kept him. And this is where the first part of the comment seems so ridiculous. If it was a matter of discussions, how could someone not stand up and wonder if they might be hindering Morrow’s growth, since he was supposedly drafted as a starter. Because nobody, not even Bavasi, uses the fifth pick in the draft on a reliever. Maybe Hargrove wasn’t having a tough time with the decision, but somebody, specifically Bavasi, should have had a problem with it.
Following the 2007 season, Morrow was supposedly going to begin the process of going back to a starter. So he went to winter ball in Venezuela to get stretched out. But in that same offseason, Bavasi traded for Bedard, signed Silva and McLaren decided to move Morrow back to the bullpen, not even letting him compete for a starting spot.
“I just didn’t want there to be a gray area as to what his role would be,” McLaren said.
As if isn’t wasn’t gray for the whole time he was with the M’s
“I won’t say we haven’t talked about it,” McLaren said. “But my feeling is his stuff is so special, I’d rather have him here to win ballgames.”
So McLaren at least talked with others about continuing the transition. But with the Mariners expected to contend in 2008, he believed having Morrow in the bullpen would help them win games. But arm issues didn’t even allow Morrow to make it out of spring training with the team.
“I don’t think it’s fair for him doing everything that we asked him to do and then get sent down just because all the sudden we pick up two other guys,” McLaren said.
No but it’s fair to jerk him around from role to role for another season.
And once again, why didn’t Bavasi step in and say something? Because he was trying to keep his job.
Let’s not forget that Morrow has some level of blame. Of course, he could have never been expected to say no to Hargrove wanting him to be on the big league team in 2007. It’s the dream of all players that put on a uniform, so to reach that level so soon, there is no way to turn that down. In 2008, he was asked to be set-up man for a team expected to contend for an AL West title. Yes, he wanted to be a starter, but he wanted to be part of the team more.
It was that thinking along with some frustration from injuries that caused him to ask to be made back into a reliever during spring training last year. He knew if he stayed starting he wouldn’t make the team out of spring. He knew that no pitcher had really pulled ahead in the race to be closer. He knew that he could have success in the role because he had before.
All the talk about his health and diabetes were just periphery excuses. The real reason is that Morrow had no identity as a player and a pitcher. He’d been bounced around so much that he had no idea what he wanted or what he should be. He just wanted to be on the big league team. He didn’t know what his future was supposed to be, because apparently no one else in the Mariners decision making, starting with Bavasi did either.