Goodbye, Charlie Morton
The Rays decided that Charlie Freaking Morton was not worth $15 million and I am heartbroken.
I guess they gambled that they could get him to shave a few million off his asking price because he lives in the area. And I guess he figured that for the $2 or $4 or $6 million more he could get from the Braves he could have a helicopter on standby to ferry him home.
There will be other posts that can talk rationally about whether, at 37, he will still be an impact starter. There will be other chances this offseason to see whether the Rays can bring in other pitchers who can fill in the innings he might have pitched. There will be opportunities to toast the Rays ability to stay competitive in a tough market and a tough division.
But this is not one of those posts. Here’s the message for today: I hate having to churn through talented players who bring real heart and character to the team because we can find someone who can achieve a similar WAR for less money.
But here’s the other message for today: It’s been great having Charlie Freaking Morton on this team. Here’s why:
In his time with the Rays he struck out 10.9 batters per nine innings. His FIP was 2.92.
Even in 2020, a season when he fought back from injury, he had an inning like this:
I don’t even believe in clutch! I understand that clutch isn’t really a thing and yet I STILL believe Charlie Morton was clutch.
Remember the 2019 win-or-go-home Wild Card game against Oakland? Charlie was on the mound:
When the Rays needed a shutdown start in a must-win 2020 ALCS Game 7, they handed the ball to Charlie Morton, who delivered just under six (you know, the quick hook) 2-hit innings to put the Rays in a position to win the pennant.
Charlie Morton was a grown-up, in the best possible way
But wait, Cash pulled him in the fifth inning? When he was pitching so well? I’ll bet he was furious!
No, because Charlie Freaking Morton is thoughtful and mature and a great team player. Here he is discussing that game and his reaction when Cash came to take him out:
Morton gives thoughtful answers to any interview question. He appears to be a great teammate; listen to any interview with a young Rays pitcher and at some point he will credit Charlie Morton with helping him on and off the field. In baseball we talk about “good clubhouse guys.” Well, Morton seems to embody that role and if we needed some image to drive that point home, here he is sweeping up after a Rays clinching victory celebration:
We never really know the guys we see donning our home team uniform every day, but we pick up something about their character. Morton always seemed liked one of those rare people who are supremely confident and focused, but at the same time humble and down-to-earth.
And if all that isn’t enough, Charlie can sing!
I think we can all agree with Eno Sarris:
Apologies if my use of the past tense to describe his pitching sounds a bit macabre.
I’m in mourning for Charlie Morton of the Rays but of course the actual Charlie Morton is alive and well. He was one of the best players on the Rays and represented everything good and fun about this team.
Losing him over a couple million dollars? This is going to hurt for a long time.
• The Rays tried to save a few million and lost Charlie Morton in the process