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2016 Phillies Exit Interview: Adam Morgan

Adam Morgan: The Dark Knight

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Final 2016 line: 2-11, (23 G (21 GS), 6.03 ERA, 113.1 IP, 29 BB, 95 SO, 37.1 GB%

Watching Adam Morgan pitch in 2016 was a terribly difficult thing to do. He averaged about five innings per start, taxing a bullpen that didn’t need extra exposure. Those innings in which he did pitch weren’t especially effective, as you can see from the basic line above.

However, as I digest his season and all of the circumstances that engulfed him and the Phillies’ pitching situation as a whole, I came to a quiet determination that I never realized before:

Adam Morgan is Batman.

Yes, it is true, our very own soft-tossing southpaw is in fact the one and only Dark Knight. Mets fans have been misled. Matt Harvey can try as best he can, but nobody embodies the Caped Crusader quite like Morgan.

How do I know this?

Let me start by setting the mood and have you watch this video. If you’ve seen Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece "The Dark Knight", it should be nothing new to you.

While this speech at the end of the movie might be laying it on a little thick (I can imagine Gordon’s son looking at him and Googling retirement communities at the same time), every time ol’ Jim spouts forth another line, it makes me think, "Holy cow, that’s Adam Morgan!" Not convinced? Let’s go through this, Fire Joe Morgan-style.

Batman: " ‘You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villian.’ "

Morgan was one of the top rated prospects in the Phillies’ system as recently as 2013. After a shoulder injury and subsequent surgery that not only cost him developmental time but velocity as well, Morgan has pitched to the tune of a 5.37 ERA in a shade under 200 major league innings. He could have gone away from baseball after the surgery and been looked at as another topic in the "What if?" chapter of the history of Phillies’ books. You know this type of chapter. Players who got injured and we look back on them as being better than what they actually were. Bring up the names Pulsipher, Wilson and Isringhausen to a Mets fan, and they’ll undoubtedly shake their head, wondering what could have been had they fulfilled their promise in blue pinstripes.

Instead of falling into that abyss, Morgan chose to soldier on and pitch, following through with Harvey Dent’s prediction. This year, Morgan became a villain.

Sadly, Morgan will probably fall into the dustbin labeled "TINSTAAPP" when judged by those looking back at his career - something all too common with some of the top prospects in the game whose arms just can’t handle the rigorous nature of being a professional pitcher.

Batman: "I’m whatever Gotham needs me to be."

Think about those Phillies pitchers who were (at some point) starters this season, and where they all ended up.

Aaron Nola - season ending injury
Charlie Morton - season ending injury
Vince Velasquez - innings limit reached
Jerad Eickhoff - healthy!
Jeremy Hellickson - healthy!
Jake Thompson - innings limit reached
Alec Asher - suspension
Zach Eflin - season ending injury
Phil Klein - person pulled from stands to pitch multiple times

The team ended the season with only two of its projected rotation members making it through the season healthy and with many of its other arms compromised in some fashion. In order to complete a 162 game schedule, the team frequently dipped into its wealth of available options to make starts. Even those chosen, however, came with limitations, so they desperately needed someone who could step up each time someone was required to go on that fifth day.

Enter Adam Morgan.

While he wasn’t much on the bump, there he was at the end of the season, bravely shouldering the burden of having to pitch for a team that was just trying to play out the string. Did he do it well? Obviously not. Yet there is something to be said about having an arm healthy enough to consistently go out and pitch at a time when players are going down left and right.

Gordon’s son: Why is he running, Dad?
Gordon: Because we have to chase him.
Gordon’s son: He didn’t do anything wrong.
Gordon: Because he’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So, we’ll hunt him, because he can take it. Because he’s not our hero. He’s a silent guardian. A watchful protector. A Dark Knight.

Philadelphia fans are tough. There is no denying this. They are not fans of consistent losing, and cannot tolerate someone who is clearly unsuited for the task at hand. Keep running a pitcher out there who most people know is ineffective, and they’ll question the manager’s sanity. Keep running a pitcher out there that has an ERA near 6, and fans will boo mercilessly.

It’s not Morgan’s fault he kept having to pitch. As I stated before, the team needed arms in September and his was one of the few remaining healthy options left. When the Braves came to town in late September in what would be his final 2016 start, he had to pitch - there was virtually no one left.

So, fans booed him. They booed him when he gave up nine runs in that final start. They booed him when he registered his 11th loss. They booed. And what did Morgan do?

He took it.

Now I’m not trying to make you feel sorry for him. Most people read sentences like that and say, "He’s getting paid millions of dollars to play a game! He deserves it!" Fair enough. But don’t blame him for having to continue throwing. He was not the one who was always jotting his name on the lineup card. We all know that had Morgan been on a team with even the slightest bit of playoff aspirations, he wouldn’t have been near a major league mound. But the team needed him, and he gave exactly what they needed in the end.

Adam Morgan probably will not be a Phillie much longer. As more (and better) options become available with minor league promotions and free agent additions, he’ll be gently ushered out the door. But when looking back on 2016, just remember: Morgan was what this team needed to make it through the season. He’s our Dark Knight.

Fun Facts with Adam Morgan

So as not to end on a dour note, here’s some fun facts about Morgan’s season with the Phillies, courtesy of the greatest search engine ever, the Baseball Reference Play Index:

  • Usually, when someone is having as bad a season as Morgan had, they don’t pitch much. With the Phillies’ rotation being short-handed, Morgan was forced to pitch. In fact, he’s one of only 8 pitchers in team history to have an ERA above 6, throw 100 more innings and make 20 starts.
  • One aspect of Morgan’s that is not talked about too much is his control. He’s one of just a select few pitchers in history to have a BB/9 as low as he did (2.3) and register an ERA as poor as his (6.04).

See, it wasn’t all bad.....