Associated Press photo
Michael Morse clubbed his 30th homer of the season last night.
And why shouldn't he have? Morse had every reason in the world to be beaming at that moment. Not only because his three-run homer gave the Nationals a 6-4 lead over the Marlins and kept their hopes alive for a winning record in 2011. But also because the blast solidified what we already knew was a fantastic season for one of baseball's biggest breakout players.
That was Morse's 30th home runs of the year, a number that in the post-steroids era represents the demarcation between the game's best power hitters and the rest of the bunch. There are 20 players in the majors this season with 30 homers (five others are sitting on 29 right now and could join the group by tomorrow) and Morse is one of them.
But it doesn't stop there. Only 15 of those players also have at least 90 RBI this season (Morse now has 94).
But it doesn't stop there. Only eight of those players also own a batting average of at least .300. The members of the .300-30-90 group: Jose Bautista, Matt Kemp, Albert Pujols, Ryan Braun, Jacoby Ellsbury, Paul Konerko, Troy Tulowitzki ... and Michael Morse. That's some elite company, especially for a D.C.-based player.
Morse is only the fourth Nats player to hit 30 homers in a season, joining Alfonso Soriano (2006), Ryan Zimmerman (2009) and Adam Dunn (2009-10). None of those other guys managed to hit .300 during the same season they hit 30 homers.
In fact, only one player who ever wore a Washington uniform in 77 previous seasons of D.C. baseball hit .300 with 30 or more homers: Roy Sievers of the 1957 Senators (who hit 42 with a .301 average and finished third in the AL MVP vote).
If Morse, who raised his average to .303 with that clutch homer last night, can avoid going 0-for-7 (or 1-for-10) over these final two days, he'll join Sievers in that ultra-exclusive club.
This, of course, seems to be the year for breaking down baseball barriers that haven't been touched in decades in Washington. Last night's win ensured the Nationals will finish third in the NL East this season, their highest finish since coming to town.
But do you know when the last time a D.C.-based ballclub finished in third place or better? You have to go all the way back to 1945, when manager Ossie Bluege's Senators went 87-67 to finish a mere 1 1/2 games behind the Tigers for the American League pennant.
And, as we all know, if the Nats can pull off two more victories in Florida before heading home for the winter, they'll complete the franchise's first winning season since arriving in D.C. The last Washington team with a winning record? Ted Williams' 1969 Senators, who went 86-76 to finish fourth out of six teams in the AL East.