Grand Slam Derailed Hall Of Fame Career of Retiring Slugger
Kendrys Morales Was Following Up An MVP Season In 2010
World Series hero Howie Kendrick was there on that fateful night, greeting his teammate in the huddle after the walk-off grand slam. All that excitement, and ensuing catastrophe, occurred nearly an entire decade before Kendrick helped the Washington Nationals capture their unlikely first ever Big League championship.
Back in 2010, however, he was the starting shortstop for the Los Angeles Angels, who on May 29 were hosting division rival Seattle. Each team had its ace on the mound, Jared Weaver for the home team and Felix Hernandez for the visitors.
The latter, who would go on to win the Cy Young Award, is one of the few participants that was still active eleven years later. His team ended up losing that quickly paced pitchers' duel, but it was a player on the home team who suffered much worse.
Los Angeles first baseman Kendrys Morales came up in the bottom of the tenth with the bases loaded, facing reliever Brandon League. Even though a mere fly ball to Seattle outfielder Ichiro Suzuki would in all likelihood have brought in the winning run, Morales did much better than that.
He did in fact hit a fly ball, but it soared over the fence and thus way out of reach of Suzuki. The walk off grand slam led to a justifiable celebration, which unfortunately derailed the promising career of the man who hit it.
Morales suffered a broken leg amid the raucous celebration at home plate and, even though he would resume his career, he would never again be the same caliber hitter. At the time of the injury he ranked among the top three in the league in home runs and RBI, while hitting a very impressive .290. He was on pace to top his 34 homers and 108 RBI from the previous season, when he had finished fifth in the race for Most Valuable Player.
Because of the injury during the celebration, Morales missed the rest of that season and all of 2011. When he finally returned in 2012, his power numbers had been reduced by a third and he was limited to the role of designated hitter.
Morales announced his retirement a few days ago, leaving behind him commendable career statistics. During his twelve years in the Big Leagues, he averaged 26 home runs and 88 RBI with a .275 batting average.
As impressive as those numbers are, imagine what they might look like had not he hit that walk off grand slam back in 2009. Instead of saying goodbye to a respected slugger who had a good career, we in all likelihood would be placing him in a discussion for enshrinement in the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown.