OK, so here’s one you don’t see every day. Today in the Angels/Mariners game in Anaheim, Angels first baseman Kendry Morales hit a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the 10th to win the game 5-1 for L.A.
Morales, who’s quietly become one of the best players in the American League, was doing what every single player in the big leagues would do. He saw his teammates in a mob at the plate, ready for him to make the big leap into the pile to celebrate the winning runs.
And then the happy mob of Angels players had the shortest celebration in recent memory.
Morales appeared to land on a teammate’s foot, and he landed very awkwardly. He had to be carted off the field and X-rays later revealed a “fracture of the lower left leg.” He literally broke his leg celebrating a walk-off hit. A grand slam, to boot.
Now it appears the Angels will be without their star first baseman for quite some time. In one trip around the bases, Morales goes from a walk-off to a cart-off.
Could this be the death of the walk-off mob at home plate? Certainly it would have to be scaled down, at least in the Angels case, effective immediately.
“It’ll change the way we celebrate,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “It sure was exciting, but you always wonder if it’s an accident waiting to happen.”
For the Angels, they lose their leading hitter in AVG, HR and RBI. Losing your leader in the triple crown categories is bad enough, but Morales is also one of the better defense first basemen in the game.
In his breakout season last year, Morales led all major league first basemen in UZR, and was second in the majors in UZR/150 to the Twins’ Justin Morneau. For the first two months of this season, he was second in the AL and third overall in UZR. So the Angels aren’t just losing their best hitter, they’re also losing one of the game’s best defenders.
Apparently, it may not be a quick stay on the DL, either. Early reports are that Morales might miss the rest of the season and will have surgery tomorrow.
As bad as it is for the Angels, could this have ramifications across baseball in regards to the way teams celebrate walk-off home runs?
As Scioscia said, managers always wonder when something like that is going to happen. Morales is not the first player to get injured celebrating a walk-off. But the walk-off home run specifically is the only time a player hops high into the air and comes down on home plate so violently like that.
When a team scores a walk-off win on anything other than a home run, the team comes out to celebrate but the run has already scored and, for the most part, no one gets injured because of the lack of the home run leap into the plate.
That’s not to say it doesn’t happen, but it’s still relatively rare. I wouldn’t be surprised to see teams taking it easy on those dog piles at the plate, though, regardless of the type of hit. I also wouldn’t expect to see too many guys going “Air McCutchen” too often anymore either.
A freak injury may have cost the Angels one of their best players for the season, and it may have cost baseball fans around the globe the chance to see any more spur-of-the-moment, adrenaline-filled, crazy celebrations on walk-off homers. It’s a shame, considering how unlikely the odds a player can get so seriously injured on a freak incident like that.
But you’d have to think that every general manager in the majors will be talking to their respective teams and coaches about taking it easy. No one wants to see an injury like this ever happen again. Meanwhile, the Angels are still three games under .500, struggling to keep afloat in a winnable division.