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Flaming Mo'

When it came time to sit for my last ever yearbook photo, I went for the "Bill Gates, if he were the bass player for Mudhoney" look. Your secret shame might have left you looking like a 17-year old member of Warrant or Kajagoogoo. The exact style doesn't matter. The haircuts seemed like a good idea at the time, but ended up making us look like idiots.

If you didn't have a bad high school haircut, maybe you're just naturally prescient. Maybe you know in advance what will make you look like an idiot, and what won't. Maybe you were one of the geniuses who was against the Matt Morris signing from the start. I liked the signing from the start. That's starting to look like the equivalent of a haircut so bad, even Rod Beck would laugh at it.

It's early, still. Maybe he'll stumble upon the same lost and found that Jason Schmidt and Armando Benitez did, and reclaim a couple of feet on his fastball. Maybe his problems are command issues, and just temporary. Three paragraphs in, and the maybes are breaking down the door. Maybe it's time to stop hoping for good things from Morris. A good fastball doesn't have to crack 90 MPH but a straight fastball should, and that's a red flag beyond sample size concerns.

A disturbing parallel comes to mind when I watch Morris pitch. Here's a loose chronology of how another Giants pitcher fell from grace, and the similarities are hard for me to ignore:

  1. The quality of the fastball suffered a sharp decline, which required a pitching strategy best described as passive nibbling.
  2. The walks went up, and the strikeouts went down.
  3. The hits kept coming.
  4. The walks went up, and strikeouts went away completely.
  5. It stopped being fun to watch a Giants game when this pitcher was on the mound.
  6. I think you can get arrested for something called passive nibbling in some of the Southern states. Florida, maybe.
Kirk Rueter has been the name popping into my head during the last few Morris starts. Morris is anything but a strikeout pitcher these days, but his totals through May might have been a single-season record for Rueter, so this isn't to make a direct comparison. They're two different pitchers with two distinct styles. It's the wholesale stomach acid delivery service that links them together. The loud contact against Morris is expected now, just as it was for Rueter. The walks that are given up seem to be given up out of fear, and not mechanical hiccups. It isn't easy to look forward to a Morris start, just as it wasn't for Rueter.

We're talking about 59 innings, it helps to remember. It isn't quite time to start chewing an arm off, trying to slip out of bed unnoticed. Some of Morris' problem innings have come after uncharacteristically stupid pitching; walking the leadoff hitter or an opposing pitcher, and the like. His control was almost supernatural last year, and that was one of the reasons for my preseason optimism. That control could come back and bring some quality starts with it. Yesterday wasn't so bad, for example. One walk, four strikeouts, and a few hard-hit balls. It came against a bunch of AAA talent, sure, but it wasn't a wholly depressing outing.

Right now, though, it looks like Morris plans on leaving the Giants with a Baseball Reference similarity score that returns "feathered mullet" as the closest match. I'm appropriately frightened, but feel as if I've left enough wishy-washy endorsements up there to cover my backside in case he turns it around. It's easy to forget how important and wonderful it would be to have a Morris that pitched as well as he did at the start of last season. I'm not holding my breath, but I'm not ready to start shoveling dirt on him yet, either.