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Know your JMMA (Detroit Tigers Edition) Nominees: Goodbye Michael Morrison, Hello Kevin Russo

Kevin Russo. American Hero.

Kevin Russo. American Hero.

We’re doubling up today, knocking out the final two profiles of James Mungro Memorial Award nominees in one post. Why? Because in the process of researching Michael Morrison, I realized he needed to go.

Morrison may be the most uninteresting man ever nominated for the James Mungro Memorial Award sponsored by (sponsor pending). He doesn’t have a Wikipedia, the only indication that he exists in the world of baseball is his Baseball Reference page, and another Michael Morrison who played in the Major Leagues in the late 1800s pulls up more hits than the current-day one. the only interesting thing Michael Morrison has on the internet is this card on Ebay, going for $2.49. While the mustache is pretty sweet, when combined with a 9.00 ERA after three appearances, this space has no use for the man anymore.

We do have use for Kevin Russo, however. Russo is 28 years old, a 20th-round selection of the Yankees in 2006, and in some ways has already lived out the dream of the James Mungro Memorial Award sponsored by (no sponsor yet). He’s battled through his low draft position and climbed the rungs of the minor leagues. In 2010, he found himself at Yankee Stadium much to the surprise of everyone, even his college coach at Baylor, Steve Smith and probably his own family.

“The thought that he might actually make a contribution in the big leagues for the Yankees? I didn’t see that one coming,” Smith told the Wall Street Journal. 

Russo spent 31 games in the big leagues, batting .184 and driving in four runs. His fallout was swift. In 2011, the Yankees tried to trade him and found zero takers. In a sport where players have been traded for one dollar, a bucket of balls, 10 baseball bats, and a suit, not being traded for anything is embarrassing.

Eventually, the Yankees needed the spot in their organization and designated him for assignment in order make room for Hall of Famer Jess Todd. The Tigers signed him in November. 

On a team that thinks even less of him and owes him zero allegiance, Russo has to claw his way back to where he once was. He has to relive his story all over again. So far, so good. In seven games played he’s hitting .400 with three RBI and a home run.

(I would point out that MLive.com called the homer meaningless, but since the article was written by James Schmehl and he is yet to respond to my multiple emails inquiring about his false information regarding Jose Alvarez, you can’t trust anything he says.)

Russo is probably the highest-performing JMMA nominee so far. Much like Quintin Berry a year ago, he’s holding onto the very outside chance that he could actually make the team. But Quintin Berry didn’t end up winning the award. Russo’s JMMA candidacy comes down to two questions: 1. Can he keep it up? and 2. If you’ve already achieved the JMMA dream for a different team, is it OK to be available to do it again for the team that matters, the one that hands out the award?

I’m not sure about either of them. But I do know that as of 2006, Russo was a brown belt in Tae Kwon Do. That shouldn’t help his candidacy, but it almost certainly does.

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