While attending a fantasy football draft, I missed the melee from last night. But certainly I was not surprised to hear that Nyjer Morgan was in the middle of it. Borrowing from an email conversation between friends Jamos and Droopy this morning, here’s some point by point thoughts on all of Morgan’s various transgressions lately.
1) Nyjer shouldn’t have gotten into it with the Phillies fans. (isn’t anything involving the words “tauning” and “Philadelphia sports fans” always going to end in disaster?). Fans are antagonizers, and drunken late-inning fans close to the field who are purposely talking to the players are only looking for a reaction.
2) Nyjer was wrong to give the shoulder bump to the Cardinals catcher. Agree; Nyjer wrong to hit the St Louis catcher, but that’s a Washington-St Louis issue and i’m sure it will come up next year if Morgan is still on the team (big “if” here; see later)
3) Nyjer needs to keep his trap shut to the Media when asked about batting 8th and being sat by his manager. Riggleman is old school and rightly sat Morgan so he wouldn’t get a ball in his ear from Wainwright after the questionable behaviors the previous night. As for batting eighth … well Nyjer, when you have an OPS+ of 72 and a puny OBP of only .317 on the season, you can’t really complain when you’re put in the 8th spot can you? How about you perform to your 2009 levels (OPS+ of 121, .396 OBP) and let your bat do the talking?
4) Nyjer should have slid into home against the Marlins, but you can’t fault him for what he did. As Riggleman was quoted in the post-game, it is incredibly hard to 2nd guess sliding versus body blocking at home plate. You’re trying to get a read on the catcher’s body language and his positioning as you’re racing down the base-path to try to score the winning run. You’re certainly NOT saying to yourself, “Hey I really want to hit this guy how can I do it?” Nyjer made the decision that a collision was going to give him the best chance to score the run. Riggleman supported him there. It certainly wasn’t nearly as questionable a play as the Utley-Flores incident that essentially took out Flores for a season and a half. The fact that Florida’s catcher suffered a season-ending injury is tough though, which led to the next point.
5) I don’t fault the Marlins for throwing at him—however, you’ve got to do it in his FIRST at-bat. You don’t wait until the fourth inning when you’re up 14-3 or whatever to throw at him. Florida could not have been more obvious about what they were doing. The SECOND time you throw at a player? That pitcher and coach should be fined and suspended.
6) I don’t think Morgan’s stealing falls into the realm of baseball’s “Unwritten Rules.” Yes, it was a blowout at the time, but the Marlins had their closer in the game in the 8th inning, as Zimmerman pointed out. And by the way, the whole “you don’t steal when you’re up by 10 runs” never applies to the LOSING team. Whoever said that Morgan was showing them up was just looking to stir up trouble.
7) Lastly, I’m ok with Nyjer rushing the mound after getting a ball thrown behind him in his third at-bat. Agree wholeheartedly; the first time you get hit is payback. The 2nd time is an attempt to damage a player’s career. I’d support the charging of the mound and if i’m a vet on the Nats i’m going out there for blood.
Noooooow. All that being said.
Nyjer Morgan’s performance this year, his lapses in judgment in the field and on the base-paths, and certainly his severe lapses in judgment in the past two weeks says to me that his usefulness to this franchise has reached an endpoint. Rizzo has gone out of his way to rid the team of clubhouse lawyers, cancers, non-hustlers and problem children. I think a 2011 outfield of Willingham, Bernadina, Morse with Maxwell as a backup is quite serviceable for the short term (without considering any FA pickups, which are a possibility in the OF in the off season). Perhaps by 2012 we’ll have Michael Burgess or (hold your breath) Bryce Harper ready to take the field. Perhaps the Nats go after someone like Jayson Werth and keep Morse as a super-sub. In any case, the only reason to hang on to Morgan right now is if Rizzo was saving face and holding on to one of the key members of the 4-player deal with Pittsburgh.