Nyjer Morgan professes to be a 30-year old professional baseball player. Acquired last June along with Sean Burnett for the dismal Joel Hanrahan and the oft-confused Lastings Milledge, Morgan became an instant spark for the Nats' running game, amassing 24 steals and hitting .351 for the majors' worst team. Morgan's has continued to put up solid numbers on the base path this season despite injuries and changing roles in the Nats' ever evolving outfield.
So on paper, Morgan looks like a guy who could add spark to the lineup for the Nationals, a team who continues to struggle to find an identify. Yet this morning, Morgan reached another accomplishment that most players don't achieve unless they reach a career milestone, win a World Series, or make an astounding play. His Robin Ventura-style charging of the Marlins' Chris Volstad, followed by the beatdown he took from Marlins' 1B Gabby Sanchez, was featured as a 'top story' on NBC's Today Show. Well done, Tony Plush.
The Nats' have certainly had their share of problem players, and have typically sought to set an example by disciplining players publicly or shipping them off (i.e. Elijah Dukes and Lastings Milledge). Yet such problems typically encompassed off-the-field personal troubles or squabbles with teammates or management. T.Plush's story is different, as he is embarrassing the team on the field seemingly every time he is in the lineup of late.
Morgan is currently awaiting MLB's decision on a pending 7 game suspension, handed down to him after he threw a ball into the stands and beaned an unsuspecting fan in the head on August 25th at Philadelphia. I'm guessing that, given T.Plush's recent acts, that suspension will be upheld, and even lengthened given last night's events.
Then came Morgan's hard charge into Cardinals catcher Bryan Anderson in Saturday's game at Nats Park. Having seen that gone down live, it was almost like Morgan was purposefully trying not to score, but instead channeling his hockey persona (Morgan played in Major Juniors before committing to baseball). Then came a similar collision on Tuesday with Marlins C Brett Hayes, a play in which Morgan certainly could have scored. Instead he charged hard into Hayes, separating his shoulder and ending his season early.
Then came Wednesday. The Marlins, up 14-3 at the time, hit Morgan with a pitch in the top of the 4th inning. Morgan then proceeds to steal two bases. In the 6th Volstad threw behind Morgan, leading into a bench clearing melee that made morning news not just on sports outlets, but on regular media as well.
While the Marlins probably shouldn't have thrown at Morgan a second time (the first should have been sufficient retaliation for his actions on Tuesday), why would a guy facing current suspension on unrelated actions would continue to draw attention to himself by going out on the field and exhibiting a style of play that is arguably less professional than what we might see in a Little League game.
It will be interesting how things play out with Morgan's situation from a disciplinary viewpoint, but even more interesting how the Nats themselves deal with this from a personnel stance. My viewpoint? Shut him down, contemplate your moves, try to salvage something, and make something more of your outfield in 2011. Having a speedster like Morgan is no question an asset, but his recent actions show him as a monstrous liability.
Oh, and one has to wonder what Rob Dibble's thoughts are on all of this...