Nyjer Morgan and the malice in Miami

Nats-Marlins benches clear.jpgIf you haven’t seen the fight yet,
you can see it here–we will nickname it the malice in Miami. Nyjer Morgan has never been shy of being the center of attention from his military-like salute in the outfield to his alter ego Tony Plush, but last night’s fight capped off an interesting week for the former hockey player–the type of publicity T. Plush isn’t searching for.

Morgan was suspended last Wednesday for seven games because of an incident with a fan in Philadelphia–he appealed the suspension thus being able to play. On Friday, he was picked off of first base in the bottom of the eighth. Willie Harris would hit a home run on the next pitch. On Saturday, he ran into/threw an elbow at the Cardinals’ catcher Bryan Anderson at home plate in the 8th inning despite the fact that there wasn’t even a play at the plate. Needless to say, Morgan missed home plate and cost the Nats a run. He was held out of Sunday’s game because of that play for what Manager Jim Riggleman referred to as an “unprofessional play.”

On Tuesday, in the top of the tenth inning with no score, Morgan plowed over catcher Brett Hayes on a close play at the plate. Morgan was called out. Could he have slid? Yes. Would he have been safe sliding? Maybe, but hindsight is 20-20. Morgan chose not to slide and opted to lower his shoulder to try to knock the ball loose. What would typically just be a footnote in a 1-0 loss became the main story. Collisions at home plate aren’t rare and by no means did this seem like a dirty hit but because of the incident on Saturday the collision on Tuesday was viewed as malicious by the Marlins. The Nats had no problem with the play. The Marlins had a different opinion.

It was expected that the Marlins would retaliate. Marlins pitcher Chris Volstad didn’t throw at Morgan when he led off the game but when Nyjer batted in the fourth with the Marlins leading 14-3, Volstad plunked him with a 92 mph fastball in the ribs. Morgan flipped his bat to the dugout, took off his elbow protector and ran to first base. That’s baseball–it’s a game that polices itself. What would have been a dead issue was quickly reignited when Morgan threw gas on the fire by stealing second base on the next pitch and third base two pitches later. Morgan was out to prove a point and the Marlins believed he was breaking one of the unspoken rules of baseball.

When Morgan returned to the plate in the sixth inning, the Marlins were determined to teach him a lesson. Volstad threw a 91 mph fastball behind Morgan and the rest is history. In a game, where your reputation often becomes the reality, it will be interesting to see what happens to Nyjer Morgan but here are some comments about last night’s event:

Nyjer Morgan in Miami.jpgMorgan on being hit once:

We police it. It was a hard play yesterday. I understand they had to get me back a little bit. It’s part of the game. I’m a hard player. I’m going out there and just playing the game. I guess they took it the wrong way. He hit me the first time, so be it. But he hit two other of our guys? All right, cool. But then he whips another one behind me, we got to go. I’m just sticking up for myself and just defending my teammates. I’m just going out there and doing what I have to do.”

Morgan on being thrown at the second time:

“That was garbage. That’s just bad baseball. It’s only the fourth inning. If they’re going to hold me on, I’m going to roll out. The circumstances were kind of out of whack, but the game was too early. It was only the fourth inning. If it happened again, I’d do it again. It’s one of those things where I’m a hard-nosed player. I’m grimey. And I just wanted to go out there and try to protect myself. I didn’t want to get outside the box. There’s a little bit of controversy surrounding the kid lately. But it’s just one of those things. I’m a solid, hard-nosed player. When I’m out there between the lines, I’m out there to win and I’m out there to play hard, and play hard for this organization.”

Jim Riggleman on Morgan stealing second and third:

“You know, my feeling has always been, if you hit somebody, then you did what you set out to do. You hit him, and now if he decides to run on you, that’s his business. I got no problem with that. We decide when we run. The Florida Marlins will not decide when we run. We will decide when we run. Nobody will decide when we run.”

Ryan Zimmerman:

“We knew he might hit him one time for I guess what they thought was a dirty play yesterday. I’ve known Brett [Hayes] since college. Nobody wants to see anyone get hurt, I don’t think it was a dirty play yesterday. I wouldn’t say it was the cleanest play, but in baseball terms, that’s been done a million times and no one’s said anything. Nyjer doesn’t want to hurt anyone. No one wants to hurt anyone. I guess we thought they might hit him. They hit him once, and that’s fine. But to hit him twice, that was a little … I wouldn’t say that’s the right way to go about things. Even to hit him once is questionable. But to hit him twice? I don’t know.”

Third basemen Wes Helms:

“I cannot stand when a guy shows somebody up. There’s no place in baseball for that. You’re going to get what’s coming to you if you do that. Tonight, we had to show him that we weren’t going to put up with the way he was treating us after last night.”

“I can’t really say anything good about a guy that doesn’t play the game the right way and doesn’t play for the integrity of the game. I know he’s stealing bases out of his own doing, he’s trying to get back at us. That’s the only reason we went after him the second time. If he wouldn’t have stole the bases, I think it would have been over with, but since he stole the bases it kind of pumped us up a little more.”

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