30 Players in 30 Days: Nyjer Morgan
Nyjer Morgan was finally getting comfortable at the plate. After struggling in May and June, Morgan turned the corner at the end of June–right about the same time he started to heat up in 2009 when he was acquired by the Nationals from the Pirates. From June 29 to August 22, Morgan was the player that made him an instant fan favorite in Washington. He batted .300 (39-for-130) with nine RBI, 15 stolen bases and a .348 OBP. He was the hard-nosed, 100 percent effort ballplayer that made a difference with his glove and on the base paths. But right as Morgan was playing his best baseball of the season, there were a series of unfortunate events that unfolded in a 10 day span. It was a strange week to say the least. Any of the events looked at alone were rather minor, but each incident was magnified due to the proximity of the previous episode.
Here is a recap:
· Morgan was suspended on August 25, for seven games because of an incident with a fan in Philadelphia–he appealed the suspension and continued to play.
· On August 27, 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 August 28, Morgan was moved to eighth in the lineup. In the eighth inning, he barreled into the Cardinals’ catcher Bryan Anderson at home plate despite the fact that there wasn’t even a play at the plate. Morgan actually missed home plate and cost the Nats a run.
· He was held out of the game on August 29 because of that play for what Manager Jim Riggleman referred to as an “unprofessional play.”
· On August 30, Morgan expressed his displeasure with Riggleman for publicly criticizing him. “He just basically did a cardinal sin,” Morgan said. “You don’t blast your player in the papers.”
· On August 31, in the top of the tenth inning in a scoreless game against the Marlins, Morgan plowed over catcher Brett Hayes on a close play at the plate.
· On September 1, as expected, the Marlins retaliated. Marlins pitcher Chris Volstad didn’t throw at Morgan when he led off the game. It was a little surprising he wasn’t hit in the first inning but when Morgan batted in the fourth inning 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 and Morgan knew it was coming–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. 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, once again. On his next at-bat, Volstad threw a 91 mph fastball behind Morgan. He charged the mound, igniting a brawl that could have qualified for a pay-per-view event.
· He was suspended eight games for the fight, and for those counting at home, it increased his total suspension to 15 games. He appealed both suspensions and the League eventually threw-out the seven game suspension from Philadelphia. On September 17, he began serving his eight game suspension for what was dubbed “The Malice in Miami.”
Now, it is just water under the bridge and Riggleman and Morgan have settled their differences but it was a contentious time for the two of them. “Let’s just say we weren’t double dating at the time,” Riggleman said.
It was that kind of season for Morgan: it was a fight from the beginning to the end–figuratively and unfortunately, literally. So what is next for Nyjer Morgan? For as bad as it was at times for him this season, he proved in 2009–be it just a few months with the Nationals–that he can be a solid leadoff hitter and create havoc on the base paths. Morgan plans on doing that in 2011.