Results tagged ‘ Nyjer Morgan ’
brief preface: my name is John Dever and I have the pleasure of being the PR
Director for your Nationals. With the assistance of Mike Gazda and Bill Gluvna,
here are a few vignettes and observations gathered from around camp today:
* Many folks have drawn parallels between the careers of Jayson Werth and
Michael Morse. Both are listed as 6-foot-5 and possess wiry strength that is
not a given with long-armed players. How does the 29-year-old Morse stay fit?
He trains for the NFL Combine. Almost literally. He trains at the Bommarito
Performance Systems facility in Miami with a bunch of Miami Hurricane NFL draft
prospects. Lots of running, lots of lifting. Those of you who have stood next
to Morse know that he could pass as an outside linebacker or tight end. He
might weigh 25 pounds less than those guys, but my guess is that he did not
embarrass himself in those workouts.
* We wrote yesterday about the Nationals’ three-shortstop defense (Desmond,
Espinosa and Zimmerman all have spent considerable portions of their playing
career playing shortstop). Well, let’s expand on the notion, but in the
outfield. There is a very good chance that you will see a 3-center fielder
alignment this summer in DC. Nyjer Morgan is a center fielder last time I
checked. In right field, we have Jayson Werth, who many believe could do a fine
job patrolling CF on a daily basis, if given the opportunity. Meanwhile, Roger
Bernadina, Rick Ankiel and Michael Morse are vying for playing time in left
field. Bernadina and Ankiel have extensive experience in center field. So the underlying
point is, the potential of an Ankiel/Bernadina-Morgan-Werth alignment in the
outfield will severely shrink the gaps and make our pitching staff that much
better. Oh, and we still have a 13-time Gold Glover behind the plate. If you
like defense, I have a feeling we have just what you are looking for.
* Congrats to Chien-Ming Wang, who ran the mile in 6:58, tops among 28 pitchers
to be timed this week. Wang, who stands 6-foot-4, is a big guy, so it is pretty
impressive that he was able to turn in a sub-seven-minute mile. Other
noteworthy times turned in came from Cole Kimball (6:59), Jason Marquis (7:00),
Josh Wilke (7:07), Adam Carr (7:26) and John Lannan (7:30). By the way,
in my estimation, these guys ran a tad further than a mile, as they did four
laps around the warning track of a Big League field. There is ample foul
territory too. I have always thought that a lap around the average Big League
field is a bit longer than a run around a 1/4-mile track.
* Transaction News today: RHP Luis Atilano cleared waivers and was assigned
outright to Triple-A Syracuse. Atilano will now report immediately to the
Nationals’ Big League camp.
* I asked Stephen Strasburg what he did with the ball from his lone hit last
season, a June 23 single off the Royals’ Brian Banister. The back story was not
legendary, he still has the ball at his house, but Strasburg did perk up a bit
and smile at the memory. There was irony in the hit’s location too, as it was a
well-hit grounder through the 5.5 hole, which is primarily where Tony Gwynn
made a living and earned a spot in Cooperstown. Gwynn was of course Strasburg’s
head coach at San Diego State.
* Danny Espinosa had his hook of hamate bone removed from his right hand around
Thanksgiving. Don’t look for this injury to hinder Espinosa, who says his grip
strength in the right hand is already stronger than it was last season, when he
was one of three Minor Leaguers to reach the 20-homer, 20-stolen base plateau.
I can assure you that Espinosa would pass any “handshake” test. So, don’t be
worried about his hamate bone affecting his offense in 2011 or beyond.
* Let’s launch a new feature called Four Questions with _______. Our intent
here is to introduce you to a player you might not know too much about. So,
Ryan Zimmerman and John Lannan will likely be spared. Today’s initial
victim subject is
RHP Cole Kimball (who is the Nationals’ No. 7 prospect per Baseball America
entering the 2011 season).
Favorite Team/Player as a Youth?: Yankees, Don Mattingly
Favorite Game Show of all-time?: Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
Favorite Superhero?: Spider-Man
Most apt to watch CNN, Food Network or Travel Channel (and list favorite
show)?: None. I do watch the Discovery Channel a lot. Favorite show is “Deadliest
* LOTS of fog this morning, but it burned off around 9 a.m. and it set the
stage for another beautiful day. According to weather.com,
here are the highs we can expect this week (Mon-80, Tue-77, Wed-72, Thu-75,
Fri-76, Sat-76, Sun-77). No rain between now and Thursday! If you are not here,
you are missing out. Enough said.
We interrupt your regularly scheduled Curly W Live programming to bring you some insights from Manager Jim Riggleman on the signing of Jayson Werth and the state of the rest of the roster. Keep checking back for more musings from Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner throughout the week.
JIM RIGGLEMAN: Actually when I got here, I knew that we had made this trade. Mike and I talked a lot about players like Jayson and others, and you know, I knew who Mike had his sights on. You know, we had expressed it thoughts on a lot of players, but you know, it was very much under the radar, kept quiet, and so I basically found out when I got here.
Q. How does it feel for the first time in your career to have money to spend on players?
JIM RIGGLEMAN: I don’t know if it’s the first time. I felt that I’ve been fortunate to manage in places and owners have always been generous in trying to put the best players we can out there.
Sometimes your ownership group is trying to get players, and the players don’t take the money. You know, you offer good money and they find something else somewhere. But you know, in this case, I think it’s very encouraging, not only with Jayson, but with Bryce Harper and the commitment to Ryan Zimmerman a few years ago; I think that there’s a history here of trying to go out through the ballclub, whether it’s through trades, free agents, whatever, but there’s a great commitment to player development.
I think this is a great sign for the organization and our fans that the ballclub is serious about having a better future for this organization.
Q. You talk about messages, in terms of the money that you’re paying Jayson says that you believe we can be a middle of the lineup, superstar‑caliber player. In Philadelphia, he had other bats around him. Do you feel he can be that kind of guy?
JIM RIGGLEMAN: I don’t think that ‑‑ we are not really approaching it as, okay, you have to be the centerpiece of this organization. You know, we just feel like he’s a very good player that has done some great things in Philadelphia.
And you’re right, he’s around a lot of good players, but we can put players around him. We still have Ryan Zimmerman there and we have Willingham there and we have a first baseman that will drive in runs one way or another. He’s not going to feel that he’s alone there in the lineup.
His athleticism and his talent, he’s surrounded by other good athletes, and you know, we just want to play baseball. We are not looking for him to come in redefine his numbers. If he does what he’s done in the past, that’s a great thing and if he does a little more, a little less, it’s still going to be a great thing, because he’s really done some great things last few years.
Q. Have you had a chance to talk to him at all?
JIM RIGGLEMAN: I have not talked to him yet, no.
Q. Assuming you get a first baseman, your outfield looks a little crowded; do you feel like there are enough at‑bats for everyone there and do you feel that you have an excess there and maybe need to make a move to open spots for other guys?
JIM RIGGLEMAN: You know, I think we want to have about five guys there, and if you add up what we have got there now, that’s about what we have. Will something else happen? Yeah, it might happen. There might be another acquisition, might be a trade that clears it up. We really are early into not just the Winter Meetings, but we are still early into the off‑season. A lot of things can still happen. I’m not sure how it will shake out exactly. But you know, we just try to divvy up the at‑bats as best we can and keep guys as productive as we can.
Q. Would you feel comfortable with the infield now, or do you feel like you need another utility‑type guy for insurance or just to have another body?
JIM RIGGLEMAN: I think maybe in a perfect world, maybe is that player will be able to do a little bit of both, move around. In the National League, it’s nice to have guys who can go in the infield and outfield and have a guy or two like that. So that might be something to look at.
No, I’m very happy with Gonzalez, Espinosa, Desmond right now.
Q. Is your first impulse, where to bat Jayson; the Phillies were reluctant to bat him in the 3‑hole, he batted 5 and sometimes in the 2‑hole. What are your thoughts of him and Zimmerman and how you might do that?
JIM RIGGLEMAN: I think it depends on who plays first base and where that person hits and what kind of protection that person can give for either Ryan or Jayson.
My recollection is there were times where Howard and Utley were both hurt at the same time and Jayson did fill that spot in the middle pretty good at third or fourth and productive. If that is where he is at, that will be fine.
I think what happens, if Willingham is out there, he’s good protection for Ryan. If it’s a left‑hand hitting first baseman, it might be protection there in that way.
Q. How important is it to you to acquire the kind of bench guys, that can play infield, outfield, that have more versatility from multiple guys to give you options late in the game, and was that a problem last year?
JIM RIGGLEMAN: No, it really wasn’t a problem. I don’t ‑‑ again, I think we might have put Gonzalez out there a couple of innings one time, at least we talked about it.
I think Gonzalez could do that. But you know, Willy could do that last year, he could go in the infield or outfield last year. It just so happens we had so many infielders, we didn’t use him in the infield very much.
It’s comforting to know, as the game plays out, and you have to do certain things in the game, the way the lineups turn over, that you have somebody that can fill a lot of different roles.
It’s nice to know that Jayson is a very comparable center fielder as well as right fielder. We are getting more athletic, is what it amounts to. We are getting a little more versatile, a little more athletic.
Q. Is Nyjer your center fielder or is it a competition between him and Roger going into the spring?
JIM RIGGLEMAN: I think Nyjer is our center fielder. I think Bernie played his best baseball defensively in left, did okay in right, did fine in center but I thought he really excelled in left field.
You know, Josh is out there, so Bernie is going to be fighting for at‑bats.
Q. You mentioned left‑handed hitting first baseman provides protection; how much does Pena fit that bill?
JIM RIGGLEMAN: We are like a lot of teams. We like Carlos Pena. We really liked Adam Dunn. Adam Dunn did a great job for us and we appreciate everything he did. We made what we feel is a good offer to Adam and Adam and his agent did a great job; they got a better deal. But that left‑handed bat there was nice to have, and you know, we feel like Carlos is a guy who can do that. There’s three or four other names, you know, that can do it.
Whatever comes up, I’m sure it’s going to be a good option.
Q. A lot of people were surprised that Jayson got as much money as he did. What’s your reaction to that? Were you in on the dollars? Did you have any idea?
JIM RIGGLEMAN: No, I’m not in on that. But the thing is, the money, you know, when you’re managing, the players play. The money doesn’t play. You put a ballplayer out there. You don’t put the money out there.
You know, one of our brightest spots on our team last year was a minimum‑salary guy in Ian Desmond. We had great things out of our higher‑paid players, also.
You know, when you’re managing the players, you just feel fortunate to have them and you don’t look at how much money they make and judge it. You just evaluate the talent that you have, and sometimes the guys that don’t make much money play good and sometimes the guys that make a lot of money have a down year.
You just try to make the best acquisitions that you can and have the best player development that you can have feeding your big league club and hopefully it all comes to fruition.
Q. Did you have a chance to watch Bryce Harper in the Fall League?
JIM RIGGLEMAN: I only saw him in the instructional league, very impressive. Bryce, he’s met every challenge. He met the challenge of going into college early; the challenge of playing in the instructional league and in the Fall League as a young guy. He’s met every challenge tremendously. He’s fit in well with his teammates. He’s done everything that could be asked of him, and you know, he’s just on a time frame of, go play baseball and sooner or later, he’s going to be in the big leagues.
Q. In Spring Training, what is sort of the plan, just in terms of ‑‑ does he get a locker in the big league clubhouse or is he a Minor League guy?
JIM RIGGLEMAN: You kind of forget. He’s on the 40‑man roster, so he’s in the big league ‑‑ in that case, he’ll be there.
He’ll get a lot of attention, I’m sure, just as Stephen Strasburg did last year. But he’ll be in big league camp and get some at‑bats. If the at‑bats look like they are starting to get too infrequent, we will get him down to Minor League camp where he’s pitching every day.
Q. But he’ll get at‑bats in the big league exhibitions?
JIM RIGGLEMAN: Yeah, we’ll get him some at‑bats.
Q. Can you talk about Stephen, how is he progressing?
JIM RIGGLEMAN: You know, my understanding is he’s doing very well, but the process is what it is. It’s a 12‑ to 18‑month process, and each goal that he tries to reach with his rehab, he’s meeting those goals. We anticipate it’s going to be 12 to 18 months just like originally said.
Q. If you guys are not able to get that big name pitcher that might still be out there, how comfortable are you with what you have in your rotation at the moment? Is it set in stone already, are there spots up for grabs or how would you look at that?
JIM RIGGLEMAN: Our rotation, there’s 5‑ to seven starters there right now that Mike wanted to add somebody to it. But that’s very difficult to do. And Mike’s made great efforts to do it. As I said, there’s been one or two guys who were offered nice contracts that they got something somewhere else and stayed where they were at originally or whatever.
So it’s been difficult to add a quality starter. So as Mike continues to look for that and that opportunity to add there, we are really focusing on some bullpen stuff. We feel like our bullpen did a good job last year but maybe we can strengthen our strength.
Q. What would that look like, adding another guy who could fill a specific role or a closer?
JIM RIGGLEMAN: I don’t think we would add a closer. I think as Mike has indicated, ideally we would get somebody who maybe has had some experience in the ninth inning but not necessarily a classic closer. Those guys are just not going to show up.
So I think with Clifford and Storen and Burnett, we have got guys there that are not intimidated by the ninth inning, but if we can add another guy or two, that is also comfortable pitching in the 7th; that on a given day, needs to pick up the slack and go into the ninth for us, and again, he’s not ‑‑ the ninth inning isn’t too big of a situation for him to handle.
Q. Do you see deciding on one of those guys as your closer or is it going to be maybe just all three of them will pitch the ninth inning depending on circumstance?
JIM RIGGLEMAN: In a perfect world, you have a guy who does it, but our guy who we kind of look to do that down the road is Storen and that being the case, we want to allow him to gravitate towards that.
If it happens sooner than later, it’s great, but if he gets some help doing it in the meantime, again, I’ll point to a couple of the best closers, really, didn’t pitch the ninth inning until they were about 25, 26 years old; Mariano Rivera and a few others. They kind of found their way in the seventh and eighth inning for a couple of years and when Wetteland moved on, Mariano took it over and others have done the same thing.
I think that that has proven to be a real good way for a guy to acclimate himself to that ninth inning is to get a little history behind him in the seventh and eighth, and Drew has got a little of that. He’s pitched some in the ninth. But again, we are not going to deny him if he’s clearly that option there, but we are not going to force it to happen, either.
Q. This off‑season, we have seen four managers hired, that have been with teams before. You’ve been through that experience, I wanted to ask you, what is it like to try to get that second, maybe third job, what the process is like?
JIM RIGGLEMAN: Well, you know, these jobs are precious. It’s hard to get a Major League managing job. Just as Terry Collins spoke about that last week. I completely understand what he’s saying. These jobs, Major League coaching jobs, these are precious positions. You work your whole life in baseball once you’re not a player to get into a position to coach and/or manage.
So you know, quite often what happens is you get a job because the ballclub is struggling. The Giants job ain’t going to be open, you know what I mean; Bruce Bochy has got that. There are many capable people who have gotten the opportunity to manage these clubs, and many capable people who have not gotten the opportunity to manage these clubs. When you get the opportunity, you are fortunate to get it. You don’t really reflect on, you know, whether you were lucky or whatever. You just appreciate the opportunity.
Q. As far as getting that second or third opportunity, what was the process like? Was it a matter of staying in touch with general managers?
JIM RIGGLEMAN: No, I never stayed in touch with any general managers. I just stayed in the game. I went from ’99 to really middle of ’08, and never spoke to any general managers. I just was working in the game and had various positions in the game and a position to manage arose, and I took it.
It’s not a job you apply for. These things evolve. You don’t ‑‑ people know that ‑‑ we all know each other in the game. Everybody knows what everybody wants to do. But when I was coaching, I really appreciated the opportunity to coach. Again, those are precious positions, and so I felt very fortunate to be coaching. When I got the opportunity to manage, I took it.
Q. If Adam wasn’t signed and went to Chicago, there were stories written that Zimm was upset; has Mike talked to him since?
JIM RIGGLEMAN: I’ve talked to him and we have texted a lot here lately.
My message to Zimm was before Adam left, I hope we get Adam left, but if we don’t, Mike is going to have something there. So when this has happened, with Jayson being there, it’s got be to comforting for Zimm to know that we are not tossing in the towel. But there are going to be other examples between now and Opening Day that Zimm will be encouraged by.
Q. How challenging is it with turnover one year to the next in terms of free agency and trades in terms of how to handle that?
JIM RIGGLEMAN: I think we’ll have four or five guys from our bullpen last year that I have a lot of history with and I know maybe what the limits are that they can go to. When you get new guys there is an adjustment period that you can go through and hopefully figure that out through conversations and through Spring Training and watching them work and how they respond on a second day and how they respond on three out of four days work or something.
Spring Training is a pretty long process in today’s world. By Opening Day, you have a pretty good feel for what a guy can handle.
Q. What improvements would you like to see in Nyjer?
JIM RIGGLEMAN: I think that, basically, the thing that we want Nyjer to do is get on base, a little higher rate, and to be there to be knocked in.
The game is full of statistics, and there’s so many numbers out there. But when it comes to offense, you’re either knocking them in or you’re scoring. The rest of it is a little bit of eyewash.
We want Nyjer to score and to score, he’s got to be on base. We know he can do it. He’s shown he can do it. We just hope that he’s getting on base at a little higher clip, and that’s going to mean a little improvement against left‑handed pitching basically.
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.
If Matt Capps was still here, we would be playing the “Final Countdown.” Since he is not, well, we will be wondering what if there was a song named “The Penultimate Countdown.” As you know it is the penultimate home game at Nationals Park. I don’t know what it is about the word penultimate… but it’s great. At what point did someone get tired of saying “next to last” and started using penultimate–it is efficacy in its purest form. According to dictionary.com, it was around in 1677 and it comes from the earlier noun penultima, “the next to the last syllable of a word or verse,” and from the adjective penultimus.
Last night’s game–or the game before the penultimate game–will eventually be a footnote in the Nationals’ 162 games season but the game will likely be used as a reference point when the team makes it to the playoffs–it may seem like a distant thought right now but it will eventually happen. When that day comes, they will reminisce about how it once was and how drastically it has changed.
I can just imagine the conversation that may (but probably won’t) take place as the players pour celebratory champagne on each other while looking back at how far they have come from their early days in DC, celebrating as if Santa Claus just brought them a bike when they were five.
“Remember when the Phillies clinched the division at Nationals Park back in 2010?”
“When they celebrated on our field and in our ballpark.”
“Not today, baby,” he said as he downs a bottle of champagne.
“How things change.”
That is then but right now the Nats will try to rebound tonight after being shut out by Roy Halladay and the Phillies as they clinched the division in an 8-0 win. It was a forgettable game in many ways for the Nationals.
“Kind of embarrassing,” rookie shortstop Ian Desmond said, “when everyone in the stadium is clapping against you when you’re at home.”
The Phillies are where the Nationals want to be. It is where every team wants to be. The Phillies will send Roy Oswalt to the mound. He is 7-0 with a 1.40 ERA (70.2 IP/ 11ER) with 65 strikeouts since the Nats handed him the loss in his first start in a Phillies uniform on July 30.
“You work your whole year to get to that next level,” Nyjer Morgan said. “The other team gives you motivation so you can try to succeed and get to that level where those guys are at. We just got to put the pieces together.”
“They’ve got a special thing going,” Manager Jim Riggleman said. “They play great baseball. They’re prepared. They pitch. They work hard. They’re professional. For years, to win the division you had to go through Atlanta. Now you have to go through Philadelphia.”
Maybe someday people will say it goes through NatsTown. Crazier things have happened.
Speaking of crazy things: it’s a little crazy to think that Ryan Zimmerman turned 26 today. He just seems a lot older. Happy Birthday!
1. Jimmy Rollins – SS
2. Raul Ibanez – LF
3. Chase Utley – 2B
4. Ryan Howard – 1B
5. Ben Francisco – CF
6. Domonic Brown – RF
7. Greg Dobbs – 3B
8. Brian Schneider – C
9. Roy Oswalt – SP (13-13, 2.80 ERA)
1. Nyjer Morgan – CF
2. Roger Bernadina – LF
3. Ian Desmond – SS
4. Adam Dunn – 1B
5. Michael Morse – RF
6. Danny Espinosa – 2B
7. Ivan Rodriguez – C
8. Alberto Gonzalez – 3B
9. Jason Marquis – SP (2-9, 7.18 ERA)
Marlins-Nats, Round Two. Well, not really. The last time these two teams squared off, they literally squared off. There were six ejections, eight suspensions and one I-got-to-watch-that-one-more-time-fight. The dust has finally settled and there has been eight days to calm the tensions, so players on both team hope the malice in Miami is a thing of the past. It will be interesting to see how things do play out over the course of the weekend. The two teams won’t meet again this season.
The instigator of it all–Nyjer Morgan–is in the lineup, as of now. He had his appeal hearings for his two suspensions this morning, but it is possible that the verdict isn’t reached until after the weekend. It is interesting to note that Morgan is batting eighth. For whatever the reason, it might be strictly based on his production. He is batting .256 with a .316 OBP. He is 2-for-10 batting eighth this season.
1. Emilio Bonifacio – 3B
2. Logan Morrison – LF
3. Hanley Ramirez – SS
4. Dan Uggla – 2B
5. Wes Helms – 3B
6. Mike Stanton – RF
7. Cameron Maybin – RF
8. Brad Davis – C
9. Alex Sanabia – SP (3-2, 4.50 ERA)
1. Danny Espinosa – 2B
2. Ian Desmond – SS
3. Ryan Zimmerman – 3B
4. Adam Dunn – 1B
5. Roger Bernadina – LF
6. Michael Morse – RF
7. Ivan Rodriguez – C
8. Nyjer Morgan – CF
9. John Lannan – SP (7-6, 4.73 ERA)
If 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:
Morgan 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.”
“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.”
Center fielder Nyjer Morgan spent some time prior to today’s game in the PNC Diamond Club, fielding questions for this week’s installment of “Inside Pitch Live.” The following are excerpts from that conversation:
What’s your favorite thing about being here with the Nationals?
NM: The fans. Most definitely the fans. Without the fans, we don’t go out there and give it all that we have to put on the field. The most important thing is the fans, to me.
You sound great with the microphone. Do you have any aspirations to go into broadcasting after you retire?
I’ll wait about that a little bit later (laughing).
Who’s the toughest pitcher you’ve faced and why?
This year, Hudson is pretty solid. But in my eyes, that kid, I think he got put on the DL, [Jorge] de la Rosa–the lefty from Colorado. He’s got electric stuff just like Ubaldo, but he hasn’t really figured it out like Ubaldo yet. But basically he’s pretty nasty.
Did you face Venters from the Braves yet?
Is he pretty tough?
Not as nasty as de la Rosa.
What base is easier to steal?
They say third, but I think second is a lot easier.
What is the hardest thing to do at center field, dive or jump? You seem pretty good at climbing the walls.
Yeah, I like climbing the walls. I don’t like dropping them at the wall (laughing)…
How happy are you that Adam Dunn stays with the Nationals?
Oh, very happy. We need that big guy in our lineup. I’m glad we didn’t trade him. It’s going to be beneficial to us next year as well.
Last night, Nyjer Morgan singled, swiped two bags and scored on an error–all before Cristian Guzman, the second batter of the game, left the batter’s box. The game was indicative of his recent July surge. Morgan is batting .288 this month, an increase of over 30 points from his .252 batting average the rest of the season, while his on-base percentage has increased from .314 to .333 over the same time. He’s been doing his job in center field, too, committing zero errors thus far in July.
But the most notable improvement is Morgan’s baserunning. His 10 stolen bases in July pace the Majors and he’s only been caught once since July 3. He successfully stole 17 bases in the three preceding months combined.
Morgan set a career high and became the first player in Nationals history with three steals in one game last Thursday against the Reds, while recording two hits and a walk. Always one to be assertive, Morgan says he’s trying to change his approach.
“I am just getting good jumps, getting good reads out there,” Morgan said. “I was trying not to really be so aggressive. I’m trying to let it come to me, trying not to do too much. After analyzing after so long, after so many months, I was trying to do a little too much.”
Maybe that’s because it was this time last year that Morgan had a monstrous month also. He posted a batting average of .388, an on-base percentage of .418 and a .495 slugging percentage last July, after starting his first game in a Nationals uniform on July 3. Since then, fans have come to expect the same kind of production every month from the Nationals’ leadoff man. Perhaps Nyjer Morgan expected it of himself too. When it didn’t come to fruition the first few months of this season, questions began to arise. But July is showing a return to form for Morgan.
“Once it clicks, it’s about to go off,” Morgan said. “And I feel like something is about to pop off right now.”
1. Martin Prado – 2B
2. Jason Heyward – RF
3. Chipper Jones – 3B
4. Brian McCann – C
5. Eric Hinske – LF
6. Troy Glaus – 1B
7. Alex Gonzalez – SS
8. Melky Cabrera – CF
9. Tim Hudson – SP (10-5, 2.47 ERA)
1. Nyjer Morgan – CF
2. Adam Kennedy – 2B
3. Ryan Zimmerman – 3B
4. Adam Dunn – 1B
5. Roger Bernadina – RF
6. Ivan Rodriguez – C
7. Willie Harris – LF
8. Ian Desmond – SS
9. Livan Hernandez – SP (7-6, 3.12 ERA)
* With last night’s 3-0 victory over the Braves, the Nationals have won their last five consecutive series openers at Nationals Park.
* Last night, Miguel Batista earned his first win as a starter since May 11, 2008 vs. the Chicago White Sox. He struck out six and allowed three hits in 5.0 shutout innings.
* Josh Willingham has reached base safely via hit or walk in 19 consecutive games. During that stretch, Willingham is hitting .333 (23-for-69) with five doubles, one triple, three home runs, six RBI, 11 walks and a .425 on-base percentage.
With the 6-4 win against the Mets today, the Nationals are 19-15 and 7-3-1 in series play. The Nationals are off to their best start since moving to the District in 2005. Not to mention, Livan Hernandez has a 1.04 ERA and Tyler Clippard has seven victories.
In 2009, the Nationals didn’t win their 19th game until June 18 and seventh series until July 22.
The Nats are a new team. There is a new attitude and it appears to be the beginning of a new era in Nationals baseball. No matter how you choose to say it, the Nationals are winning games and turning heads everywhere they go now. I pulled some quotes from a variety of clips just to prove it.
Manager Jim Riggleman: “It’s going to be a challenge. But we feel like more and more, other clubs are going to be looking at us like, ‘Hey, it’s going to be a challenge to play those guys.’”
Josh Willingham: “When you win a few games like that, you’re able to believe you can win. That’s what we’re doing. We believe in our pitchers. We believe in our hitters. When we’re in games late, we have confidence we’re going to win them this year.”
“Last year, teams just came in and thought it would be an easy series win. That’s not the case this year. You play better baseball, you get respect from people.”
Livan Hernandez: “We play hard. We’re a team. We play the right way, [and] we’re going to win some games.”
Adam Dunn: “We would have lost this game last year. It seems like we’re finding ways to win close games that in the past we would have lost.”
“You’re not waiting for something bad to happen. It seemed like last year, in a lot of situations, the feeling [was], ‘What’s going to happen now? Something bad’s going to happen.’ This year, it’s … the opposite. Something good’s going to happen. We just don’t know when or how.”
Matt Capps: “We’re resilient out there…We’re fighting all the way to the end. Even the games we haven’t come out on top of, we’ve been in situations in the seventh, eighth, ninth innings to win those ballgames… It’s just a matter of putting it together and maybe a thing or two will go our way.”
Nyjer Morgan: “There is no pressure or buildup on what it takes to play the game. We are professionals. Even the young Ian Desmond, he is a professional. Everybody has each other’s back. We are one cohesive unit, man. It basically started as a problem, but Rizzo is getting the right people in here.”
General Mike Rizzo: “In the past, it would have put us in a funk for days. It would have been, ‘We played well, but we lost. Let’s try again tomorrow.’ These guys work harder than I’ve seen during the four-plus years I’ve been here. They were visibly upset that they didn’t win that game. They probably should have won it. They blew the game, but they were going to do something about it. To me that was the most tell-tale sign that we had a different ballclub than we had in the past.”