August 23, 2011
While the other two players on this week's cover — MVP candidates Ryan Braun(notes) and Prince Fielder(notes) — undoubtedly provided the push for the Milwaukee Brewers' first Sports Illustrated front since Rob Deer, it was Nyjer Morgan's(notes) human interest story that allowed him a place in the troika.
Indeed, the majority of Lee Jenkins' cover story is devoted to Morgan, his Tony Plush alterego and the impact both are having on the Brewers' fun-filled quest for their first division title since 1982.
Morgan is an interesting story and his positive contributions on the field gave Jenkins more meat than just a split-personality that GM Doug Melvin says puts the "silly" back into baseball.
Still, if anyone had told us about Morgan's SI cover appearance at this time last year, most of us would have assumed that Tony Plush was about to go on a multi-state bankrobbing spree guaranteed to sell magazines. From incidents with fans to beanbrawling with the Marlins, Morgan's name was laced with controversy during the second half of 2010. As Jenkins writes, Morgan's "only alter ego seemed to be Milton Bradley(notes)" as he clashed with Jim Riggleman and the Washington Nationals brass.
One spring training trade and 77 victories with the Brewers later, Morgan is being mentioned as a possible Brian Wilson(notes)-type catalyst — an unorthodox character that keeps a talented team loose as it goes through the pressure cooker of a postseason run.
That's probably overstating things a bit, though the quick rehabilitation of Morgan's public image is rock-solid proof that a team's chemistry — or at least its collective tolerance of a clubhouse loudmouth — is only as good as its place in the standings.