Morgan’s reality check helps Brewers even NLCS
ST. LOUIS – They long ago learned around the Milwaukee Brewers not to take crazy at his word. So when Nyjer Morgan(notes), the new center fielder from the Washington Nationals, started yelling during card games, screaming about how he was going to beat everybody, nobody kicked over tables or threw up fists. T. Plush or Nyjer Morgan or whatever face baseball’s Sybil wanted to pull on at the moment didn’t much matter as long as it was real.
And under everything else, he was at least that.
“We don’t judge here, man,” Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder(notes) said Thursday night as he actually crawled inside a locker and plopped his 275 pounds on a shelf inside to pull on his socks. “I think we’re all a little bit crazy. I think you have to be kind of crazy if you want to be really good at something.”
This time crazy came here from oblivion, from a second-division career in Washington and Pittsburgh where Morgan’s slides and sprawls and tussles and shouts toward the stands earned him suspensions and scorn. And would the Brewers really be here, two wins from the World Series, without him?
They sat him in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series in part because of the fly balls he didn’t catch in Game 2 and probably in part because he had maybe said too much, that the tweets referring to Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols(notes) as “Alberta” probably did not sit well with a man who has all the humor of a monastery and the last thing Milwaukee needed was to summon any more of Pujols’ ire.
But what they missed with Morgan benched was an inspiration of their own. What they missed was a moment much like that in the fifth inning of Game 4 on Thursday, when leading off he sliced a line drive that smooched the chalk of the left-field line and let him roll into second with a double. And as the boos in Busch Stadium poured down for the villain of this series, he raised his arms, Tony Plush in triumph just like this was some clubhouse card game and the victor was going to let everybody know. The run he would eventually score would be the winner in this 4-2 victory the Brewers needed to even the series.
And in that instant he stood there, arms upraised, eyes glaring at the stands, it was clear to see why the Brewers have taken him in, willing to overlook his transgressions.
“Is there a booklet on how to act?” Fielder asked.
Then the giant first baseman stopped and pondered the idea of just how Morgan does act.
“I think he gets a little misunderstood at times,” he said. “What I’m trying to say is he’s just trying to be himself. He’s not trying to be malicious.”
A few minutes earlier, Morgan had burst into the clubhouse, a backpack draped over his shoulder, and said he wasn’t going to talk about his game or T. Plush or Alberta Pujols or, for that matter, anything. “I got nothing,” he said. And when it wasn’t immediately apparent that nothing meant nothing, he said it again: “I’ve got nothing.” Then he was gone into the night.
“Really?” he said, raising an eyebrow. “I can’t believe he didn’t want to talk. Something must have not been right tonight. He loves this. For him this is like feeding the beast. It’s like putting a quarter in the jukebox and letting it play.”
Hawkins has loved the sizzle Morgan introduced to a clubhouse that was already loose. He loves watching Morgan get on base and run wild while everybody frantically tries to stop him. But he also watches the crazy and sometimes his eyes get a disapproving look and he goes to Morgan and tells him this is not the way to act. Like after the winning hit in extra innings that beat Arizona in the division series that unleashed T. Plush in such a way that no responsible network mindful of the FCC will ever put him on live camera again.
Jacque Jones called Hawkins and told him about the “(Bleep) Yeah” Morgan shouted twice on national TV. A disbelieving Hawkins opened his computer, clicked the video and watched for himself.
“Oh God,” he said. “Oh God.”
What else was there to say?
But how could they live without him right now? Even if his average is only .222 in this series with the lone run so far being the one he scored Thursday night, everything changes inside the clubhouse when he is around. Players talk about “energy” and “enthusiasm.” Something comes to life, they say.
They were in trouble in Game 4. The Brewers were reeling, silenced by Pujols’ bat and the dilemma over walking Pujols or pitching to him. It seemed Pujols had taken this series over. Perhaps he still will. But on a night when the Brewers needed something big, something to get this series back to the home park they love so dearly, there was Nyjer Morgan, flying around first base ready to lift them again.
The clock is ticking on his sudden 15 minutes of fame. Once these playoffs are over T. Plush goes back in the box and Nyjer Morgan might disappear into oblivion all over again.
Yet these two weeks have been like nothing they have ever had in Milwaukee.
Crazy isn’t Nyjer Morgan.
Crazy is not playing him right when the Brewers need him the most.
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