In four different incidents, Morgan has exchanged hostilities of varying intensity with nearly every opponent the Nats encountered. Like the pint-sized, foul-mouthed shortstop from the great baseball film, Morgan seemingly wants to take on the entire
seventh grade league.
• He was benched by Jim Riggleman on Sunday for unnecessarily running over St. Louis catcher Bryan Anderson(notes) on Saturday. Morgan responded to his manager's chiding by calling it "very unacceptable" and saying he had been fooled into thinking that Anderson had the ball.
• On Tuesday night, Morgan drew the ire of the Florida Marlins by running over one of their catchers in a play at the plate that has been deemed by them to be dirty, dumb, or both.
• On Wednesday, a video of Morgan possibly cursing out a Marlins fan surfaced on the DC Sports Bog.
• Finally — at least we hope so, for his sake — Morgan mixed it up with the Marlins in a bench-clearing brawl on Wednesday night that featured actual fighting — a rarity in the majors — along with enough flying punches, clotheslines and post-fight posturing to satisfy the pro wrestling crowd.
Honestly, it looked like something straight out of Mortal Kombat.
Morgan, by at least one account, is an eccentric guy. And, even though he comes from a background in junior hockey, he doesn't have a reputation for violence.
[Photos: See images of the Nationals' bad boy]
Yet, recent events have the world wondering: What the heck is going on, Nyjer?
Morgan, a speedy 6-foot-nothing stringbean, charged the mound in the sixth inning after 6-foot-8 right-hander Chris Volstad(notes) (hey, the first All-Answer Man fight!) threw a pitch behind him at belt level. In Morgan's previous at-bat in the fourth, Volstad drilled him in the hip, after which Morgan promptly stole second base and third.
The game before, the Marlins took exception to Morgan barreling over catcher Brett Hayes(notes) — putting him out for the season, probably, with a separated left shoulder — on a play at the plate. The Marlins also didn't like Morgan attempting to steal bases with his team down 11 runs.
"I thought it was over after (the fourth inning), but once I saw the ball go right behind me, it's time to go (fight)," Morgan said. "Once is good enough, but twice, no, it's time to go."
The scrape included a lefthanded superman punch of Volstad by Morgan, a blindside clothesline of Morgan by Gaby Sanchez(notes), a coach (Pat Listach of the Nationals) getting in a couple of licks on Volstad, and both managers barking at each other. If you weren't on the bottom of the pile or a guy who's opposed to all fighting in baseball, it was at least as entertaining as a WWE matchup.
"There's nothing good I can say about someone (Morgan) who doesn't play the game the right way and doesn't respect the integrity of the game," Helms said. "We had to show we weren’t going to put up with how he was treating us."
Morgan's disdain didn't end after connecting with Volstad's kisser. As a coach escorted him off the field, Morgan — his arms raised and his mouth moving — seemed to be reveling in his role of the heel at Sun Life Stadium.
From the Washington Post:
"There's bit a little bit of controversy surrounding the kid lately," Morgan said. "But it's just one of 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."
The Marlins seem to think — and some agree — that Morgan running over Hayes was at least unnecessary, if not dirty. But if you look at the replay objectively, it's easy to see how Morgan would think he'd be tagged out by Hayes. In a scoreless tie in the 10th inning, having to make a snap judgment, running over the catcher is just baseball.
The Fish were also apparently upset that Morgan stole two bases in the fourth inning when the Nationals were down by 11. As Kris Liakos of Walkoff Walk saracastically notes, it must have been "Stupid Old Man Baseball Code Opposite Day," so there's plenty of blame to place on the Marlins if you're able to see both sides.
Still, make no mistake: The biggest loser on Wednesday night (and all this week) was Morgan, who is now seeing his public persona go from the happpy-go-lucky eccentric outfielder with the alternate "Tony Plush" personality to someone who's now being mentioned in the same sentences as Milton Bradley(notes).
Indeed, the reaction has been swift with Keith Olbermann already painting Morgan as a ticking time bomb with a "serious and blossoming anger management issue" who would benefit by being suspended for the rest of the season.
Meanwhile, one of the Marlins announcers responded to the fight this way:
"The guy has some serious problems. If Major League Baseball doesn't do something about Nyjer Morgan, then they're coming up short."
There's no denying that Morgan will receive a hefty suspension for his Little Mac mound charge on Wednesday night. And there's also no denying that he needs a little break to escape what is probably the worst week anyone has had in baseball this year.
He'll be getting both and maybe he'll use them to right himself from the tilt that he's on.
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