March 27, 2011
Nyjer Morgan(notes) ruffled some feathers in the Washington Nationals organization a couple of days ago by saying he didn't think the nation's capital was a fit for him anymore and that he might be better off moving elsewhere.
Management and players alike apparently didn't like this, even though Morgan had been all but officially beaten out in center field by a Rick Ankiel(notes)-Jerry Hairston, Jr. platoon and was surely on the trading block.
But if Morgan wasn't happy about being a reserve in D.C., Milwaukee may not present a better situation for him. The Brewers already have an incumbent center fielder in Carlos Gomez(notes), who was assured by manager Ron Roenicke and GM Doug Melvin that the job is still his. However, Melvin had expressed concern publicly about the depth behind Gomez if he suffered an injury.
Did Melvin have any worries about acquiring a player with a reputation as a hothead? Last August, Morgan threw a ball at a fan in Philadelphia. That got him a seven-game suspension. Morgan appealed the penalty, which gave him the opportunity to release some simmering frustration.
Days later, Morgan ran over St. Louis Cardinals catcher Bryan Anderson(notes). Nats manager Jim Riggleman thought that was excessive and benched Morgan. (Grudges over the play lasted into spring training this year, with the two teams getting into an on-field scuffle.)
In the Nats' next series, Morgan plowed over Florida Marlins backstop Brett Hayes(notes), separating his shoulder. Payback came in the following game, when Chris Volstad(notes) plunked Morgan in one at-bat and threw behind him in another. Morgan charged the mound, leading to a team beatdown, highlighted by a Gaby Sanchez(notes) clothesline that would make any pro wrestler clap with approval.
(For more detail on the brawl, 'Duk covered all angles thoroughly after it happened.)
The Nats must have been hoping for less drama from Morgan this season. That may be why the organization was disappointed at his remarks. Perhaps the sentiment in the Nats' clubhouse and front office was that Morgan had lost a fair competition for the job and just needed to accept that result. (Sliding Morgan over to left field wasn't an option, as Michael Morse(notes) played so well this spring that Ankiel was nudged to center field.)
Morgan, however, does get a fresh start in Milwaukee. Melvin called around to ask about Morgan, and was told that he can be temperamental, but not in the clubhouse. Catcher Wil Nieves(notes), a former teammate in Washington, says Morgan's reputation is deceiving. And the proverbial change of scenery should do him some good, as well.
"I think he's going to like being on a team with a good chance to be in the playoffs, and I think we have some veteran guys here who will be good for him," Nieves said. "I love him. If he can control that intensity a little bit, he's going to be a perfect fit for this organization."
Maybe Nieves is just making sure he doesn't get run over during pre-game drills.
Or he may be pushing for the return of Tony Plush.