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Center of attention for wrong reasons

Sep 11, 2010, 3:37 AM EDT


Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Nyjer Morgan went 1-for-3 but was caught stealing at an inopportune moment.

Another day in NatsTown, another day dominated by news about Nyjer Morgan.

If you've lost track — and who could blame you if you have? — we're now in Week 3 of "As Nyjer Morgan Turns," and there doesn't appear to be any conclusion to this soap opera in sight.

To be fair, Morgan had little to do with the outcome of tonight's 3-1 loss to the Marlins. This was a game decided by the Nationals' lack of offensive competency against Florida's Alex Sanabia, who has now faced the Nats three times since the All-Star break and has now shut them out twice.

But that's really all there is to say about this game. John Lannan wasn't particularly bad nor was he particularly good, but he was charged with the loss nonetheless. Danny Espinosa made a couple of nice plays in the field. So did Adam Dunn.

At the end of the night, though, the primary subject of discussion was the same guy who was the primary subject of discussion earlier in the afternoon. And the same guy who has been the primary subject ofRead more »

  1. Section 222 - Sep 11, 2010 at 3:48 AM

    Thanks for telling it like it is Mark. Just before you posted this I commented on your last post as follows: "The most pathetic things is that Riggs defended Nyjer in the post-game interview. He can't control him, and he won't even call him on bad baseball. Nyjer and his ego rule this team. What a joke." Maybe Pudge or Zim can put a stop to Nyjer's self-centered antics because Riggleman sure isn't going to.

  2. N. Cognito - Sep 11, 2010 at 3:50 AM

    My guess: Too many pucks to the head.

  3. David Lint - Sep 11, 2010 at 4:20 AM

    Best article you've written since starting the website.I used to be mad about things like these… now I'm just apathetic. It appears the team doesn't care what Nyjer does… they just excuse it away.I hope Rizzo doesn't feel the same, but I fear he does.If Jim can't stop Nyjer from playing his game… I do hope Mike has the power to stop Jim from managing the team.

  4. Ariasln26 - Sep 11, 2010 at 4:39 AM

    Wow. Couldn't disagree more.1) Yes Nyjer had little to do with the outcome of this game. It's not his fault everyone else can't seem to figure out their pitcher.2) Anyone else gets thrown out in that situation and it wouldn't have been the focal point of this article.3) He didn't hurt his team because of point #1, it had little to do with the outcome. And in fact, I think that had he stolen that base he would have put more pressure on the Stinkin' Fish. The catcher could have pretty easily thrown that ball away and Nyj would have ended up at 3rd, and maybe the pitcher would have gotten nervous and walked Lannan (which he did later in the game) and maybe Espinosa would have taken advantage of this and gotten a clutch hit (which he almost did right after Lannan did walk).4) Yes, Brad Davis, he should be trying to "put it to" you. Because no one else seems to be trying hard enough. What's our record against this clowns the last couple of years? It's pretty bad. and what are we supposed to do, just keep rolling over and play dead? No, Nyjer plays his game and tries to make things happen. Just because he's hitting 8th doesn't mean he shouldn't play his game like Riggs said. He is amongst the leaders in the league in steals. Yes he gets thrown out a lot, but when he makes it he makes it things happen, which is his game.5) And again, no one else was doing jack against that team tonight. And it happens much too often. That's why I support Nyjer. Because he tries. It may not be the most conventional way all the time, but this team is running out of excuses as to why we have yet to have a decent record since '05. Try harder.6) Asking the rest of the season to be vanilla and just talk about the what ifs, I don't think so. Let's talk about bringing aggressiveness and making bold moves. That kid that stole home for Colorado on Thursday, if he was out and his team lost it would have been bad. But he made it and they won. Bold move. 7) And if you think Riggs is not righting the ship here then let's bring back Frank and then Nyjer won't have to take on all this criticism because Frank will take it instead. And if not Nyjer then some hard-a*s manager that makes things happen. 8) The story was not Nyjer on Friday night. The story was that we can't buy a win from the Fish and the Orioles up the road are catching up to our record. Which is really embarrassing considering the way they started the year. 9) At least Nyjer brings excitement during another lame season.

  5. Ariasln26 - Sep 11, 2010 at 4:41 AM

    Wow. Couldn't disagree more.1) Yes Nyjer had little to do with the outcome of this game. It's not his fault everyone else can't seem to figure out their pitcher.2) Anyone else gets thrown out in that situation and it wouldn't have been the focal point of this article.3) He didn't hurt his team because of point #1, it had little to do with the outcome. And in fact, I think that had he stolen that base he would have put more pressure on the Stinkin' Fish. The catcher could have pretty easily thrown that ball away and Nyj would have ended up at 3rd, and maybe the pitcher would have gotten nervous and walked Lannan (which he did later in the game) and maybe Espinosa would have taken advantage of this and gotten a clutch hit (which he almost did right after Lannan did walk).4) Yes, Brad Davis, he should be trying to "put it to" you. Because no one else seems to be trying hard enough. What's our record against this clowns the last couple of years? It's pretty bad. and what are we supposed to do, just keep rolling over and play dead? No, Nyjer plays his game and tries to make things happen. Just because he's hitting 8th doesn't mean he shouldn't play his game like Riggs said. He is amongst the leaders in the league in steals. Yes he gets thrown out a lot, but when he makes it he makes it things happen, which is his game.5) And again, no one else was doing jack against that team tonight. And it happens much too often. That's why I support Nyjer. Because he tries. It may not be the most conventional way all the time, but this team is running out of excuses as to why we have yet to have a decent record since '05. Try harder.6) Asking the rest of the season to be vanilla and just talk about the what ifs, I don't think so. Let's talk about bringing aggressiveness and making bold moves. That kid that stole home for Colorado on Thursday, if he was out and his team lost it would have been bad. But he made it and they won. Bold move.7) And if you think Riggs is not righting the ship here then let's bring back Frank and then Nyjer won't have to take on all this criticism because Frank will take it instead. And if not Nyjer then some hard-a*s manager that makes things happen.8) The story was not Nyjer on Friday night. The story was that we can't buy a win from the Fish and the Orioles up the road are catching up to our record. Which is really embarrassing considering the way they started the year.9) At least Nyjer brings excitement during another lame season.

  6. Ariasln26 - Sep 11, 2010 at 4:46 AM

    Correction on #7, last sentence: And if not Frank then some other hard-a*s manager that makes things happen.

  7. Ariasln26 - Sep 11, 2010 at 4:50 AM

    And sorry for the double post. Boy that was long!

  8. HHover - Sep 11, 2010 at 5:36 AM

    AriasIn26To reply to a few of your points.2. Mark's post (did you read it?) isn't about a single play. It's about a pattern of behavior. Somebody else making that bone-headed play would get criticized for it, but wouldn't merit a post about a pattern of behavior unless there was one. And I can't think of a single other Nat who has a track record of such bone-headedness.5. It's not enough to try hard; Morgan has to try smart. I'm not sure if he's actually incapable of doing that, but he certainly doesn't seem interesting in trying.6 & 9. Since when is it vanilla or unexciting to see skilled professionals play the game right? You want boldness and excitement? Riggs should send a midget up to bat or play a dancing bear in CF. And for what it's worth, I agree that Riggs' post-game quote is at least as damning of himself as of Nyjer. "I can't take that away from him"?! Sure you can–it's called managing.

  9. Natman - Sep 11, 2010 at 6:04 AM

    @Ariasln,Winning teams don't have unchecked aggressiveness. Your post is ridiculous on its face.1.) Everyone is responsible for the loss. Maybe not the bench but those that play the game hold responsibility.2.) When a player is getting thrown out, he is reducing the run potential of the whole team. Especially because with Lannan and his .103 carer avg, the Nationals are giving an out for the next inning, which is reducing their ability to possibly get a run in that inning. (Easier to score runs with zero outs as opposed to one out.) It's an inning killer with effects till the end of the game because the pitcher's spot has to come up one person sooner each time.3.) If if's and but's were candy and nuts, we'd all have a Merry Christmas. His mistake cost the Nat's potential offense.4.) Personal vendettas don't win games. And personal desires don't win games. Baseball is a team game.5.) The 'effort' argument. I don't know about you, but I think a lot of players are giving good effort. The difference is that they don't make glaringly odd plays and become the focus of the team. 6.) I'd rather the Nats be vanilla and win games then aggressive and lose games. Morgan's CS cost the Nats runs, which cost the Nats games. Who cares if it is 'fun' to watch a 2/3 chance that he'll swipe a bag? Let me repeat this fact, when Nyjer gets on (which is 3 out of 10 times he comes up to bat) he has a likelihood of stealing a bag only 2/3 of the time. So let's say Morgan runs every time he gets on base, 1 time out of 3 he is thrown out. It is as if he has never been on base. Think of it this way; that is like reducing his OBP a full 100 points since his OBP is .319! Luckily, he's not always running and his base running 'only' cost his "OBP" 30 points. 7.) Frank Robinson is underrated. 8.) The story was Morgan. Your story can be the Orioles if you want. 9.) I'd rather the team win.

  10. Anonymous - Sep 11, 2010 at 6:15 AM

    I agree that Riggleman can and should have told Morgan not to run in that situation. Having said that, once it happened, perhaps he just didn't want to criticize Morgan in the press (given how poorly Morgan reacted to such criticism recently). Of course, this approach may damage Riggleman's stature with the rest of the team (and most fans).

  11. Anonymous - Sep 11, 2010 at 6:18 AM

    >>>2) Anyone else gets thrown out in that situation and it wouldn't have been the focal point of this article.<<<No one else would have attempted to steal in that situation.

  12. Pedro G. - Sep 11, 2010 at 11:09 AM

    Um, Bisenius looked good.Bye Nook Morgan.

  13. Golfersal - Sep 11, 2010 at 11:42 AM

    @Ariasln,Wow. Couldn't disagree with you more.Who runs the team, Morgan or Riggleman?I have to say in this case it's a very easy decision that Riggleman shouldn't be our manager anymore, if he is letting the Nyjer Morgan's of the world to make crappy decisions then that is the reason that the team is going to lose 95 games this year.Going to the game tonight and tomorrow and you can be assured that I will be looking for Rizzo in the stairways/hallways of Nats Stadium to express my opinion as a season ticket holder that pays $9,300 for two seats that on October 4th he needs to not only get rid of Nyjer Morgan but Riggleman. We need a manager that is on top of everything and making the tough decisions. I don't care if he has demoted a guy for bad hitting, I don't care if it's not the makeup of a player not to run, Riggleman has to me the guy making these decisions, not anyone else.I am getting pissed off at all the excuses he is making for crappy, boneheaded playing, Riggleman has to go

  14. JayB - Sep 11, 2010 at 12:04 PM

    Really Mark…..when did you come to this conclusion……Riggleman is ineffective manager and Morgan hurts the team…..check back to June posts and you will see tons of fans including me beat you to this story but hey better late than never like the MASN crowd who all are just shilling for Stan at this point.

  15. raymitten - Sep 11, 2010 at 12:07 PM

    What an excellent article Mark. This puts everything about Nyjer Morgan's embarassing nutjob antics in context. I couldn't agree more with everything you've written.

  16. natscan reduxit - Sep 11, 2010 at 12:09 PM

    "… the Nationals, who at this point have to just want the Nyjer saga to go away."… but surely Mark, you don't suggest the Nats want Nyjer to go away? Surely they want him in, rather than out of, the game. N'est pas?Go Nats! … and keep your ear plugs in!

  17. Anonymous - Sep 11, 2010 at 12:10 PM

    Quite frankly, I was more upset about Pudge not moving Morse over to third after his lead off double. Another ground out to short. It didn't even look like Pudge was trying to hit behind the runner. That's fundamental, team baseball, and Pudge looked to be more interested in hit #3000.

  18. natscan reduxit - Sep 11, 2010 at 12:17 PM

    .. so let me get this straight. Nyjer M. goes into a slump and responds with visible frustration, and the rest of the baseball world cries for his head on a platter. Adam D. goes into a slump and responds with a silent shoulder shrug, and the rest of the baseball world cries to bring him back next year since he's such a pro. … what's wrong with this picture?Let's go Nats! Just you and me!

  19. natscan reduxit - Sep 11, 2010 at 12:23 PM

    " … all we're talking and writing about is Nyjer Morgan."… well Mark, you're the man with the pen and notepad. Stop writing about him. We're mere fans and readers with a comments box where we can vent. There's nothing in the 'Wretched Scribe Manual' that says writers must focus on fans' interests. Rather writesr must focus on what they see before them; must be leaders, not followers.

  20. Richard - Sep 11, 2010 at 12:23 PM

    With all due respect to Njyer Morgan's mom, AriasIn26, and in keeping with the opera theme, Morgan is a huge prima donna, the most selfish I've ever watched, and not too bright, either. But, alas, there's nothing to be done. That's our Nyjer. He has to do his thing. It's his team.

  21. JayB - Sep 11, 2010 at 12:30 PM

    Richard nails it….the follow up question from Mark of someone other than MASN clearly, would be…."Jim, why is Morgans, needs being put above the teams needs. Your response clearly indicates you feel his place in the order, his ego is being put above the need to win games and play good fundamental baseball, is that how you really feel?"

  22. NatsJack in Florida - Sep 11, 2010 at 12:35 PM

    I'm fed up with Nyjer and Rigglemans lame comments enabling him. Rizzo has to step in and end this now. There are too many things positive in nature about the direction of this club to be constantly misdirected to discussions of Nyjer Morgan

  23. natscan reduxit - Sep 11, 2010 at 12:37 PM

    … the Marlins have the Nats number. That's the current common wisdom among fans: the Fish handle the Gnats with gay abandon, never even breaking a sweat.… I think it's much deeper than that. To me, and I'm willing to be corrected but only by someone who knows for sure I'm wrong, the Marlins take their lead from their devilish owner, Jeffrey Loria, and make it a divine duty to beat the Nationals, who of course were once the Expos, jettisoned by the aforementioned Jeffrey Loria.… and I have other conspiracy theories to discuss, if anyone is interested.

  24. Golfersal - Sep 11, 2010 at 12:39 PM

    Boy I can now see why the Nats are such losers.With fans like the last five posts, we don't have a chance.Mark just wrote the story of the year to explain a big, big problem and you guys are ripping him???For all you nut cases it's not about Nyjer Morgan in a slump. It's not about getting on Adam Dunn's case for a slump. This is all about bad baseball and making the right choices and that is the problem with Nyjer, he has played some incredibly bad baseball and showing bad decisions.Last night was a perfect example, you don't run when there is two outs and your pitcher is up.Again Nyjer showed bad judgement in that and the fact that he just wanted to showup the Marlins. It's not about what is best for the team, it's what is best for Nyjer Morgan to show how great he is.Get rid of this cancer that is on the team and while your at it, get rid of Riggleman for allowing this to get out of hand. It's become a know fact that Riggleman must not know much about Baseball if he is putting up with this Nyjer crap.Mark keep up the good work and don't worry about those dummies that really don't know much about baseball.

  25. JayB - Sep 11, 2010 at 12:51 PM

    My only problem with Mark on this on,e and it is small compared to MASN, is he is so very late tot he party on these issues of Morgan's harm to the team and Riggs lame leadership and lack of honestly or worse I fell, his lack of focus on winning a game. You only have 1 for sure and 2 or 3 times tops when your leadoff hitter comes up with no outs……that is what you had designed as your best chance to score runs….Riggs is a fool if he had no problem with Morgan taking one of those best chances away.

  26. rmoore446 - Sep 11, 2010 at 12:51 PM

    Njyer Morgan: Gots to go. You can't teach a knucklehead not to be a knucklehead. The good he does on the field is undone by his stupid, selfish play. Great article Mark!

  27. Doc - Sep 11, 2010 at 1:08 PM

    Lots of heat generated here, maybe even some light. That's the central purpose of this blog, and the subsequent commenters' opinions.We're all fans, and a really good article by Mark helped to fuel our responses. The bottom line is that if this team were winning the way it was supposed to be, Nyjer's behavior would go mostly unrecorded. For me, that was a central point in Mark's artile.Nyjer might have been a catalyst in the way Ariasin 26 has suggested, but the game probabilities were against such an outcome. One out yeah, 2 outs and the pitcher at bat, no. Nobody likes to see a pitcher leading off an inning.I'm really past blaming Morgan for his inadequacies, irrationalities, etc. The problem, from my perspective at least, is lack of management. It's fine to be a players' manager. But most times you have to be a manager's manager. I hate to see the Orioles quoted, but Buck Showalter has demonstrated how a manager can fulfill both roles. Something I thought Riggleman was doing last year.

  28. Anonymous - Sep 11, 2010 at 1:13 PM

    Morgan is allowed to play stupid baseball – day in and day out all year long. Teams that play stupid baseball will never amount to anything. Morgan's the poster boy for the low standards that the Nats represent. That's why this matters. No important consequences – reduced playing time – for hurting the team by playing stupid. Where's the management? Where's the clubhouse culture? On what other team would playing stupid be considered "his game – I can't take that away from him?" So yeah, the Nats stunk last night and Morgan's play wasn't critical in the final score, but the season is long and there are thousands and thousands of plays. Teams with low standards of acceptable performance will never win. Like the Nats right now. Mark is on the money.

  29. Bzl. - Sep 11, 2010 at 1:43 PM

    Say, if by some miracle, we are in The Hunt next year. What are the odds that Nyjer doesn't blow at least 1 game down the stretch with some idiocy?

  30. Anonymous - Sep 11, 2010 at 2:37 PM

    I see the problem clearly now: Nyjer is a kleptomaniac. Maybe some intense therapy or medication can help him.

  31. Anonymous - Sep 11, 2010 at 2:49 PM

    AriasIn26–Absolutely agree with you. Riggleman sets the tone on this club. Accept losing with grace.Nyjer Morgan is the only player showing any fire on this club. Caught stealing and being picked off is a symptom of being aggressive. It's leaning forward and the equivalent of blitzing in baseball. Sometimes you get burned.But if you want "a spark" on offense you have to expect to get burned. Nyjer Morgan sticks out on a club that is cool, dispassionate, analytical and remote– a club that "showers it off" and moves on. He will do much better and be a lot happier on a club that throws chairs around the clubhouse after losses and refuses to go quietly into the second division. A club that valued aggression instead of frowning upon it, and its consequences, would likely be a winner. Winning erases all problems, particularly quirky personality problems. If only Nyjer had a brain. If only the Nats had a heart. Where is the wizard?

  32. David - Sep 11, 2010 at 2:50 PM

    Great column Mark! Smart baseball beats aggressive baseball over a 162 game schedule. Baseball is a game of odds putting yourself in the correct situation at the right time. Some players play for themselves they know what is right for them, baseball however is a team sport the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. Some teams can win just on talent most teams need to be smart and play as a team to succeed. When a player puts himself before the team the team usually suffers only superstar athletes can get away with that type of behavior.

  33. CapPeterson - Sep 11, 2010 at 3:01 PM

    Coming late to this party, but was at the game last night (definitely not a party) and catching up now. Great article, Mark. Huge blunder on the part of everybody from Stan Kasten on down to have allowed the last part of the season to have become the Nyjer Morgan Show. Can only wonder what the effect on the clubhouse is when they hear their manager defending and acquiescing in Nyjer's bad decisions. Riggleman and Rizzo can't have it both ways: you can't say that he's a "young" player, still learning the game, and then give him carte blanche to do what he wants, as if he's a 21st-century Rickey Henderson. Yes, this situation may (or may not) be cleared up in the offseason, but why make us suffer til then?Also wonder how other players going into free agency are viewing the Nats as a potential destination in 2011. Remember back in May when Roy Oswalt allowed as he'd be open to the possibility of coming to Washington? Them's were the days.

  34. Mark L - Sep 11, 2010 at 4:20 PM

    Great stuff, Mark, as usual.The breakeven point on stealing bases is 71%. If you can't reach that number, you shouldn't be running. Morgan hasn't even been close.

  35. Slidell - Sep 11, 2010 at 4:56 PM

    It has been said here and elsewhere that the difference between a good manager and a bad manager is 4 or 5 wins over the course of a year. I wonder if the Showalter experience up the road might cause anyone to re-think that notion? Could it be giving Rizzo or SranK some ideas? I have been a fan of Riggs, but many strange lineups and his overall handling of the Nyjer soap opera is wearing on me.

  36. Anonymous - Sep 11, 2010 at 5:34 PM

    Golfersal wrote at 7:42 AM: "as a season ticket holder that pays $9,300 for two seats."You're nuts, dude!A) Who has that much free time to attend 81 games?B) Who has that much money to blow on entertainment?You're a sucker!And you call the Nats "such losers." Look who's blowing nearly $10,000 a year to see the "losers!"

  37. Anonymous - Sep 11, 2010 at 5:52 PM

    Obviously the media have a ready-made storyline in Nyjer Morgan, which is the only explanation for why he is the first topic of this article. The fact that the journalist admits "Morgan had little to do with the outcome of tonight's 3-1 loss to the Marlins," just proves the point that, were we interested in the game of baseball, this would've merited a single graf. The only reason Morgan was the "subject of discussion" after the game was that subjects of discussion are created by the ones asking the questions, who of course ask the questions because it fits a storyline. I myself have been wondering WHY this is such an overwhelming storyline at the moment, and it strikes me that Morgan's struggles in the game this year primed him for criticism. Nonetheless, the only one of his incidents for which he seems blameworthy is the first incident with the Cardinals catcher; so why does he take such disproportionate heat for the others? I think we can find it in the way these stories are written. There is something very unsavory in the tone of the discussion of Nyjer Morgan, probably going back to before the brawl with the Marlins, but certainly evident in this authors writings (as well as others; the WaPo beat writer calls him a "thug") at that time. I write this from the perspective of someone who has been very disappointed in Morgan this year, and who wishes he had been replaced much earlier in the season- for baseball reasons. Hopefully someday soon we can gain some perspective on how Morgan's failings are a really small part of the problem with our beloved, but very sorry, team.

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