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Is Nyjer Morgan’s time up?

Mar 26, 2011, 2:05 AM EST

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Nyjer Morgan went 1-for-3 with an RBI tonight to raise his average to .241.

VIERA, Fla. — There were plenty of positives to come out of the Nationals' 3-2 victory over the Cardinals tonight. Tom Gorzelanny enjoyed his best outing of the spring, allowing two runs over six innings. Chad Gaudin pitched well in his first relief appearance. Drew Storen dominated through another 1-2-3 ninth, and Jim Riggleman said he'll likely open the season with Storen and Sean Burnett serving as his closing duo.

So at the end of the day, the Nationals got some positive answers about their No. 5 starter, their long reliever and their potential closer. All important developments on March 25.

Yet the biggest issue still swirling around this club six days before its season opener remains the identity of its Opening Day center fielder.

Publicly, the Nationals continue to insist it's a three-way competition between Nyjer Morgan, Rick Ankiel and Roger Bernadina. Privately, all signs point to Ankiel getting the nod. And since Mike Rizzo admittedRead more »

  1. LoveDaNats - Mar 26, 2011 at 2:15 AM

    I'm sad for him. I remember the fire he lit under the Nats when he arrived in 2009. I'll miss him for that but totally agree with the Nats decision if they decide to let him go. it's time.

  2. tha_prophet - Mar 26, 2011 at 2:21 AM

    If anyone, even Morgan, gets sent down, released or traded in order to make room for Matt Stairs, that's a shame.

  3. SilverSpring8 - Mar 26, 2011 at 2:24 AM

    Goodbye, Nyjer, and good riddance.

  4. raymitten - Mar 26, 2011 at 2:39 AM

    He's made his own bed. He's become like Elijah Dukes — his performance isn't worth the trouble. I think he sealed his fate in Jupiter.

  5. Doc - Mar 26, 2011 at 2:48 AM

    His offense was a steady improvement this ST, but it was just ST. I'd say Rizzo made up his mind about waiting for a chance to get rid of Morgan, when Nyj refused to play in the winter leagues.The excitement of 2009 just never happened again. It was a great ride though.

  6. Feel Wood - Mar 26, 2011 at 2:57 AM

    I really don't think they'll release Morgan as long as they have the option of sending him to Syracuse. There's always the chance that he could be traded from there and return at least some value, while if they release him outright they get nothing. Also, while he's in Syracuse he's available for call-up in case of an emergency, say Ankiel getting hurt. He can be brought up and sent back down all season like a yo-yo, thanks to that option. That's worth something, if for no other reason than it might save them having to make some other player move in a pinch that they'd rather not have to make.Morgan now is in the same position Milledge was in 2009, although his stock is actually higher than Milledge's was. Recall that Milledge while in the minors got hurt, was late for his doctor's appointment, etc, while Morgan although not producing this spring has still been a model citizen. No one thought Rizzo could get anything of value for Milledge in 2009, but he did. He could likewise get something for Morgan now, and he has all season to do it thanks to that option.

  7. WhatsaNattaU - Mar 26, 2011 at 3:07 AM

    I hate it when a player opens his mouth and says goodbye prematurely. Ladson quotes him as saying it's time to move on. That does not help the Nats get any value back for him. Maybe there was no value to get, maybe he's hoping for release so he has more control over where he goes. I say option him rather than release.

  8. raymitten - Mar 26, 2011 at 3:09 AM

    Morgan hasn't been a model citizen at spring training in my view. He was surly to fans every day I was there (18 straight games)…except the day the MLB Network cameras were there. He has nearly started two brawls. I agree the Milledge comparison is valid, but not that Morgan has more value now than Milledge did then. I would be surprised if anyone picked him up if released.

  9. Anonymous - Mar 26, 2011 at 3:18 AM

    1) I would not release Morgan, I would keep him Syracuse as insurance, if nothing else.2) I'm not sold at all with having both Stairs and Nix. I guess I consider having a pinch-hitter specialist and a guy who's a career sub with little growth potential to be a luxuries for a sub-500 team. Keep Bernadina and I maybe Stairs or Nix. 3) I'm also not sure the logic of keeping Cora over Gonzales.

  10. Anonymous - Mar 26, 2011 at 3:27 AM

    I agree: goodbye and good riddance. The bad attitude is what does it for me. I wonder if the near-brawl with the Cards (in a spring training game, no less) is what finally did it for Mike Rizzo.

  11. JaneB - Mar 26, 2011 at 3:32 AM

    Tha_prophet is right: keeping Stairs now, instead of any of the bubble guys, isn't right. Time for Matt to transition to coaching. He can really help , both through coaching, and by opening a slot for someone who cam develop into a better player.

  12. Anonymous - Mar 26, 2011 at 4:25 AM

    Tha_prophet is right: keeping Stairs now, instead of any of the bubble guys, isn't right. Time for Matt to transition to coaching. He can really help , both through coaching, and by opening a slot for someone who cam develop into a better player.2) I'm not sold at all with having both Stairs and Nix. I guess I consider having a pinch-hitter specialist and a guy who's a career sub with little growth potential to be a luxuries for a sub-500 team. Keep Bernadina and I maybe Stairs or Nix. Violently agree with the above let me add some fuel to the fire.1. Morgan might have surly but he worked hard and he is a tough competitor.2. Stairs got hit by a hit ball. He was called out. When I was playing high school ball that was enough to get cut. Stairs needs to get cut. NOW.3. Of Ankiel, Nix, Cora and Hairston the only guy I would keep is Cora. WTF, Riggleman? He seems to always need his damned veteran crony's? Both Gonzalez and Bernadina have proven they belong on this team more than Hairston, Cora, Ankiel … only NIx looks interesting. WTF? Are you prejudiced against home grown talent Riggleman? 4. If an overweight, out-of-shape Coffey is kept over Balester, Broderick and Detwiler then what a damned hypocrite will be GM Mike Rizzo.

  13. Golfersal - Mar 26, 2011 at 4:51 AM

    Elijah Dukes last year, Nyjer this year. Just like with Dukes, he wasn't missed I would say the same for Nyjer, he won't be missed.Too bad, we all thought in 2009 that he could be better than average and help this club

  14. Don - Mar 26, 2011 at 5:00 AM

    I know I am in the minority, but I actually am a Nyjer fan. At least I am a fan of the good Nyjer. He always plays hard and he brought a tone of zaniness last year that I thought was endearing. That being said, his passion caused some stupid mistakes that many fans continue to reference. Now, if he had better numbers, I am sure most of you would look over his tantrums…. But the fact is that he doesn't. So, I can't argue with the Nats letting him go. But I will miss Tony Plush wearing the Silver Fox — just wish he put up the numbers to stick around.

  15. nats24 - Mar 26, 2011 at 6:30 AM

    I am not a Nyjer hater, but clearly, the Nats will never be a contending team with him in lead-off.What does you folks make of LaRuusa intentional walking somebody in spring training? Have anybody ever seen that before?

  16. Nattydread - Mar 26, 2011 at 6:30 AM

    When you root for the Nats, by definition you root for the Underdog. So, since day 1 I've been rooting for hockey-brawler-turned-baseball-wannabe Nyjer, warts and all.His chief fault is that he over-achieved for a few short months and raised everyone's expectations, including his own. When he couldn't repeat the 2009 bang-zoom streak, he became bitter and threw a few chairs around. Forgivable, IMHO.His mistake was not to play winter ball. Rizzo likes late bloomers, but even Nyjer knows he is a work in progress at 28. He needed to work on fundamentals (base stealing, bunting, chasing fly balls).For him — and for the 2011 Nats — even extra work in spring training isn't enough. Its a difficult one for Nyjer, but it looks like its not playing out his way. The Nats have better options, which is a good thing.

  17. Joe Seamhead - Mar 26, 2011 at 8:14 AM

    As far as him going to Syracuse, I don't see the benefit for the team having Nyjer taking any innings away from Corey Brown, or any other developing OF's. Like others, I really appreciatted all the improvement that he brought ito the team in 2009, but he just has not come anywhere near to that guy since. It's a shame, but he's done, and it's time to move on.

  18. Will - Mar 26, 2011 at 10:21 AM

    Why any NL team would sign Matt Stairs is beyond me.Why any NL team would consider keeping Laynce "No Upside" Nix instead of Nyjer Morgan is also beyond me. Morgan might be an idiot, but he has the potential to be something that we in desperate need of now: a lead off batter. Nix is just another low-on-base AAAA batter with some pop. A dime a dozen.This is awful roster management on Rizzo's part if any of it comes true.

  19. Rabbit - Mar 26, 2011 at 11:14 AM

    @ Lovedanats:….Well, I sure don't feel "sad" for Morgan. First, I am happy if they let him go. Just getting rid of him with nothing in return will improve the team. But, why feel sad? Players, playing well and if offered a dollar more from another team to play for them, would leave in a heart beat. There is absolutely no loyalty these days. So, why feel sad if he's dumped? Bye bye!!

  20. Another_Sam - Mar 26, 2011 at 11:17 AM

    Morgan can go if it's the difference between winning 90 and winning 95 games. But on this club he's one of two position players who bring some excitement and fun to this fan. I'd hate to see him go. Of course I'm not a GM and I don't even play one on TV.

  21. Anonymous8 - Mar 26, 2011 at 11:57 AM

    I will miss Nyjer's silver Elvis wig. That was his best performance in 2010.

  22. N. Cognito - Mar 26, 2011 at 12:07 PM

    Who to keep. Who to get rid of.We should not focus on the 25-man roster. It's really about a 30-man roster and the Nats need all 30 since the baseball season is a marathon and not a sprint. Because of contract and longevity status, this means a few guys who should be here will be in Syracuse instead. Better to have them in Syracuse, ready to come to DC and help, then to lose them to another team. They will be up. Injuries and trades and even player releases occur during the season.

  23. Tim - Mar 26, 2011 at 12:08 PM

    I think roster moves right now are not only based on performance, but also on attitude. We saw that mid-Spring last year with Dukes, and we know where he's ended up (tragically). Nyger and Gonzo are poisonous to TEAM. The roster moves right now are gonna be based on getting a team together.I AM surprised that we're kpeeping Ankiel over Bernie. Riggs has said over and over that Bernie has superstar potential. I believe that they'll keep Ankiel AND Bernie and find a buyer for Nix. He is a renowned super-sub and teams are looking for that to fill their rosters.Nyger will be poison down in Syracuse, believing he doesn't belong there, and he has already shot it mouth off about his days being numbered. Somebody will pick him up and he'll go 5 for 5 against us with 5 SBs and come crashing into thirdbase, tearing up Zim's knee.

  24. Mark L - Mar 26, 2011 at 12:13 PM

    I appreciate the heads up from the folks there who saw that Morgan had not really changed; all bad attitude and surliness. I didn't know that until today. He's at an age when a lot of players start to decline and his best wasn't nearly all that good.Good riddance.

  25. NatsTime - Mar 26, 2011 at 12:24 PM

    Bernadina may still get the shaft because he's got options and the Nationals may prefer to keep veterans Matt Stairs and Laynce Nix on their bench, but the guy sure does seem to profile as a solid fourth outfielder who can do a lot of different things to help a team.This isn't the good 'ole boys Country Club. Loading this team with comfortable veteran one-dimensional players that contradict the pre-season goal of more athletic players who can make an impact is how they need to choose the bench. Bernadina before Ankiel, Nix, and Stairs.Nyjer Morgan to A ball. He needs to learn at the lowest levels how to play the outfield and run the bases. Nyjer gets himself on the base at a .319 clip which would be much lower if he wasn't purposely plunked by opposing pitchers so much for being an absolute bad person. Then take off all of his stolen bases and pickoffs and I think there are pitchers like Micah Owings with higher OBPs adjusted.

  26. NatsTime - Mar 26, 2011 at 12:25 PM

    Whoops, "caught stolen bases and pickoffs"

  27. Anonymous - Mar 26, 2011 at 12:37 PM

    So long PUSH…UNTERP

  28. Theophilus - Mar 26, 2011 at 12:52 PM

    Add to Morgan's sins borderline (at least, because we don't really know what was going on behind the scenes) insubordination (refusal to learn how to slide feet first, at least) and uncoachability (still getting picked off at first).

  29. Theophilus - Mar 26, 2011 at 1:00 PM

    Players like Bixler and Nix were predestined to be AAA guys, available for call up in an emergency. Stairs has a particular role on a ML roster, which he fills very well. Nix is just a spare outfielder. He can be a spare here, or a spare in Syracuse. On the other hand, you can't call up a LH pinch-hitter from Syracuse in the middle of the 8th inning. Stairs demonstrated what he can do by flummoxing LaRussa last night. And I do think there are teams that would trade for Nix, if the Nats were willing to rely on Brown (or Morgan?) as their first OF call-up.

  30. Theophilus - Mar 26, 2011 at 1:04 PM

    Before Morgan goes, the Nats should trademark the silver Elvis Wig so that he can't take that act with him.

  31. Richard - Mar 26, 2011 at 1:07 PM

    I sorry, I don't get Ankiel. His career offensive stats aren't that good and the Nats have guys with "decent" power and a .250 BA. Maybe he's Willie Harris II in Rizzo's mind. They need a leadoff hitter — and it ain't goin' be Hairston or Cora, either. They need Nyger — but not prima donna Nyger, a controlled, team-oriented Nyger. I can see why Rizzo and company is/was interested in him. He's still a work in process at 30. But where should he work on stuff? Maybe Syracuse — to see if he can work out his demons and get his OBP up to .350+ and his caught stealing and pick offs way way down. Maybe in DC, since the Nats are still a work in process, too, maybe give him a couple of months in DC. But at 30 years old …

  32. Anonymous - Mar 26, 2011 at 1:10 PM

    There's a lot of value in having guys around who know how winning teams function mentally. Look at the records of some of these guys and consider what they might bring. Cora was a valuable member of the Red Sox 2007 world champions, for example. They talk about him as manager material. What he could do for our young infielders is worth considering.

  33. Anonymous8 - Mar 26, 2011 at 1:11 PM

    N.M. sealed his fate with that horrible caught stealing against St. Louis last week. When Carpenter turned off the mound and threw him out at 2nd base it was classified as a caught stealing but was just another embarrassing pickoff.

  34. raymitten - Mar 26, 2011 at 1:13 PM

    I agree about Stairs to a point — I saw him play first base in Kissimmee one day and it was embarassing. He was out of position for cut off throws, failed to field routine grounders, etc. But I'd still keep him over Morgan. He also (along with Werth) advised Storen on what he was doing mechanically. And he can still be a home run threat off the bench. I can see more value in Stairs than Morgan. Bernadina is probably the best of the bench options — he IS a model citizen — but I think he's best served going back to AAA to learn to take the proper routes on fly balls. If there were an injury to Ankiel, Morse or Werth, Bernadina is more equipped to play in their place than Morgan or Stairs. And he still could even if he were sent down to AAA. In watching the ST games this year, I have become a big fan of Rick Ankiel. He's an excellent defensive outfielder — the best CF this team has had in years. And although the average doesn't show it, he gets key hits and is productive with the bat. He definitely should be the opening day CF in my view.

  35. b - Mar 26, 2011 at 1:14 PM

    Its a no brainer and has been for a long time. Release Morgan flat out, go to the bathroom and wash your hands. There…..its done and over. And as my dad used to say "The dogs will bark and bark and run in circles……but the carnival moves on!" PLAY BALL!!

  36. joemktg - Mar 26, 2011 at 1:18 PM

    Both parties need a fresh start.DFA/Release -3 days.

  37. Theophilus - Mar 26, 2011 at 1:34 PM

    JayB doesn't seem to be around this a.m. so maybe it's safe to say this: I can be very comfortable w/ Desmond as a lead-off hitter. Desmond is a team guy. He do what he's asked to do: take more pitches, try to pull the ball less, take the pitch to right more often even if it means fewer doubles and more singles. He can bunt, he runs like hell (even though out of the RH batter's box). He's smart enough to see that getting on base in front of Werth, Zimmerman and LaRoche gives him a good chance to lead the league in runs scored. People who see Desmond's OBP, etc., numbers from last year are unduly influenced by all of the games he spent at the bottom of the order, where his primary objective was to make something happen before the pitcher struck out, and help turn over the lineup.I don't think he'll get a lot of walks, because 3-2 is not "his count," but I think otherwise his performance will be perfectly acceptable.

  38. Anonymous8 - Mar 26, 2011 at 1:48 PM is why you need Bernadina as your 4th outfielder. Ankiel to me is a 5th outfielder but many here seem to think he is a starter.There just doesn't seem to be a way to keep both Nix and Stairs. The bench was real bad last year and to clog up the bench with a guy who can do less than Adam Kennedy won't make this team better.Who comes into the outfield as a 9th inning defensive replacement to replace Michael Morse when Ankiel starts? Jerry Hairston, Laynce Nix, Matt Stairs or Roger Bernadina has a .312 career OBP So why does anyone think he will be much better than this at this point in his career? Oh, and he is .282 career OBP vs. LH pitchers. YUCKRizzo screwed up again like in 2010. He put all of his faith in Nyjer turning it around and now he doesn't have a Leadoff hitter or a CF who can get on base near a .340 OBP.

  39. Carl in 309 - Mar 26, 2011 at 2:00 PM

    As I replay watching last night's game in Viera (it is SO nice to be in Florida to see baseball–of almost any kind–when it's cold at home in Silver Spring!), and rereading these comments about Nyjer Morgan, the Nats 25-man roster–anticipating the new season, I find myself wanting to expect the best of player potential but fearing that the dye is cast. I'm somewhere between Don and Anon@12:25 a.m.I thought Morgan played a decent game last night, tracked balls in the outfield better than some of the drama last year, got a key hit, etc. I was less impressed by Alberto Gonzales, though he too contributed. It was ironic to see Alex Cora and Gonzo batting in order as I see them competing for the same bench spot.As a casual fan, I'm not inclined to get as agitated as some readers here, but (1) I'd probably send Morgan down to Syracuse; (2) focus on keeping versatile and savvy experienced players on the bench like Cora and Jerry Hairston; (3) offer Stairs a coaching job because as an earlier commentator said a week or two ago, the Nats aren't good enough to need such a specialist; (4) tolerate the balancing act of maintaining access to quality players while utilizing options.As many have observed–the season is a marathon not a sprint. Let the race begin. I'm off to see whether Mark Z. can maintain his streak of witnessing winning Nats spring training games!

  40. Mark'd - Mar 26, 2011 at 2:05 PM

    Ankiel seems to be the CF by default as its not like he earned it. Still hoping that Rizzo can redeem himself and pull off a trade for the CF of the future.I see BHarper in LF and Morse a 1st baseman in 2013.

  41. JamesFan - Mar 26, 2011 at 2:09 PM

    Yes, it's time for Nyger to go, and I think he recognizes it. He's lost the confidence of the team management and the fan base. Too bad. Had a couple of things gone differently, it could have had a different outcome. I suspect that he has not responded well to the extra work provided by Bo Porter and the recent incident with Pujols and the Cards probably sealed the issue. If he's been shopped and no takers found, cut him. Nats, don't drag this out and turn it into a soap opera.

  42. Andrew - Mar 26, 2011 at 2:20 PM

    If Nyjer has an Option left, then you don't DFA him as you send him to the Minors. The Nats aren't deep in spare outfielders.By the way, Boomer Whiting's bunt yesterday was great to see.

  43. Anonymous8 - Mar 26, 2011 at 2:24 PM

    "What about Syracuse? Morgan does have an option, so the Nationals could choose to send him to Class AAA."Yes, Mark says he has an option left.

  44. Andrew - Mar 26, 2011 at 2:38 PM

    If Morse, Ankiel and Werth start, that leaves Jerry Hairston, Laynce Nix, Matt Stairs and Roger Bernadina if Nyjer is DFA'd.Only Bernadina is a plus defensive outfielder in that group of backups and your only MLB close to ready OF in AAA is Corey Brown.I think Nyjer Morgan is an insurance policy and nothing more. Once Corey Brown is ready, then I think you cut him loose.

  45. Anonymous - Mar 26, 2011 at 3:02 PM

    rather have bozo the clown play centerfield on the 25 man roster over nyjer morgan

  46. Theophilus - Mar 26, 2011 at 3:24 PM

    Bozo and Nyjer are comparable in that neither is funny.

  47. Anonymous - Mar 26, 2011 at 4:56 PM

    Sorry Nyjer, but for some reason the current batch of Nats fans can't get past their Virginia state of mind

  48. Sec 3, My Sofa - Mar 26, 2011 at 5:02 PM

    Now, that's completely unfair. Virginia is much advanced in the last 150 years.OK, somewhat advanced.

  49. Anonymous - Mar 26, 2011 at 9:23 PM

    It's not his skin color, it's his baseball smarts or, rather, lack thereof, and his shite attitude.





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