"Nyjer, he's got energy, and he felt it. Sometimes a player sees something a little different than a coach does." - Brewer's manager - Ron Roenicke, trying to explain Nyjer Morgan's thought process
In the strange case of Nyjer "T Plush" Morgan - the weirdest player in MLB - "seeing something a little different" is the norm. The latest case in point - the night of April 18, 2012:
T Plush enters a game vs the Dodgers as a pinch runner, in the bottom of the tenth; score tied, 2-2. Our hero proceeds to steal second, then advances to third on the catcher's errant throw. After a couple of walks load the bases, with one out, MVP Ryan Braun pops one up to short center field, where MVP-runner-up Matt Kemp is stationed.
Such drama. Kemp, who is the greatest hitter in the game at this particular moment, is a good center fielder, but could be better. T Plush, the bizarre folk hero in Milwaukee (last season, anyway), has been a bust for the Brew Crew in 2012. With a chance of becoming a hero for perhaps one last time, T Gumbo (his alter ego's alter ego) ignores third base coach Ed Sedar's wildly frantic stop sign; and despite a weak, offline throw by Kemp that grazes the pitcher's mound on the way to the plate, the skipping ball still arrives in plenty of time for the catcher to apply the tag to Morgan's backside before his foot touches the plate.
There have been worse calls than this one, but not many. T Plush, in all his idiotic splendor, is ruled safe. The headline in Brewer Nation: "What a rush by Plush: Brewers walk-off again!" Oh boy.
I wonder if Roenicke's private conversation with his walk-off hero was a bit more direct than the predictably diplomatic "he's got energy" quote the skipper gave to the media. I wonder if Roenicke interrupted the usual celebratory post-game "Plushdamentals" to let his deranged center fielder know his actions violated the most fundamental concepts of baseball strategy. Whether or not that little chat occurred, the vibe surrounding Nyjer Morgan's antics is somewhat different these days. T Plush was nowhere to be found after the "rush by Plush" game-ending heroics. No insane sound bites. No inflammatory quotes to belittle the opposing team or its players. What gives, Gumbo?
Of course, Nyjer Morgan's volatile and erratic behavior has been on display on a regular basis since making his MLB debut as a left fielder with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2007. Initially, his rants seemed like harmless exuberance; referring to his little section of the outfield as "Morgantown". Apparently, the Pirates' front office wasn't all that impressed with the Mayor of Morgantown; shipping His Honor off to the Washington Nationals where he could take his creative talents to a new level; his antics in our nation's Capitol featured the following:
*A cheap shot on Cardinals catcher Bryan Anderson while scoring during a September, 2010 game; then-manager Jim Riggleman apologized to the Cardinals for Morgan's unwarranted flying elbow.
*A seven game suspension from MLB for throwing a baseball into the stands at a heckler, which smacked another non-heckling fan in the face, instead.
*Another September, 2010 game, saw Morgan charging the mound, then punching an unfazed Marlins pitcher Chris Volstad with a glancing blow to his head, for zipping one of his servings directly behind Morgan's rear end; a benches-clearing gathering ensued, highlighted by Marlins' first baseman Gabby Sanchez's beautifully executed "clothes-line" tackle of little Nyjer.
*Engaging in a well-publicized verbal diatribe with fans in San Francisco over some advice offered by the Giants' faithful. Local media called Morgan's belligerent behavior "simply a disgrace", labeling him "punk of the month"; quite an honor.
After alienating the entire Nationals team over his mean-spirited, over-the-top antics, he was traded to his present employer, the Milwaukee Brewers on March 27, 2011. At first, Morgan's exuberant play and quirky post-game interviews were a big hit with Brewers fans; as the T Plush routine became more elaborate and entertaining (at least for Brewers fans), Morgan's popularity soared; his specially created tee-shirts and merchandise was actually outselling similar items from such stars as Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun.
In addition to a real, live Nyjer Morgan Fan Club being formed, an outfit known as "Athlete Promotions.com" began tapping into Morgan's popularity, by offering fee-based "corporate appearances, speaking engagements, endorsements, and autograph signings". T Plush was hot back in the day; alas, not so much anymore.
When Nyjer disappeared into the night after his ill-advised-but-successful mad dash which plated that second straight walk-off winning run vs the Dodgers, something seemed terribly amiss. Is it possible T Gumbo is sulking these days because he's hitting a buck-eighty so far this year? Or did someone inside the Brewers inner-circle threaten to pummel T Plush into a pile of gumbo if he dared open his babbling pie-hole again? The baseball gods don't like classless-smack-talking players who utter comments, such as this classic gem:
"We're still in first place; believe it. It's nothing left to say other than we're still in first place and they're chasing us." - Nyjer Morgan (After nearly inciting a bench-clearing brawl in a September 7, 2011 loss - 2-0 - to Chris Carpenter and the Cardinals; talking smack after striking out in the ninth inning, Nyjer also heaved a little hunk of chewing tobacco out of his mouth and into the direction of the Cardinal pitcher, who was unaware of the Plushdamentals that were taking place at the time. Former-Cardinal-Great Albert Pujols caught Nyjer's act and quickly rushed towards the livid strikeout victim, while engaging in a discussion of baseball etiquette with the clueless Gumbo.)
The baseball gods also don't care for ballplayers who use Twitter to express negative feelings towards opposing teams and/or players in 140 characters or less; such as these classic September 8, 2011 "tweets" from @TheRealTPlush:
"Where still in 1st and I hope those crying birds injoy watching tha Crew in tha Playoffs. Aaaaahhhhh!!!"
"Alberta couldn't see Plush if she had her gloves on!!! Wat was she thinking running at the Plush!!! She never been in tha ring!!!" (Space restraints no doubt prevented TheRealTPlush from closing with his usual, "Aaaaahhhhh!!!")
Aside from having the spelling and grammar skills below that of a first-grader, Nyjer's mystifying approach to dealing with professional MLB rivalries served no purpose for his Brew Crew; unless, they actually wanted to inspire the Redbirds to go on and win the World Series, after all. Better yet; reach that lofty pinnacle by thrashing Milwaukee in a best of seven NLCS, in just six games; featuring that Game Six 12-6 bombardment of tha Crew right there at Miller Park in front of all those stunned T Plush fans.
I wonder if that's what "Morganna" had in mind last September when she lost her mind? For the Redbirds, this had to be the sweetest of revenges; moving on to the World Series while squashing TheRealTPlush and his Plushdamentals.
Meanwhile, Nyjer Morgan, who began his 2012 season with an appropriate 0 for 8 effort in the Brewer's opening three-game series against those crying birds; is still taking up a spot on Milwaukee's not-so-potent roster. You can bet Ron Roenicke would love to see T Plush take his act to yet another team; Gumbo has long-since worn out his welcome in Milwaukee.
Unfortunately for Roenicke and Company, Nyjer Morgan's tired act isn't a sought after commodity these days. Pawning him off, along with his alter egos, won't be so easy this time around. The baseball gods have spoken, although T Plush/Gumbo is probably not listening.
It's unlikely anybody's really listening to Nyjer anymore, for that matter.