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Teammates defend Nyjer Morgan's fielding miscue

While many fans at Nationals Park showered center fielder Nyjer Morgan with boos after what appeared an inexcusable fielding gaffe in the fourth inning, teammates weren't about to disparage him following Washington's 7-6 victory yesterday over the Baltimore Orioles.

The play began when the Orioles' Adam Jones drove a ball to deep center, where Morgan tried to make the catch but failed, the ball bouncing off his glove. Thinking the ball had gone over the wall for a home run, Morgan slammed down his mitt in disgust while the play was still alive.

Left fielder Josh Willingham, who had been yelling that the ball was on the ground, ran over, picked it up and threw it back into the infield. By then Jones had rounded the bases for an inside-the-park home run, the second against the Nationals in four days, and the Orioles led, 4-2.

"First of all, there's nobody that plays harder than Nyjer Morgan in the big leagues," said Willingham, whose two-run homer in the third tied the game at 2. "The only thing from my perspective that he did was he assumed that the ball went over the fence, obviously. But it was pretty helpless from my situation because I saw the ball on the ground and was pointing and yelling, but he didn't see me or couldn't see me. I just continued to run and picked it up."

Said first baseman Adam Dunn, whose two-run single in the sixth put Washington ahead to stay. "He's an emotional guy. I don't think that's anything but that. I think his emotions took over. He doesn't make very many mistakes. I wouldn't call it a mistake. He's just an emotional guy, and you take the good with the bad."

Nationals Manager Jim Riggleman said his initial reaction was to remove Morgan from the game following the misplay but he reconsidered for several reasons, including a thinning roster after starting catcher Ivan Rodriguez left in the third inning with stiffness in his lower back.

"My first instinct was to take him out of the ballgame," Riggleman said, "and then I realized, you know what, he thinks the ball went over the fence. He thought that he knocked it over the fence, and it's a home run, and he's showing frustration. That doesn't excuse it, and I don't want it perceived as an excuse, but it explains it. . . .

"Basically I've got a little time to think about it there, and my feeling was I'm going to take him out of the game, but my feeling for the ballclub was we just lost Pudge. We're shorthanded on the roster. For the ballclub I need every player we got, and so I felt I could make a show for myself and take him out, but because it wasn't an issue of hustle and we didn't have many players on the roster, I just felt I'm going to leave him in there and deal with it another way."

By Gene Wang  |  May 23, 2010; 8:30 AM ET
Categories:  Adam Dunn , Ivan Rodriguez , Josh Willingham , Nyjer Morgan  
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I was at the game and saw this whole thing go down.

So what?

Everyone needs to just relax on this, and support our center fielder. The guy cares about what's happening, and holds himself accountable. Nyger Morgan is important - and the boos yesterday were wholly inappropriate. No National should ever be booed in their own ballpark - this is NOT Philadelphia!

Posted by: dand187 | May 23, 2010 8:46 AM | Report abuse

Nyjer is easily my favorite player in the game (well, there's Livo, with the keg behind him when he pitches)...

He just needs to hone his craft. He has all of the fundamentals down - we noticed this last year before we was traded. But, he's still young, and had a lot of raw talent, and in a lot of ways, he has everything you need to be a top player.

When I think of him, I think of someone who is physically honed, not mentally honed - not Jedi Master honed, you know?

Olivo wouldn't throw out Master Morgan...

Posted by: CajunD | May 23, 2010 8:59 AM | Report abuse

Hey. What happened in the one instance yesterday can happen. But the Nyjer Moran I see is not the Nyjer Morgan I saw last year. His at bats often seem to be not very situational and his gaffes in the field suggest he is pre-occupied. What's up, Nyjer?

Posted by: tradeczar | May 23, 2010 9:09 AM | Report abuse

It was a play that one sees occasionally in the 8 - 10 year old age group. No matter if the ball goes over the fence or not a major league players does not slam his glove onto the ground.

This is just one more play that shows why Pittsburgh was happy to get rid of this guy. He constantly misplays balls hit over his head, throws the wrong base, and misses cutoff men. He almost always gets thrown out trying to bunt and his steal percentage is way down. He needs to either be a pinch runner or be sent down to Syracuse.

Posted by: MKadyman | May 23, 2010 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Nyjer Morgan is a good not great ball player he needs to stop trying to be the whole team and work within the context of the lineup, he wants to win no question about it his attitude is what you want on your ballclub like i said yesterday he's pressing in Nyjers world when this team loses it's his fault i.e.(i didn't get on base that's why Zimm didn't get a hit) I love the fact that his teamates have his back, that speaks volumes of what they think of Nyjer, now let's clip some wing's this afternoon.GO NAT'S

Posted by: dargregmag | May 23, 2010 9:53 AM | Report abuse

I didn't boo him BUT if ever a player needed to be shown the frustration of the fanbase, yesterday was it.

This has been a season brewing with dumba$$ plays.

These aren't isolated incidents. Up until yesterday Nyjer says, "I have to stay aggressive" after a bone head play. How's about saying, "I am going to change?"

Here's my list:

1) Let's see, with 2 outs stretching a double into a meaningless triple and tagged out before the baserunner in front of you crosses the plate so the critical run doesn't count.

2) Picked off at 1st when it looks like you are not paying attention to the pitcher or situation

3) Missing cutoff men more times than we can count

4) Running to the base of the wall and allowing the ball to carrom off and waiting for a teammate to pick up the ball

5) Bad routes to balls

6) Diving for balls hit in front of you that you miss by several feet hence turning routine singles into doubles and triples

7) Bad jumps on attempted steals leading to a league high 8 Caught Stealing

8) Bunting under balls so you pop them up

9) Running into line drive double plays and that crazy triple play

10) Pouting like a 2 year old

11) Making the same mistakes over and over again.

I don't see any of these as physical plays. I see these as mental mistakes and concentration issues. How long will your teammates back you up before they start calling you Lastings Milledge?

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | May 23, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Strange how Nyjer's slump is both at the plate and the field at the same time. Yes, he is pressing and yet, he is still making poor decisions. His attempt to bunt on first at bat (again) Saturday makes me wonder if ANYONE is talking with him. No Grissom this year, and perhaps his big personality makes him difficult for anyone to talk with him in a way that gets through to him and lets him know he is NOT helping the team right now with his play...

Posted by: mo_dc | May 23, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Hey Gang-well, we got the "W"..and who, whatever our quibbles, isn't happy with the way this team is playing compared to those of the last few years? AND with our record('cept for the few fools like me who saw 85 wins...which I'm sticking to...mebbe on the low end, though!)?
My point being that yea, we're a still far from ideal team. We have holes..some less than HOF players. But the level of animus at times.....hey, this ain't the NFL!162 games, remember?
Yea, Nyjer is pressing...and is most likely harder on himself than any of us. As Darg points out he's a GOOD player-not a great one-but the level of support shown him by his mates says something about his value in the clubhouse as well as on the field. I think we should take them at their word.But c'mon...he went from being an afterthought in Pittsburgh to being a celebrated starter(really for the 1st time in his career)...some Saber folks had him as the BEST defensive CF in the game last year-remember? And ad all the attention his T.Plush act has given him-nationally-while playing for the team with Jesus waiting in the wings......I just think he's a tad overwhelmed at the moment. Not to excuse some of his poor performance and overreactions I said, if his teammates seem inclined to cut him some slack, then maybe so should we.....I STILL have faith that The Wiz knew what he was doing when he got him...even Beltran has been roasted at times by Mets fans-and he may be the best CF in the game!( least when he was playing...)
Then again, our "outrage" speaks well to the passion and love we have for this team....and as a "nervous nellie' who's short term happiness seems to fluctuate with the Nats W's and L's...folks, this is what having a REAL MLB club is like!As someone who kept touting the resurgence(last year) of Seattle as a way of convicting the Nats (translation:StanK and the Slow Lerners) of incompetence....well, how do you think they're feeling right now?
Go Nyjer! And, of COURSE....
Go Nats!!!

Posted by: zendo | May 23, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

The list compiled by goinggoing suggests that Morgan is best suited for AA until he learns the fundamentals of baseball. To keep him as a starting ML center fielder and wait for him to play like one is questionable managing at best. What his teammates say about him is irrelvant unless you want the idiots to run the asylum. I for one don't expect improvement wherever he plays, because Morgan's problems lie mostly between the ears.

Posted by: JohnRDC | May 23, 2010 10:43 AM | Report abuse

I was also at the game and my initial impression (well, the one after my saying "what the H was that?") was that he must have thought the ball was out, which media reports have since confirmed. That said, I was surprised to see him bat in the bottom half. I wasn't booing him at either point (in fact, I was cheering him on during the subsequent at-bat), and I felt bad for him when it happened. I can't recall ever hearing a Nats player booed with such vehemence.

I've also wondered whether something else might be going on with Morgan. He was clearly frustrated after that play and after an out he made later. Maybe he is pressing and feeling pressured as Zendo speculates.

At any rate, was glad to see the team pick him up and come away with a win. I don't think some of the previous Nats iterations go on to win that one, but rather fall flat. Just my own take, while I'm getting ready to head out there again.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 23, 2010 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Nyjer is not that young. He is almost 30.

Anyway, I like him as one of the better low-cost finds. I am fine with this bargain basement addition, as opposed to say Tori Hunter. He will not have the productivity of Hunter but is affordable for the current ownership. I also like the idea of seeing what Bernadina can do in RF, as opposed to buying a vet for RF. He could be a low-cost solution. Kennedy is fine as a cheap addition at second, even though higher-priced guys are producing more. Willingham produces well as a low-priced addition to the other OF spot. Taking a chance on Pudge at his age is working out fine. At $3 million a year (lots for the Nats but a bargain elsewhere), he is great.

So the Nats are building a high-character ballclub at one of the lowest payrolls in MLB, with a chance to win half its games. Morgan will continue to grow. You can see he wants to win and do well, and is probably pressing too much.

On the bargain basement stuff, I draw the line when it comes to the draft. The Nats totally need to cut out their focus on slot and below-slot draft picks (other than the top pick, which they are stuck with and have to pay full value). They also should do a whole lot better on the international front. And they should end their practice of trading only for players who only earn less than average MLB salaries. All of their trades have been for below-average-salaried ballplayers under the Lerners--every one.

Other than that, i support the bargain players we do have, unless they demonstrate poor attitude. Morgan's was a bonehead play. I'm sure he feels awful about it and will not repeat it.

Posted by: EdDC | May 23, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Obviously Morgan thought the ball went over the fence. He'd have to be totally psycho to throw down his mitt with the ball in play. But that doesn't excuse anything. That was completely bush league. Take that back. Players in bush league don't act like that.

And it wasn't an isolated incident as shown above. 2 inside the park hrs in less than a week are not coincidence. And both those balls shoulda been caught. Hope they sit the guy today.

Yea and almost forgot about being thrown out at third before Stammen crossed the plate. That cost us another game.

Posted by: dovelevine | May 23, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

I give Riggleman credit for for taking a breath, considering the impact on his roster and not making a knee-jerk reaction. Morgan is no Milton Bradley problem child but is clearly feeling some kind of pressure, probably from within. A public spanking doesn't always help. Getting support and counseling from his teammates is probably better for the club at this point than a mid-game benching which would just create more controversy and add to the spectacle. I think Riggleman knows when to get in someone's grill and when to pull them aside for a private session. The best message for Morgan is probaly relax, relax, relax and not sit down you bleeping idiot.

Posted by: Natmeister | May 23, 2010 11:03 AM | Report abuse

>>I give Riggleman credit for for taking a breath, considering the impact on his roster and not making a knee-jerk reaction

OK I buy that for yesterday even though I would have liked to see Morgan pulled. But I can understand Riggs leaving him in yesterday. But benching him today would not have been knee jerk. That would have been patient, thought out and correct. Can't believe he's starting today.

Posted by: dovelevine | May 23, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

I think most of us love Morgan as a player, but he's made a succession of mental errors this season (well-compiled by GoingGoingGone) that, if committed by Player X, would routinely be described as "unforgivable."

Morgan needs to show us a little more maturity and baseball IQ and a little less of his (often counterproductive) emotion. I think he can do this, and it's imperative that he does.

As for Nats fans booing Nats, my advice is never, never, never. Doesn't help.

Posted by: louie5 | May 23, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

I think that horrible play is the beginning of the end for Nyjer. True bush league stuff.

Posted by: motogp46 | May 23, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

As awful a play as it was, at least Lastings Milledge isn't out there anymore. My biggest problem with Nyjer is that he's basically turned into a caricature of himself to the point its hilarious. He pouts when he strikes out, he gives a flex when he makes a catch. Every action is accompanied by a stupid, WWE-style's ridiculous.

I can excuse all of this, but the thing that made me mad was the way that he treated the bat boy after one of his at bats. It was the same as LeBron James taking off his warmups and throwing them in the other direction on purpose away from the ballboy. There was the batboy standing there after he failed to get on and threw his helmet on the ground rather than hand it to the bat boy. As my mother always said watch how people treat waiters, secretaries, bellhops, and in this case batboys, and it will tell you a lot about them. I know a lot about Nyjer, more than a misplayed flyball and a childish reaction will ever tell me.

Posted by: d-35 | May 23, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Did Nyjer apologize -- to his teammates, the Nats organization, and to the fans? If so, I haven't heard it. This is the sort of outburst that can be tolerated once, and no more. He's a tremendous sparkplug for the team and the fans -- when he's playing well -- but he has to handle the down times too. An apology for yesterday's outburst would be a good start.

Posted by: icefandc | May 23, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Morgan has never come into a season with the kind of expectations he had this season at the ML level (wasn't he always just hoping to play before?), and he hasn't dealt with it particularly well. This will either finish him off or start him on the road back. We should have a pretty good idea which by Memorial Day.

Posted by: zimbar | May 23, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Nyjer Morgan is a huge liability in center field. How else can you explain 2-- thats TWO inside the park home runs in one week. We're talking something that maybe happens once a year if that. Seriously we're talking about 2 fly balls that should have simply been outs and long forgotten. I mean Lastings Milledge and Nook Logan never pulled off this feat. This guy can not play center field. Period.

Posted by: dovelevine | May 23, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Regret not being at the game but 90% prediction of rain is too high for me unless it's at least 80 degrees...

Let's support Nyjer, he makes the game fun and interesting, which is, after all, the POINT. He's trying, he is NOT sleeping on the job, he is NOT cussing at fans! We could have worse problems.

Wish he had a better throwing arm, though, I think that's what he should work on.

Posted by: Nats_Lady | May 23, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Could be worse, he could be Milton Bradley.



Posted by: jayrockers | May 23, 2010 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Nyjer Morgan has guranteed his place in MLB bloopers for the forseeable future. I wonder how many sports shows in the nation showed his outburst?

Posted by: Jimof1913 | May 23, 2010 6:52 PM | Report abuse

I liked Louie5's comment on Nyjer. I loved Nyjer last year, but this year he is making too many mistakes and, perhaps worse, doesn't seem to realize it. He was quoted as saying he's playing "good ball." As the list compiled by goingoing shows, however, he is making tons of mental mistakes. On top of that, he's slumping in the field and at bat. What is missed is that both the inside the park HRs should have been caught!

I'm worried he will never play better because he thinks he's playing well now. If he doesn't improve, I think we need to replace him.

That said, I completely agree no Nats player should ever be booed. One exception: when it is absolutely clear that a Nats player is dogging it, not even trying. I have not seen this yet from any Nats player, and especially not Nyjer. Nyjer did not deserve to be booed. On the contrary, he is probably trying too hard.

Posted by: JLNash819 | May 24, 2010 12:53 AM | Report abuse

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