Reaction and fallout from Nyjer Morgan's suspension
Let's try to sort this out, point by point:
-Nyjer Morgan will appeal the eight-game suspension handed down by Major League Baseball for his recent actions, and his hearing will come Sept. 10, for both this suspension and the seven-game suspensions. Morgan is in the lineup tonight, playing center field and leading off.
-Left-handed reliever Doug Slaten will appeal his three game suspension and be available to pitch tonight. No appeal hearing has been set.
-Third base coach Pat Listach's suspensions has been reduced from three games to two. He will begin serving Sunday. Hitting coach Rick Eckstein will serve as third base coach Sunday and Monday.
-Manager Jim Riggleman will begin serving his two-game suspension tonight. Bench coach John McLaren will manage tonight and tomorrow. "John McLaren and the other coaches, they all know my feelings on how the game is run and how our team operates," Riggleman said. "I think we'll do it the same way."
-Morgan, after his eventful week, grabbed the headlines and the most games. Morgan did not want to comment publicly because he is appealing the suspension, though he thought the penalty was harsh and that he felt he hadn't done anything wrong. While the Nationals do not condone the gestures he made to the crowd or interactions he had with fans, they supported him otherwise.
"Some of the things that he did were disconcerting to me," General Manager Mike Rizzo said. "A lot if it snowballed after that. Most of the incidents I really have little or no problem with at all. They were pure baseball things. But there were a few situations that were unfortunate mistakes by a young, aggressive player who should know better.
"He's never had a problem off the field, outside the white lines. Between the white lines, there's been some issues. But he's been a model citizen off the field, in the clubhouse and in the community. Let's not forget that."
Rizzo also affirmed his commitment to Morgan as a player. Morgan's offensive numbers have suffered this season, but Rizzo believes bad luck on balls put in play accounts for much of that. Morgan's batting average on balls in play this year is .308, down from his .357 career average. Morgan is batting .257 with a .318 on-base percentage. With a .357 BABIP, he'd be at .297 and .344
"He's going to be a guy we're going to depend on to play stellar center field for us and hit at the top of the order," Rizzo said. "When we get good enough to compete for championships, he'll have proved himself in that role or he'll have an opportunity to play himself out of it. Right now, that's the way I view him. It's really difficult to go get premier defensive center fielders that have potential to hit at the top of the order and have the potential to steal 50 or 60 bases. And we have that. It's certainly to early in his career - being a [.286] career hitter and a [.345] career on-base percentage - to give up on him."
-The brawl left the Nationals clubhouse more unified than at any point this season. During and after Wednesday's game, teammates rallied around Morgan. Veterans embraced him and told him, in so many words, "We've got your back." Morgan hugged Doug Slaten after Slaten drilled Gaby Sanchez with a pitch and was subsequently ejected.
The Nationals also respected Listach's involvement in the fight. Listach dove on and smothered Chris Volstad, who had plunked Morgan earlier and threw a pitch behind him to start the fracas. Listach did not throw and punches.
"I totally support what happened with Pat," Riggleman said. "Pat was just trying to stop what was going. He's protecting Nyjer, but he's also not being aggressive. He's just holding somebody down so no more punches could be thrown that way."
"Whatever money he lost with the suspension," one team source said, "he made up five times in respect from the players."
-Riggleman expected the suspensions, just not the severity of them.
"I'm a little surprised," Riggleman said. "I thought the suspensions were a little bit heavy. When umpires give a warning to the benches and then a pitcher hits somebody and they throw the pitcher out and the manager out, it is what it is. It's automatic. The additional time and the additional money on some players, it's a little bit heavy, I think. I think it's baseball saying, 'We're not going to put up with this. We're going to not have bench-clearing brawls.' As word goes around how heavy some of the fines were, that will stop it.' "
-Riggleman said he didn't hesitate to put Morgan in the lineup tonight.
"No, no," Riggleman said. "You know, I think Nyjer, in a perfect world, would have known the ball was going to be high at home plate, would have slid. He didn't know that. He decided to go in like he did. It was an incident that took place and it's over. We had an off day yesterday, we're playing a different team. There's no negative history that there's any reason to keep him out of the ball game. Unfortunately, unless Nyjer's suspension is reduced quite a bit, there's going to be a lot of days he's not in there in the near future."
-The league's biggest problem with Morgan's actions was how he left the field Wednesday and his interaction with fans Tuesday night. The Nationals have addressed the issue with Morgan, and he understands the Nationals will no longer tolerate any interactions with fans. Riggleman called the rest of Morgan's incidents "very coincidental that these things have happened independent of each other."
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