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About that dropped fly ball between Justin Maxwell and Nyjer Morgan

In the seventh inning Friday night, Mike Hessman skied a high fly ball to left field off Joel Peralta. It may have tested the fence on another day, but on Friday it was held up by the wind whipping in. Justin Maxwell settled under the ball, barely having to move. In the dugout, Riggleman looked away, assuming an out.

"It just appeared that it's in left field, a ball Maxwell is going to catch," Riggleman said.

Maxwell stationed himself under the ball. Nyjer Morgan drifted over from center and did not hear Maxwell call for the ball. He saw Maxwell step back, and he went for the ball. "I thought he was moving out of my way," Morgan said later. But Maxwell was just adjusting his position.

When Maxwell went to catch the ball, Morgan bumped into him. As both fielders tried to squeeze the ball, it popped out of Maxwell's glove and fell to the turf.

Maxwell got the error. Morgan took the blame.

"I didn't hear him," Morgan said. "Basically, I should have got out of his way. I'll take that one. If we were a little bit louder out there, we would have made it happen. It's just one of things where it was a little bit of miscommunication. ... It's my fault for being in his way."

It's nice of Morgan to take responsibility, and the ball certainly looked as though it was Maxwell's. But I'm not so sure Morgan is 100 percent at fault. Centerfielders are taught to catch everything they can, and the other fielders have to make way for them.

"The centerfielder has priority," Riggleman said. "If he calls him off, it's his ball."

Even after watching replays and talking to Morgan, I'm not sure if he called off Maxwell. He seemed to say he couldn't Maxwell and Maxwell couldn't hear him. It's hard to lay any blame on Maxwell for trying to catch a ball basically right at him, but if Morgan was calling for the ball, then perhaps he should have made way for Morgan. If Morgan was not calling for the ball - or calling for it loudly enough - then it's on him for not communicating.

Either way, Joel Peralta escaped the two-on, one-jam the gaffe created with a strikeout and a pop-up. The free lesson in the play, as it always is when two outfielders collide, is that Morgan and Maxwell should communicate better the next time.

By Adam Kilgore  | October 1, 2010; 11:23 PM ET
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Center fielders do have the right to take what they can get.At the same time they should take charge of the outfield.The center fielder is also usually deeper than the corner outfielders;therefore,I believe it would be easier for Morgan to see Maxwell settling under the ball and then back off.Let's face it,Maxwell is a better,more polished oufielder than Morgan.It's his lack of hitting that keeps him from playing more.

Posted by: seanmg | October 2, 2010 2:52 AM | Report abuse

I hope neither are in the outfield next year. Not even coming off the bench.

Posted by: smirkman | October 2, 2010 6:42 AM | Report abuse

The real story is not the dropped ball, but that both of these guys are even in a Major League outfield. Both are bush leaguers.

Posted by: jwing14 | October 2, 2010 8:29 AM | Report abuse

Is everyone forgetting all the communication errors Morgan had in the beginning of the season? Definitely Morgan's fault.

Posted by: Watson1 | October 2, 2010 8:34 AM | Report abuse

I know starting pitching is a need for the Nationals but what about outfielders?! We need three players out there who can catch the ball, throw the ball and hit the ball consistently. I think the most we have ever had since 2005 has been two out of three and one out of three has been more the norm in recent years. I think Morgan is entertaining but should take his show on the road. Ever since he threw his glove down in disgust like a child I wondered what he was doing on a Major League team.

Posted by: roseglasses | October 2, 2010 8:44 AM | Report abuse

Maxwell and Morgan don't have to worry about their defense, their potent offensive skills will keep them in the lineup.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | October 2, 2010 8:50 AM | Report abuse

Who cares about outfield defense? The only position where defense truly matters is of course first base.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | October 2, 2010 9:29 AM | Report abuse

CiL, my snarkdar just blew up. Well played. :-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | October 2, 2010 9:55 AM | Report abuse

I'm resigned to the notion that Nyjer will be our center fielder next season.

Especially because of what we saw last year, it seems like a with a few adjustments and some discipline, Morgan could be a good outfielder and a very good leadoff hitter.

- Improve bunting
- Be more selective, see more pitches
- Manage yourself on the basepaths better. Better decisions on when to run, cut down on the pick-off and caught stealing.
- Communicate better in the outfield.
- Throw to the right base.

Given what he's accomplished in getting to MLB, this stuff should not be difficult for him.

This is somewhat the same position we were in with Elijah Dukes after 2009. Dukes showed a lot of promise after 2008 but regressed in 2009. We went into camp in 2010 with him penciled in as the right fielder, and Rizzo quickly decided Dukes fate. And our backup plan was Maxwell and Bernadina. How'd that work out?

Nyjer showed a ton of promise in 2009, and regressed in 2010. We're going to head into camp with Nyjer penciled in as the CF for 2011. And our backup plan, once again, is Maxwell and Bernadina?

Rizzo can trust in Nyjer, and I'm hoping he gets it together. But I'm also hoping for a better backup plan.

Posted by: Sunderland | October 2, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

"He seemed to say he couldn't Maxwell and Maxwell couldn't hear him."

I bet Kilgore longs for the days when he could pawn off his many writing errors on the copy editor who cut in front of him at the last minute and messed up his brilliant prose. Sadly he no longer has that luxury.

Posted by: nunof1 | October 2, 2010 10:29 AM | Report abuse

Now, now, nun. This is a blog, language poleese are not allowed--not even the ones who know the difference between spelling errors and grammar errors.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | October 2, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse

I try to think of it as a more interactive, conversational style, like he's talking with that friend we all have who "helps" you finish your thoughts, mid-sentence.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | October 2, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse

The problem with Morgan is that his only marketable skill is his speed. Let's face it, he's 30 & has regressed significantly this season. If the team hangs onto him, I can't envision him hitting leadoff unless his OBP improves to at least .340.

Posted by: BinM | October 2, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse

One bad year isn't necessarily a permanent regression, but it is looking more like his actual level, sorry to say. Last year, pre-injury, was real, but it was a short burst, apparently not sustainable.

It's not as if he's recovering from something. He's not still growing at 30. He almost certainly knows 99% of all the baseball he ever will, at that age. This is who he is, in an off year. Last year was who he is, on a hot streak.

I wonder what the Cubs would take for Marlon Byrd?

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | October 2, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

@BinM, if the team hangs on to him, I can't see him hitting 8th, long-term. His OPS might not be .340 there.
Whether he hits just before or just after the pitcher, if that's two outs 80% of the time, he's not worth keeping.
I think there's a chance he can still pull it off, but not a good chance.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | October 2, 2010 11:04 AM | Report abuse

We have it on the authority of the Washington Post in the a.m. paper that, after Crawford and Werth, there will be no outfielders available as free agents who are better than Bernadina and Morgan. I'm sure that reflects the views of Rizzo.

My only concern is that Morgan should sign a contract with the Nationals so that he pays the Nationals for allowing him to roam center field and the bases so he can make the highlights as he did in 2010. If the Nats are going to have to pay him to play in 2011, then that's a different matter.

Posted by: JohnRDC | October 2, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Nyjer was a platoon/bench player with Pittsburgh, and he performed pretty well in the role... then he had a blazing hot 200 at bat run with the Nats in 2009...

Really, "bouncing back" to me for Nyjer means putting him back as a platoon/bench player and letting him play in spots where he can suceed... he is on the wrong side of 30 and has never shown to be capable of being an everyday OF in the majors... and his mental mistakes are painful to watch, and unfortunately I think it really sets a bad tone for the team when one guy makes the same mistakes over and over again and yet you still run him out there every single day playing a premium defensive position (CF) and holding down a premium spot in the lineup (lead-off)...

There is plenty of bad play and blame to go around... and yes, it starts at the very top with ownership and works its way on down to the field... but, man, committing yourself to playing Nyjer in CF in 2011 no matter what, with out looking at other options, really is a committment to again set that same negative tone on the field that you can make all kinds of mental errors that hurt the team's performance and your job is safe...

Really, I want better, I would love to see more accountability for the mistakes... Nyjer stating in public that the dropped fly ball was his fault is a nice start,and I respect him for that... the next step is for him to say (or better yet show) what he is going to do to make sure those kinds of mistakes (and all of his other defensive and baserunning mistakes, and poor hitting approach for a speed guy) don't keep happening again and again and again and again... ugh.....

Go Nats! Have a great offseason! Sign Dunn and/or make some real moves that will make a difference in you level of play and, more importantly, your Win-Loss record! Don't TELL us that we are stuck with what we have, at least let us dream about the possibilties for the next few months... pretty please...

Posted by: Ghost7 | October 2, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Sunderland, good analogy of Dukes and Morgan. We'll see what happens next year. Based on his comments, it's important to Rizzo that Dukes's problems were off the field and Nyjer's have been on the field (a bad place for a ballplayer to have problems?), so Nyjer might get a longer look. Also, of course, Dukes was JimBow's project and Nyjer is Rizzo's 30-year-old baby.

Posted by: CapPeterson1 | October 2, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

You can talk all you want about Nyjer Morgan's ability, but the fact remains that he's 30 years old, he's extremely deficient in a large number of fundamental skills, and he's been a professional baseball player for a very long time (8 years). It isn't likely he's suddenly going to become a diligent student of the game, and even if he does, he's at the point where physical skills start fading, at first slowly, then with increasing speed after another couple of years.

If he was in his mid-20s, you could reasonably hope that he still had some growing up to do, and might still be capable of turning himself into a polished, fundamentally sound player. At this point, what you see out there is probably all he will ever be. Time to look for a replacement.

Posted by: Fairfax6 | October 2, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

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