I'm going to suspend my regular recap this evening because the game wasn't much of a game.  Scott Olsen was hammered in less than two innings, giving up nine earned runs on eight hits and two walks.  Craig Stammen came in and wasn't much better, going 3 1/3 innings and gave up six earned runs on five hits and two walks.

The game was over before it started.

The bigger story was Nyjer Morgan.

After running over catcher Brett Hayes last night (separating Hayes' shoulder, putting him out for the year), everyone and their mother expected for Morgan to get one in the ribs tonight.  And Marlins starter Chris Volstad did the honors, after the Marlins had a 14-3 lead. 

Morgan dropped his bat and took his base calmly.  It should have been over at that point.

But trailing 11 runs, Morgan took it upon himself to again show up the Marlins, stealing second and third.  There are plenty of people that will tell me that the Nats shouldn't roll over and that Morgan was just playing hard.  And I respect their opinions.

But my opinion?  It's Bull.

Morgan wasn't trying to get his team back in the game.  He was trying to show the Marlins that getting hit didn't hurt him.  He was, simply, showing up the pitcher in a game that was already contentious.  And Manager Jim Riggleman was wrong not putting the stop sign on.  If Morgan wasn't baseball smart enough to know what he was doing (and I think he knew exactly what he was doing), it was the manager's job to make sure Morgan couldn't put anyone else on the team in jeopardy.

Riggleman said in the post-game that he had no problem with Morgan stealing those two bases.  Maybe that's a manager protecting his player.  I think it's a manager that enabled a disgruntled player to entice a brawl.

Morgan's next time up, Volstad threw a 1-0 pitch behind the batter, and  Morgan charged the mound.  He got a glancing blow in on the 6'8" pitcher before first baseman Gaby Sanchez completely clothes-lined him and a scrum ensued, including third base coach Pat Listach pinning Volstad to the ground, and later Riggleman and Marlins Manager Edwin Rodriguez going toe-to-toe.

As Morgan was escorted off the field by one of the team's bullpen coaches, he popped his shirt, thumped his chest and engaged fans in an exchange of expletives.

It was an ugly incident, and both teams were lucky to not have anyone seriously injured.

I don't hold Volstad without blame in this.  He knew very well throwing behind Morgan after the steals would get that reaction.  And honestly, something might have happened anyway since Volstad hit two other batters earlier in the game.

It was a powder keg just waiting for a spark.

Morgan has already been suspended for seven games following an incident in Philadelphia where he threw a ball in the stands that injured a fan, and last weekend he initiated contact with Cardinals catcher Bryan Anderson, in complete disregard for home plate. 

That incident caused Riggleman to tell reporters the next morning that Morgan's actions embarrassed him and the manager benched him for Sunday, because in Riggleman's own words, "If he'd have played he'd have been hit."

Last night, in addition to injuring the Marlins catcher, he again engaged fans (caught on video) with expletives, while on the field.

Morgan has been playing recklessly and with anger since Riggleman moved him down into the eighth spot in the lineup early in the Cardinals series.  Morgan now has established a pattern of disregard for the safety of the players on the field.

And his immaturity has been on display much of the season, including slamming his glove in anger in centerfield after missing a catch -- with the ball still in play -- in a game against Baltimore earlier this season.

He needs to be sat down, whether by suspension or by his team, before anyone else gets hurt.

The Nats have an off-day tomorrow, and I expect MLB to react quickly to a growing problem that is an embarrassment and will surely distract from the pennant races on all the highlight shows the next couple of days.

8 comments

  1. Anonymous // September 2, 2010 at 12:40 AM  

    It's because of him that the Marlins 2B, Donnie Murphy, ended up injured. He was trying to keep an eye on Morgan and the ball at the same time. That man needs removed from MLB before anymore innocent people are injured

  2. Cheryl Nichols // September 2, 2010 at 12:44 AM  

    First, how could Volstad not be warned earlier after hitting Nieves, Gonzalez and Morgan?

    Second, how about that monster UPPER DECK home run by Wil Nieves? He now has more homers than Pudge for the season.

    And finally, Danny Espinosa made his MLB debut!! His first at bat was an RBI double. Congrats Danny! Welcome to the show - literally (fight).

  3. bdrube // September 2, 2010 at 7:56 AM  

    I don't get the ragging on Morgan for stealing the two bases. If it was the 9th inning and the Nats were down by 10 runs I'd see your point. What, the Nats were just supposed to give up trying in the 2nd inning? How many huge leads have been blown around this majors this season? Quite a few as I recall.

    I also totally agree with Cheryl. Volstead should have been given the heave-ho earlier. Why is he not getting his share of the blame for this?

    That's not to say I don't think Morgan's poor play and reckless behavior haven't become an embarassment. They certainly have. But the two stolen bases are on the Marlins' battery. if it offends you so much, throw him out.

  4. Hendo // September 2, 2010 at 9:28 AM  

    I couldn't disagree more vehemently. As later events in the game showed, every run had the potential to make a difference no matter how far down the Nats were early on.

    Look at it from the Nats' point of view: How were the Marlins' pitchers not showing the Nats up by failing to hold on the baserunner?

  5. bachrach44 // September 2, 2010 at 4:33 PM  

    Morgan is a grade-A jerk. This all started when he hit the Florida catcher the other night in the 10th inning. If he had slid he would have avoided contact, and, more importantly, SCORED A RUN. In a scoreless game in the 10th inning, scoring that run probably means you win the game. Morgan seems to like sticking it to the other team (like when he hit the catcher in STL too), so he decided that he'd rather satisfy his personal blood-lust than win the game. Someone who puts his own petty, selfish, and destructive ambitions over the welfare of the team is not someone you want on your team. Cut him now.

  6. Anonymous // September 2, 2010 at 8:44 PM  

    What is wrong with you people? Nyjer Morgan plays with heart and should be viewed as one of the heroes of the Nats. A catcher decides to block the plate to protect from a run, the runner is free to decide whether to slide or to knock the catcher off the bag. That's baseball.

    Since when is it bad sportsmanship to steal a base?

    A pitcher hits three batters and throws behind another, and the umpire doesn't throw the pitcher out? The pitcher puts the batters safety at risk, and Nyjer sent the pitcher the message the umpire should have sent.

    Nyjer is one of the few players on the Nats that plays with heart. We hear every night from the Nats pathetic management how well they are playing even when they have the highest number of errors in baseball, erratic offense and miserable pitching. Nyjer plays to win, with heart. He should be a role model for the Nats -- not the object of criticism.

  7. Anonymous // September 2, 2010 at 11:35 PM  

    Anyone defending the stolen bases does not know Nyjer Morgan. Nyjer Morgan was not thinking, "How can I help us win this game," just like how he wasn't thinking it BOTH times he failed to score EASY runs at home plate. Nobody is saying they can't steal bases when they're down double digits - though it's worth noting every other player on the Nationals seems to know the game well enough that they wouldn't have stolen those bases - they want to win.

    Even if he was trying to help them get back in the game, it was a stupid move. Stealing second base to avoid a double play makes sense, but stealing third risks an out to only slightly increase your chance at scoring - and at that, it increases your chances only if things go badly and you don't get another hit the rest of the inning. Down eleven runs you need to be thinking about a big inning that'll get you back in it, not salvaging one run if the inning sputters out.

    Nyjer Morgan stole second and third base to show up the Marlins, to send the signal that they had not gotten even, they had done nothing to get back at him, because he is untouchable, he is god, he is Nyjer Morgan.

    I feel bad for this guy, because his talent is unlikely to ever be as memorable as the ridiculous blunders in his gameplay. Creating inside the park homeruns for the opposing team, hitting fans in the crowd with baseballs, attempting to injure two catchers so blatantly that he failed to score given runs, stealing third base to incite a team to retaliate further, charging the mound only to swing with a fist and miss (reminds me of his batting tendencies) and get clotheslined by a first baseman who is smart enough not to risk injuring his hands.

    Nyjer Morgan, thank you for finding this

  8. Dave Nichols // September 3, 2010 at 10:05 AM  

    thanks for the debate everyone. who knew Morgan's antics would be as polarizing and devisive as Dibble's "broadcasting"?