Nyjer Morgan: Fair or Foul?


Yesterday the Brewers managed to salvage a win in Cincinnati on the backs of the Brewers offense and a decent outing by Greinke.

It was not, of course, without weirdness as every Brewers win seems to come with a “Yeah, but…” caveat this year. And, as usual, this weirdness came directly from the epicenter of Milwaukee’s baseball oddities – Mr. Nyjer Morgan.

The weirdness we are going to be discussing today came from this video, in which Nyjer Morgan gets tangled first physically, then verbally with a Reds fan in the stands after attempting to catch a foul ball.

If you didn’t click on the link, here’s what happened: Nyjer was trailing a fly ball in foul territory over to the first row of seats on the first-base side. He leans over the stands, and finds himself face-to-face with a Reds fan as they both reach for the ball. Though it’s unclear whether the next act was intentional (and, indeed, may be inconsequential) Nyjer’s arm becomes entangled with the arms of the fan. He then feigns a push off of the fan after the ball lands safely in the stands, and the two exchange words – with other fans looking very animated about it. The umpire comes over and gently nudges Mr. Plush back to his spot in the field of play.

The entire moment took about nine seconds, give or take, but as opened up an exponentially larger space of column-inches in which we can no further discuss the fact that Nyjer Morgan is not like the rest of us normal humans.

Morgan himself has shaken off the incident as “nothing major” and insists the only thing he was upset

about was the fact that he felt the Reds fans purposely entangled him to break up the catch. He doesn’t have a problem with fans trying to catch a foul ball in the stands, as he told the Brewers website:

"“That’s what the home fans are supposed to do, try to take the ball from the opposing team when the ball is in the stands, …It’s fair game once the ball is in the stands…It was nothing major. … I’m a fan, too. I would have done the same thing.”-Nyjer Morgan, via Brewers.com"

When the media asked Ron Roenicke about it, he gave the following quoted statement after sharing the same sentiment about the fan’s ‘responsibility’ to disrupt plays in the stands:

"“He did some interesting things today.”-Ron Roenicke, on Nyjer Morgan via"

To say the least, Mr. Roenicke. Nyjer always does something interesting. But he always owns it after the game, which appears to be his saving grace. For as arrogant as he can appear on the field, he’s quite receptive to discussing what happened after the game. Yes, he does often play the victim card, which can be just as annoying and frustrating as some of his on-field weirdness. But more often than not, he appears in front of his locker as an open book, willing to say “Yeah, I did it again. I don’t know why, but it happened.”

He considers himself an entertainer who happens to be an athlete, and the baseball field ought to be the stage on which the players can entertain and interact with fans. In baseball, this is hard for many fans to cope with because we are used to our ballplayers being aloof and stuffy and having practiced responses to benign questions about tradition and history. Nyjer doesn’t really want any of that. He has respect for the traditions of baseball and the people who got him here, but now that he’s here it is his show.

And he isn’t necessarily wrong. He’s just weird.

Of course, this discussion wouldn’t warrant much of any space if Nyjer were hitting better, or if he got that suicide squeeze down, or if he played that fly ball right and it didn’t cause a run. If he was perfect, or even a traditional star player, none of this would have popped up. But he’s not perfect. He’s Nyjer.

He gets into it with fans, in the hopes of giving people a show. He goes on twitter to plan his day. He creates nicknames and alter-egos in order to give his weirdness life. He is a personality that does not totally belong in baseball yet, except for the fact that he can play it well.

He works hard, and puts all of his uncommon – and often improper – energy into a game that expects its players to be proper. But it is a game, and child-like behavior should be expected if you’re a grown man who’s done nothing but play child’s games your whole life. The natural reaction from fans, after decades of chastising oddball behavior with “unwritten rules” and “respect for the game,” he just seems to stick out more than anyone else.

And that’s the way he wants it.

He accepts the fact that you can’t stand him, but he’s not going to do any different just because you’re unsure how someone that weird can play Major League Baseball. He’s going to be Nyjer, and you can choose to accept that or not.

I’m not sure if I’m being an apologist or not – I don’t like many of the fan run-ins he’s had, but I understand how they happen. Fans can get riled up easily, and Nyjer gets riled easily. I think it’s silly that you can shout and try to distract and rile up a player, and then when he responds he’s the asshole. You’re both adults. I don’t agree that it should be responded to, or that he needed the extra shove on the fan, but I’m willing to understand that emotions run high at times and that Nyjer doesn’t walk down the street shoving anyone and everyone who disagrees with him.

At the end of the day, Nyjer Morgan has a mentality about baseball that needs to be had. He wants the game to be fun and entertaining. He wants to be the guy that does the little things that help move a team a long. The game needs to be played hard, all the time. The game needs to be fun, and the team needs to win.

His heart’s in the right place at the end of the day, it’s just that his head isn’t always along for the ride.

Thanks to commenter Beeker for the inspiration of this article.