Nyjer Morgan – The Essence of Over-hype

By Matt Melton

I have a problem with Milwaukee Brewers OF Nyjer Morgan. I know – it’s kind of sad.  Someone so irrelevant should never garner so much attention. The problem is something akin to an annoying, pesky gnat that won’t go away. Or maybe it’s more like a blemish that you just want to pop, despite the scar it will leave. Either way, he equates to something I want to press between my thumb and index finger – squeezing until that oversized mouthful of tobacco oozes out of his nose and ears. Meet my sudden and unhealthy obsession with Nyjer Morgan – the essence of over-hype.

The argument against Nyjer Morgan being worthy of anything remotely close to respect is really easy to make. He is a thirty-one year old with only four full seasons of major league experience. He spent five years toiling in the minor leagues after being a 33rd-round pick for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Do you know how hard that is, to spend five years in the Pirates’ minor league system before getting a September call-up? The Pirates are essentially a minor league team themselves, and Nyjer Morgan couldn’t get an appearance with them until he was twenty-six.  Since his major league debut, Morgan has shuffled between the proverbial “who’s not who” of MLB – Pittsburgh, Washington, and now Milwaukee – after being traded twice in a two-year span. That is hardly a hero’s welcome for any legitimate major league player.

Baseball Reference compares Morgan, the player, to the likes of Alex Sanchez, Fred Brickell, and Al Shaw. Those might be the names of former ballplayers, or they might be the guys you just hired to renovate your guest bathroom. Either way, both are nothing if not forgettable. Morgan, in fact, is so forgettable that his greatest statistical claim is probably that he led the league in being caught stealing…twice, in fact (’09-’10).  A close second would be the striking correlation his on-base and slugging percentages have taken over his career. It is, only in serving as a consistently easy out – both on the base paths and at the plate – that Morgan’s true value is worth noting.

I have more to say, but let’s get to the real problem here. Nyjer Morgan simply can’t back it up. Anyone following this season’s burgeoning rivalry between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Brewers is well aware of Morgan’s antics – calling two-time MVP Albert Pujols “Alberta”, predicting on Twitter that the Cardinals won’t make the playoffs, and throwing a tantrum (and his chewing tobacco) at Chris Carpenter after a strikeout. Meeting the Cardinals this week in the NLCS was supposed to be Morgan’s time to back up his words. So far, he has failed.

When Morgan hit the game-winner in extra innings for the Brewers in Game 5 of the Divisional Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, I thought that his alter-ego “Tony Plush” might become “Tony Clutch”. Morgan will have more opportunities in the NLCS to redeem himself, but let’s look at what he’s shown us thus far. Game 1 involved Morgan striking out in a 7th inning pinch hit appearance. That was after he spent the game riding the pine so he could take a backseat to fellow outfielder, and .225 hitter, Carlos Gomez. Game 2 involved an actual start in center field, but it was same story, different day, as Morgan went 0-3 at the plate, with another strikeout.

Game 2 for Morgan in the field was just as problematic. In the 3rd inning, “Alberta” hit an absolute rocket deep to center field. Morgan was playing deep, had a nice read on the ball and took at least five steps with his eyes focused on the ball, put his glove up to make a play, and whiffed completely. Two runs scored, Morgan crashed awkwardly into the outfield wall, and thus was the beginning of a very long day in the field for the home team, as the Cardinals scored twelve runs in a rout to even the series. If Morgan wants to be taken seriously as a player, he needs to be a winner first. Perform first, and then you can say whatever you want, not the other way around.

Nyjer Morgan has three days ahead of him in St. Louis as the NLCS shifts cities for the next three game. I predict the Cardinals pitchers will serve up some spicy-hot chin music, and that the fan faithful will serenade him with waning chants of “Nyyyy-jerrrr, Nyyyy-jerrrr” – reminiscent of the on-ice taunts Chicago Blackhawks goalie Ed Belfour received from Blues fans. Morgan will most likely reward us with a few more strikeouts, a tantrum or two, take his ball and stomp home.

For more about Matt, check out his Facebook page

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