I am more than happy to se the Marlins pick up a series win against the Washington Nationals, whether or not the team’s season depends on such a thing. However, as exciting a win as the 1-0 victory in the second game was or how rewarding the 16-10 blowout was in the finale, nothing was going to override the antics and happenngs surrounding Nyjer Morgan and the Marlins this weekend. So despite an excellent series win, this Fish-Cap is going to revolve around what happened between Morgan and the Marlins.
Bowling over Brett Hayes
Look, I understand the high stakes of a 0-0 game between two division foes, even if both teams are pretty well out of contention. However, just watching the play that occurred in the top of the 10th inning of that game makes you cringe a bit. Marlins reliever Clay Hensley walked both Morgan and Alberto Gonzalez on before inducing a weak ground ball from Adam Kennedy. The ball headed up the middle, where it was picked up by Donnie Murphy and flipped to Hanley Ramirez for the out at second base. Because of the weak nature of the grounder, it seems like the Fish had no shot at the double play on Kennedy, which would have ended the inning. However, the Fish had an opportunity for another out because the speedy Morgan took off for home from second base prompting a throw from Hanley.
Now, watch the linked lay as it unfolds. You can see that Hanley’s throw is a bit high and appears to be a little late for a tag as a result. A throw closer to the bag or lower overall could have resulted in a close play at the plate if Morgan slides. However, this becomes irrelevant as Morgan decides instead to run Hayes over to force the ball out of his hands. The resulting collision is, as most catcher-runner collisions, a good deal cringe-worthy to me. Hayes has a little bit of time to prepare (he does turn in his arms and shoulder) but is still in a bit of a vulnerable position nonetheless.
This play would have been an afterthought if it weren’t for the fact that, as Rich Waltz was quick to point out on the TV broadcast, had Morgan simply slid instead of going for the tackle route to home, he likely would have been safe! The throw from Hanley was high enough and Morgan was close enough to the plate at that point that a slide would have been low enough to beat a tag attempt. Instead, Morgan went for the more confrontational and dangerous route, and sure enough the play led to a dislocated shoulder for Hayes. My opinion is that a slide would have a more professional and intelligent baserunning move than the one Morgan went with, but it should not surprise any of us that Morgan went with the bad baserunning play; he is well known around the league for being fast but unintelligent on the basepaths.
“Professionally” hitting Morgan
The following evening, once the Marlins took a large enough lead to prevent any game-related problems, they retaliated against Morgan. In the fourth inning, with the Marlins up 11 runs, starter Chris Volstad beaned Morgan in the hip. Morgan took his base and followed up with two more bases, stealing both second and third. Unhappy with that activity, Volstad threw behind Morgan in the 6th inning when he came up again, causing him to charge the mound, throw a punch at Volstad, and receive a blindsiding clothesline from Gaby Sanchez. Once the resulting brawl ends, Morgan comes out of the pile pumped and excited, met by the boos of the crowd.
How should we react to the situation? Well, I’ll say that I do not approve of the retaliatory methods employed by major league baseball players. Baseballs thrown at 90+ mph (or even slower, for that matter) are weapons, whether they are thrown at the hips or at the head. It seems like a dumb idea in general to throw these things at players for retaliation for most “transgressions” of baseball’s so-called unwritten rules. Having said that, if we were to follow the unwritten rules, it is pretty clear that Morgan did not follow them. The play at the plate from the previous night was at best of questionable nature, and the Marlins were probably in line for beaning Morgan. Waltz deemed the job “professionally” done, meaning that Volstad did not go for the head and did not put excessive heat on the ball.
Had Morgan left it at that, I think the Marlins would have been finished with the situation. The beaning served as retaliation for the rough play at the plate, but it seems Morgan thought that it was unnecessary to bean him and responded by stealing second and third with his team down 11 runs. Truthfully, I don’t think this was a heinous play. Yes, the Nationals were down a lot, but were they supposed to simply give up on the game? If Morgan felt the bases were open for taking, it seems natural that he should attempt it. However, the unwritten rules say that both teams should have let off the gas pedal a bit with the score as it was, and stealing was most certainly was “out of line.” However, no matter the thought process going into the situation, it was clear that Morgan’s charging the mound was inappropriate. Morgan got the first punch in as well, throwing a left straight at Volstad before being run over by Sanchez.
The Marlins have said that their beef with the Nationals is over. I’d be inclined to believe them, but I would not be surprised if the Fish sent another pitch Morgan’s way when the two teams meet later this month at Nationals Park. I suspect that, at the very least, Morgan will have some choice words for the team, as he is always prone to running his mouth a bit. Let’s hope any potential future affair won’t lead to suspensions on either side.