Marlins demote Logan Morrison

After Saturday night’s game against the San Francisco Giants, the Marlins optioned Logan Morrison to Triple-A New Orleans and cut Wes Helms. The Helms move was unsurprising and honestly something Marlins fans have looked forward to for some time; Helms was way overdue for replacement and was essentially dead weight on the roster. It was the final year of his contract, so it was likely that he was not going to get a return invite next season, but the cut basically guarantees that he will not be back.

The Morrison demotion was quite a shocker. There are many factors that could have gone into the demotion, and the Marlins may have been considering all sorts of different angles. Let’s take a look at the possible different angles that the team could have taken to justify the decision.

Performance

Morrison asked for the reasoning behind the team’s decision, and he feels he did not get much of a response.

“They didn’t give me anything,” Morrison said. “I asked for an explanation and the one I got was, ‘What are you hitting, .240?’”

“I never thought we’d see Logan hitting in the .240s, ever,” [Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest] said. “Obviously, he’s a much better hitter than he’s shown. I’m not going to pin that on it as a specific, but he needs to work on all aspects of being a Major Leaguer, and then he’ll come back here.”

These are the initial reasons that came out when the story was first released. Clearly this cannot be the sole reason why Morrison was demoted, and indeed Larry Beinfest himself essentially said that there is more to it than that. However, Morrison claims that the explanation he received was that he was batting .240.

While I may not have faith in the ability of the Marlins to use advanced statistics to their benefit for analysis, I do know that the team does not simply evaluate based on batting average alone. And if they indeed do look at more than just batting average, they should be able to tell that Morrison has been far from one of the worst hitters on the team. Indeed, Morrison’s numbers come out quite similarly to another player who is in no danger to be demoted any time soon.

Player PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA
Logan Morrison, 2011 410 .249 .327 .464 .344
Gaby Sanchez, Career 1175 .271 .344 .446 .346

Unless all the Marlins do is evaluate based on batting average, there really is not much of a significant difference between Morrison this season and Sanchez in his entire career. This does not mean that Morrison is playing well; he has been worth 1.1 FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement this season because of his poor defense. However, if the Marlins were strictly looking at numbers for Morrison and his likely replacement (Bryan Petersen), there is no doubt that Morrison was not the worst option available to the team.

There is something to be said about how it seems that the Marlins only used performance to justify their demotion of Morrison. But as we can see from the Beinfest quote, this is not the only thing the team believes has been the problem. The only account we heard at first was Morrison’s response, which said that he received that explanation and walked out before hearing anything further. There is no guarantee that Beinfest and the rest of Fish management would not have explained the possible other aspects of the demotion. The team certainly was not going to go in depth on those aspects in public either, lest they make the problem any worse. We cannot know what else the team would have said, though it seems possible that the Marlins may have given Morrison a better explanation had he not walked out on them mid-discussion.

Quite the talker

Of course, we know that any situation with Morrison also likely has to do with his popular Twitter account and his generally outspoken nature. We know that Morrison has been quite the talker in the past, and that at times it has brought on the ire of the clubhouse and the team’s management. There was the time he incensed management enough to have David Sampson tell him to tone down his Twitter comments. There is the most recent spat regarding Hanley Ramirez and his effort. No matter how you look at it, Morrison’s outspoken attitude has definitely gotten him on the bad side of management.

That in and of itself should not warrant a demotion either. Yes, Morrison’s mouth could presumably get him in trouble, but so far he has been more funny than disappointing, with the commentary on management and Ramirez the lone exceptions. I personally do not have much of a problem with Morrison; I follow him on Twitter and, despite the sometimes immature nature of his jokes, I do enjoy him as one of the few athletes that say interesting things on the medium. If it were just the chatter that he does to the media or via Twitter, I doubt the Marlins would have demoted him.

The incident

There was some more recent, direct precedent regarding Morrison and Helms and the Marlins that may have led to this situation. It turns out Morrison missed a team photo session with season ticket holders on Saturday morning. Apparently Helms had mentioned to him that the event was voluntary and Morrison did not attend. This comes as much of a surprise given Morrison’s usually easy-going approach to fan events; he is well known for being good with the fans at most Marlins events and has held his fair share of fundraisers and gatherings in the past. He did apologize on the same day via his Twitter account.

You can see why this may have rubbed the Marlins front office the wrong way. The Marlins likely did not appreciate Morrison missing the event whether it was mandatory or not, figuring that it alienates the fans in a way. But that in of itself was not likely worth a demotion either. Rather, if this were an isolated incident outside of his other perceived “problems,” the team would have benched him for a game and mentioned in passing that he missed a team event to which he was expected to go. It is much more likely that this was the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back;” the Marlins had been having problems with Morrison’s outspokenness and candid media comments and decided that this no-show was the final touch that forced the team to make a disciplinary move.

Was it justified?

It depends on who you ask. If you ask me, I feel as though the way the team did it may have done more harm than good, but we do not really have the full story. It is obvious that the Marlins are trying to downplay the situation, and rightfully so. They should not blow this out of proportion and begin a media fight with a player on their own team (this principle goes for all players, including other “problem” guys like Hanley Ramirez). It was Morrison who brought it up and was upset about the situation, and he seems to be the only one who attempted to escalate the issue. Nevertheless, even if Morrison returns in ten days (the minimum demotion time), the relationship between him and the team may be permanently affected by the move.

If you are in the camp of people who believe in disciplinary action for off-the-field antics (and Morrison’s actions, in my mind, barely count as “antics), then yes, you probably think that the demotion was justified. I’m not one of those people. As long as Morrison is producing, I am not going to have a problem with him on the field. In my opinion, the team could have gone with a benching and not had a major problem. Then again, if there was a time to do it, the time would be now, with the Marlins completely out of contention and with nothing to play for anymore in 2011. If you want to send a message and educate a guy, you might as well do it with nothing at stake.

Ultimately, I wonder if Morrison will learn the lesson the team supposedly wants him to learn. He was bitter and resentful coming out of the situation, but perhaps a few days have allowed cooler heads to prevail. Then again, he may hold a grudge or resentment towards the organization for doing such a drastic measure as to demote him with little statistical reasoning despite the weak statistical argument. I do not know Morrison personally, and I do not know if he is the type of person who would respond positively to a direct challenge like this. The team’s actions may have been too strong and may have left a lasting impact on his perception of the organization as a result. Ultimately, I think this might end up with minimal benefit and a lot of possible negative consequences in terms of alienating a guy who should be part of the future of the organization. Perhaps Morrison deserved some disciplinary action, but the team may have bit into his ego a bit too much on this one.

A final addendum

No, the Marlins will not be trading Logan Morrison. As wordy as he may be, he is still a valuable part of the organization, so team fans that are suddenly interested, kindly shut your mouths and go back to enjoying your teams instead of rumormongering.

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Tags: Larry Beinfest Logan Morrison Miami Marlins Wes Helms

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