It took Nyjer Morgan over a year in Washington to transform himself from a refreshingly offbeat clubhouse character to an outrageous whack-job whose clownish act was wearing thin with teammates and opponents alike. When the Nationals traded Morgan – and his alter-ego “Tony Plush” (the two of them, however, take up only one roster spot) -- to Milwaukee in March, it seemed not a minute too soon.
Add Twitter to the mix – @TheRealTPlush joined the social network in May -- and perhaps it was inevitable that the transformation apparently is happening even faster in Milwaukee. Only now, the stakes are higher, with the Brewers playing some of the best baseball in the league and cruising into the postseason.
Take it from those of us who witnessed in his act in D.C.: The Brewers need to rein in Morgan while there is still time. Perhaps they can perform an exorcism to get Tony Plush out.
On Wednesday night, Morgan – or was it T-Plush? -- nearly started a brawl with the rival St. Louis Cardinals after jawing with Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter, then tossing a wad of chewing tobacco toward the mound. Both benches cleared, with Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols stepping between Morgan and Carpenter, but no punches were thrown. Morgan was ejected.
Later, Morgan, or rather Plush, took the bad blood with the Cardinals to Twitter, writing, “Where still n 1st and I hope those crying birds injoy watching tha Crew in tha
Playoffs!!! Aaaaahhhhh!!! [sic]” But he didn’t stop there, posting another Tweet in which he referred to Albert Pujols as “Alberta” and “she”: “Wat was she thinking running afta Plush!!! She never been n tha ring!!!” it read in part.
On his weekly radio show Thursday morning, Brewers GM Doug Melvin said the matter would be handled internally, and said generally of athletes’ use of Twitter, “]It] is something that probably needs to be addressed.”
Morgan is enjoying his finest season in baseball, batting a career-high .313 with an .801 OPS for the Brewers, who have uniformly praised his contributions both on and off the field. He is credited with loosening up the clubhouse – same as he was when he first arrived in Washington in July 2009.
In Washington, the worsening of his behavior coincided with a precipitous drop in his performance, though that doesn’t appear to be the case in Milwaukee. But the Brewers should be beware: The worst of Morgan’s antics seem to come in spurts, such as the two-week rampage last August-September in which Morgan caused four separate incidents, ranging from the mild (a ball he tossed into the stands in Philadelphia that allegedly struck a fan) to the outrageous (he charged the mound in Florida, setting off one of the most violent baseball brawls in recent memory).
Here’s the bigger problem with Morgan: Opponents seem to understand that you can easily (and purposely) get under his skin, as Carpenter apparently did on Wednesday night, and touch off an implosion. And such implosions rarely end well for Morgan, or his team. If any of the Brewers’ future playoff opponents were paying attention, they might have found the blueprint for neutralizing Morgan – goad him into an altercation and get him suspended.
Nyjer Morgan is a good baseball player and a fine young man. But as the Brewers are finding out, Tony Plush is nothing but trouble.