Joe Morgan Cincinnati's 36-year-old second baseman who won back-to-back National League MVP honors in 1975 and 1976, said today he "is looking forward" to playing elsewhere next season.
Morgan, who broke his season-long silence on the subject today, will be the biggest name regular who will be available in November's free-agent reentry draft.
In the midst of a pennant race, with his jubilant young teammates having a ball around him, Morgan is blue. Baseball's 5-foot-6 bundle of joy is sad, almost bitter.
"This should be a fun time in my career," he said. "But I can't enjoy it like I should. I'm looking forward to being somewhere else next year. I don't think the people (in Cincinnati) understand what I'm still contributing -- defense, stolen bases, getting on base."
Morgan has had it with both Cincinnati's fans and management. He will be the latest in a growing list to leave Cincinnati, either voluntarily or involuntarily: Tony Perez, Pete Rose, Sparky Anderson.
"I got off to a bad start this year with injuries," Morgan said. "They booed me, but that didn't surprise me after last year.
"Then, I had a 17-game hitting streak, and everything was all right. But I made a couple of bad plays and they were all over my butt again. I couldn't believe it. That sort of snapped it. I wouldn't say that I quit, but things just haven't been the same since. I haven't felt the same about the organization and the town."
Despite his .248 batting average, the statistic every fan recognizes, Morgan has an excellent .386 on-base percentage, thanks to 93 walks. He leads the Reds in steals with 26 and has only 10 errors in a near-Gold Glove year afield.
For the first time in his career, Morgan has swallowed his pride and played with a succession of injuries to help the team.
"It hurts me not to be the real Joe Morgan," says the second baseman who has had a swollen wrist, injured ankle, deeply bruised leg and chronic abdomen muscle pull this year.
"If I can ever get totally well again, I'll shock people. Cincinnati measures me against the way I used to be, not against other second basemen. Hey, how many have had seasons as good as mine this year. . .maybe five?
"They're going to be surprised when I'm gone. You don't appreciate what you have till you don't have it."
"After what I've done as a Red, I shouldn't have to take abuse. Especially not when I've played hurt all year. And I'm not going to take it any more."
The Reds have made little effort this year to sign Morgan, regarding him as a necessary casualty of their youth movement, especially if it would take a multiyear, multimillion dollar contract to keep him.
"In every city," says Morgan, "the fans say, 'Why don't you come here, Joe. Cincinnati doesn't deserve you.'" Morgan is listening.