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There's a chance someone put Nyjer Morgan up to all of this. As weird as he's been the past two weeks, it wouldn't be at all surprising to discover Morgan signed on for a reality show and the production company's been secretly filming the pilot over the past 10 days. Either that or the Nationals' brass decided the team needed to find a way to remain "SportsCenter" worthy in its post-Strasburg state.
|Nyjer Morgan's free-wheeling ways on the base paths aren't making him any fans among opponents.|
If so, well played.
Because something has to explain this.
As far as meltdowns go, Morgan's had some serious hangtime and some serious consequences. Bodies battered in his wake, carotids popping all over the country, normally rational middle-aged men like Jim Riggleman and Edwin Rodriguez pointing fingers at each other in the universal language of love.
Morgan's really cutting a swath through the Nats' late-season schedule. Talk about finishing strong -- bashing catchers left and right, throwing baseballs at fans, charging the mound. It's like he's auditioning for "Expendables II." And after Wednesday night's main event, complete with a postfight, raised-hands walk-off that would have made Floyd Mayweather proud, what could he possibly do for an encore?
Oh, yeah, that's right: He appealed the seven-game suspension he got for clocking a Philly fan with a ball. That appeal will be heard Sept. 10. (To be fair, the fan was cool with it, but fans don't always know what's best for them.) Maybe Nyjer should have gone with the reality-show excuse, offer Bud Selig a recurring role. Whatever he tried didn't work; his seven games became 15 today when the league tacked on another eight for his week of destruction tour.
The commissioner's office says it reviewed Morgan's behavior incident-by-incident, rather than lumping it all together, which might explain why he didn't get the punishment he deserved: a suspension that ends his season. It seems clear he's just getting warmed up, and it's frightening to think what might happen over the next month. He's already had at least two incidents with fans. What kind of treatment do you think he's going to get in visiting ballparks now?
And at this point, it's hard to imagine Riggleman would argue with such drastic punishment. He has to be tired of apologizing and defending; it reached the coin-flip stage on Wednesday.
Riggleman's confusion is understandable. The ancillary issue arising from Morgan's behavior is the mysterious nature of baseball's unwritten rules. When can you steal? When do you throw at a guy? When is it acceptable to charge the mound?
It's hard to count the number of ways Morgan violated The Code. He bashed into Cardinals catcher Bryan Anderson without regard for the play -- or the plate, for that matter. That was a violation on multiple grounds: cheap shot, disrespecting the game, intent to injure a defenseless player. He drilled Marlins catcher Brett Hayes and separated his shoulder, which was another three-count violation (at least).
|Nyjer Morgan's behavior of late hasn't made Jim Riggleman's year more fun.|
If you're dismissive of baseball, you'll use the opportunity to mock The Code and remind everyone that real men play football, where they can just hit the guy across from them if they have a problem with him. It's true: Baseball opens itself up to criticism with some of this stuff.
Especially this time.
The Marlins threw at Morgan the second time because he stole second and third with his team behind 11 runs. Baseball is the only sport in which opponents decide the validity of strategy. Up 11, I get. But down? If it's bad baseball, so what? He's doing you a favor. Let his manager take it up with him. But throwing at him because of it? The Marlins -- Wes Helms was the most vocal -- need to stop being Morgan's Tom Emanski and play their own game.
Besides, just be honest. Helms should have just admitted it -- Morgan ticked everybody off, and the Marlins felt he needed to be stopped. So they went about trying to stop it and used the stolen bases as an excuse.
Most of the time The Code is straightforward. When it's fueled by rage, damaged pride and testosterone, it changes with the circumstances, which is one of the reasons it retains its air of mystery.
Morgan apparently didn't catch Selig and his henchmen on a day when the circumstances of The Code worked in his favor. Maybe there's still time. He can always appeal the new suspension. If you see Nyjer walking into Bud's Park Avenue office followed by a director and two producers, you'll know he stands a fighting chance. Without that, he's on his own.
And right now that's not the best place to be.
ESPN The Magazine senior writer Tim Keown co-wrote Josh Hamilton's autobiography, "Beyond Belief: Finding the Strength to Come Back," which is available on Amazon.com. Sound off to Tim here.
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