T. Plush. Gotta go. Plushdamentals. Namesake of this very blog. Tony Tombstone. .304 hitter. NLDS hero. Beast mode. Alberta Pujols. Master of the postgame interview. Gentleman. Tony Plush.
We get it–Nyjer Morgan had one hell of a 2011. But, in all honesty, that was 2011 and should be left as 2012. His profound craziness on and off the field won’t be taking Brewers fans by surprise anymore, though they will still be nonetheless entertaining. Morgan put up career numbers across the board in 2011 and experienced a career resurgence in a city that grew to adore him. But is it realistic to expect the same out of Morgan in 2012?
We’ve seen Morgan draw negative attention to his name for throwing a ball at a heckling fan and charge the mound against Chris Volstad and the Marlins. Both of these instances came in 2010 with Washington, previously his only full season in the Majors until 2011. These were the memorable moments of his season, which finished with forgettable .253/.319/.314 numbers and a league-high 17 times caught stealing. The Brewers took a risk in trading for a talented-yet-troubled outfielder with a past history of nothing but trouble.
But in Milwaukee, Morgan turned his career and reputation around. With clutch hits and “tickling” the ball into the outfield, he became a fan favorite. Insert in the memorable post-game interviews, Tony Plush alter-ego, and Jim Rome correspondent video and you have a national media hit. He finished the season batting .304/.357./.421 with 20 doubles, 6 triples, 4 home runs, 37 RBI, and 61 runs. To cement his legacy with the Brewers, he hit the walk off single in Game 5 of the NLDS against Arizona to propel Milwaukee to the NLCS.
Last time Morgan experience this kind of success, however, was in Washington in 2009. After being traded from Pittsburgh, where he hit .277 in 71 games, Morgan batted .351 and stole 24 bases in 49 games. Nothing similar to his 2009 numbers were emulated in 2010, a season in which the Walla Walla Community College product played in 16 more games. We’ve already gone through his statistic drop-off, which was in part due to his inability to keep a level head. He was suspended seven games for throwing a ball at a fan. He missed a fly ball against Baltimore and threw his glove on the ground, giving up on the play. While I don’t see anything of this magnitude happening in Milwaukee, where the environment is “Nyjer-friendly”, there are too many unpredictable things that can go against Morgan that can affect his season.
That being said, Morgan is still expected to be a solid contributor to the Brewers in 2012. He, Carlos Gomez, and Nori Aoki will split time in center field. Each will also get more playing time to begin the season, with Corey Hart expected to begin on the DL. His stellar defense is both center field and right field add to his already-solid value.
Speaking of value, you can’t place one on Morgan’s clubhouse impact. On a team full of eccentric personalities, Morgan, with regular help from the ubiquitous Tony Plush, was the center of the pack. When introducing himself mid-Spring, he ignored the customary greetings of his name and former baseball pit stops. Instead, he screamed, “What up f******!”. His twitter account (@TheRealTPlush–follow him. If you aren’t, what are you doing with your life?) has over 78,000 followers. Brewers pitcher Chris Narveson has just over 1,000.
So Nyjer Morgan is good in the clubhouse. Got it.
By no means should Morgan have the kind of drop-off he did from 2009 to 2010; he’s in a place and on a club where his emotions won’t get the most of him….very much. He’s a player who derives his production on the field from emotion–of which he has plenty. While 2012 may not have the T. Plush magic of 2011, don’t expect him to drop off significantly. His role may be slightly decreased with the addition of Aoki and the health and hopefully rejuvenated play of Gomez, but his Plushdamentals–running over the catcher, laying out in center, and gettin’ dirty on a triple–will still be there.
He’s an intricate part of an intere……….ya’ know what? I gotta go.
*What Can the Brewers Expect from Nyjer Morgan in 2012 is the “sixth inning” in a series of nine posts on An Infectious and Unconditional Love for The Game. Read each of the first five posts here.