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.
Nyjer Morgan, in the form of Tony Plush, drops the greatest F-Bomb in Brewers history. (No, this isn’t bleeped out.)
“F*** YEAH! F*** YEAH!” Nyjer Morgan yelled into the microphone for what was meant to be a post-game interview, which he then followed with “I GOT NOTHIN TO SAY! AHH GOTTA GO!”
TBS should have known better than to try to get Morgan, Friday night’s hero and forever’s legend, for an interview.
With Carlos Gomez on second and one out in the bottom of the tenth, Morgan transformed into legend Tony Plush and laced a single right back up the middle as Gomez came around to score the winning run. On to the National League Championship Series.
The Brewers held a 2-1 lead going into the ninth inning, but John Axford blew his first save opportunity since mid-April when Gerardo Parra scored on a Willie Bloomquist suicide squeeze. Axford then escaped a major jam, striking out Aaron Hill, inducing a weak fielder’s choice groundout from Justin Upton, then Henry Blanco rolled out to Yuniesky Betancourt. Betancourt out-sprinted Upton on a phenomenal play. But who cares about the blown lead? He was just setting up the stage.
After Craig Counsell lined out sharply to Upton to lead off the tenth off of Arizona’s JJ Putz, Gomez singled to left. Everyone in the raucous Miller Park knew what was to come: “Go-Go” would be stealing with T. Plush at the plate.
On what turned out to be a completely overlooked play, Gomez took off for second and Plush squared to bunt. At the very last moment, the Brewers center fielder pulled back, screening the catcher Blanco as the ball squirted away. Gomez reached second and the stage was set.
Putz threw a 2-2 fastball that Plush, or Morgan (you choose) laced back right up the middle. Putz had the only play on it, but a kick-save attempt failed. The speedy Gomez then beat out the throw from center fielder Chris Young as the celebration began.
Miller Park and the city of Milwaukee erupted and rejoiced as the Brewers won their first Playoff series since 1982.
To say the least, the Snakes are on a plan going home.
Arizona opened up the scoring on a solo homer from Justin Upton to the D-Backs bullpen in right field. The homer came two pitches after Milwaukee thought they were out of the inning on a supposed strike three.
Milwaukee tied up the score on a Jerry Hairston sac fly that scored Morgan. Second baseman Aaron Hill had to range to shallow right field to make the grab and his momentum was too much to overcome and Morgan tagged and scored easily. The lead then came in the 6th from an unlikely source.
After a Ryan Braun leadoff double, Prince Fielder walk, failed bunt by Rickie Weeks, and incredible catch by Young in center to rob Hairston of a bases-clearing double, Betancourt singled to center to score Braun. The oft-criticized Betancourt was in place to be the hero.
Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo consistently found himself in jam after jam, but escaped them all. With a pitch count of 112, Gallardo exited after six excellent innings of one-run ball. He gave up five hits, struck out five, and walked two. The only blemish on Gallardo’s line was the two-out homer to Upton.
D-Backs starter Ian Kennedy gave up two runs in six innings of work and was on the hook for the loss until Bloomquist’s safety squeeze tied the game.
Takashi Saito pitched a perfect seventh and Francisco Rodriguez escaped a nerve-wrecking bases loaded jam in the eighth.
Arizona third baseman Ryan Roberts, who hit the Game Four grand slam, came up and K-Rod had nowhere to put him. The mid-season pickup came through for Milwaukee, as Roberts grounded into a fielder’s choice, shortstop to second.
Immediately after the hit, Morgan gave the Beast Mode signal to Brewers players and fans. What a sight.
In the words of T. Plush “F*** YEAH!” ONTO THE NLCS!
When the Braves moved to Milwaukee in the 50’s it was considered a Western move for Major League Baseball. Now, however, with teams in California and Arizona, Milwaukee is no longer considered a western baseball city. Don’t tell that to the 2011 Brewers.
In what was reportedly Nyjer Morgan’s idea, all Brewers players and coaches “cowboy’d up” for their flight to St. Louis on Sunday after sweeping the Astros in Houston.
Morgan showed up to Minute Maid Park as the self-titled Tony Tombstone, a play on Tony Plush.
Here is “Tha Crew Western Wear Day” (Morgan’s words).
After the Brewers 11-4 win over the Pirates, Telly Hughes interviews Tony Plush, who displayed Plushdamentals with a four-hit night, before Plush interviews Prince Fielder (P Dot). I’ll just let the video do the rest of the talking.
WE BROUGHT THAT SWAT!
After Milwaukee’s convincing win behind a strong start from Marco Estrada, an offensive explosion, and Los Angeles’ blowout victory over the Cardinals, you can now just barely count the Brewers first-place lead on two hands.
In his best start with the team, Estrada (4-8) went seven strong innings, allowing only two runs with two strikeouts and no walks. The offense backed him up with a seven-run second inning in Pittsburgh.
After a Jonathan Lucroy RBI single to being the outburst, Estrada’s sac bunt turned into a two-base error on catcher Ryan Doumit as Jerry Hairston scored. Following up a Tony Plush RBI single to give the Brewers a 3-0 lead, Ryan Braun doubled over Andrew McCutchen’s head to score Estrada and Morgan, making it 5-0. With two men out, Casey McGehee capped off the pyrotechnics with a two-run home run to left, his second long ball in three days.
Prince Fielder drove in his 100th run to extend his NL lead in that category with a double in the 6th that scored Ryan Braun.
The Brewers will go ten games up in first place, setting a new franchise record for largest margin in front each time they win and the Cardinals lose. More importantly, their magic number will go down to 23, assuming the Dodgers hold on to an 11-0 lead over St. Louis out west.
Milwaukee improves their record away from the confines of Miller Park to 31-37. They have now won 10 of their last 12 games on the road.
Pittsburgh starter Ross Ohlendorf only struggled for the one inning, but he was desecrated by the “SWAT Team” of the Brewers offense enough in one inning to put the game seemingly out of reach against a sharp Estrada.
His changeup kept hitters off-balance but the command of his high 80’s-low 90’s fastball was what kept the Pirates in check. Batters weren’t swinging and missing at the changeup or slider with two strikes and the defense behind Estrada didn’t allow Pittsburgh to have any breathing room.
On the eve of the Sports Illustrated cover featuring Braun, Morgan, and Fielder, the 2-3-4 hitters for Milwaukee had 7 hits (4 for T. Plush), 5 RBI, 11 total bases, 5 walks, and scored four runs. Braun also stole two bases before being lifted after drawing a walk in the eighth inning for precautionary measures.
With the Brewers in the heat of the pennant race and on a torrid hot streak, they have captured the attention of the nation, and Sports Illustrated beckoned. I mean, it’s no Brooklyn Decker, but I think the look of T. Plush, Prince, and Braunie is a pretty good look on SI.
This is the first time the Brewers have been featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated since “Team Streak” was featured in April of 1987. The excitement around BrewTown is even furthered simply because the Lee Jenkins put the story together. Go out and get the issue, what are you waiting for?