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Morgan's antics have run their course
Tony Plush just jumped the shark.
Nyjer Morgan — along with his alter ego, Tony Plush — is one of the baseball season’s most entertaining personalities. He has been the spark-plug center fielder the Milwaukee Brewers needed and the free spirit baseball has missed. He’s candid. He’s outrageous. He’s a lot of fun.
His legend was born June 8. That’s the night Morgan delivered a walk-off hit to beat the Mets — only he didn’t realize it. In a hysterical postgame interview with FOX Sports Wisconsin, Morgan suggested that he thought the Brewers were winning in the eighth inning, not tied in the ninth.
Morgan admired how he “tickled” the ball down the line. He howled, “I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW WHAT TIME IT WAS!” He reprised the Usain Bolt bow-and-arrow pose. It seemed even more hilarious one day later, when his Brewers teammates replayed the interview — again and again — before their next game. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers visited the clubhouse that day. Rodgers, like everyone else in the room, was doubled over at Morgan’s antics.
But no one is laughing now.
At least, not the St. Louis Cardinals.
And especially not Albert Pujols.
Morgan went too far Wednesday night. And I’m not talking about his feint at Chris Carpenter following his ninth-inning strikeout, ill-advised though that may have been. I won’t even take issue with the way Morgan chucked a plug of tobacco toward the mound, although that was in poor taste, too.
Morgan’s greatest transgression came long after the game was over, when he took to Twitter with an insult aimed at Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols, who was the first to confront Morgan on the field as tensions mounted.
Here was the jest from @TheRealTPlush:
Alberta couldn't see Plush if she had her gloves on!!! Wat was she thinking running afta Plush!!! She never been n tha ring!!!
Yes, Morgan referred to one of the greatest players in baseball history as “Alberta” and “she.” Social media coaches, take note: We have a new exhibit in how not to use Twitter.
According to Lee Jenkins’ excellent Sports Illustrated cover story on the Brewers, Milwaukee reliever LaTroy Hawkins has told Morgan to read his tweets three times before hitting the send button. But if Morgan read that one three times, then I read "Wuthering Heights" three times.
Let’s consider the context: Morgan told reporters after the game that Carpenter cursed at him from the mound, adding, “As soon as he said it, he turns his back and runs away.” If Carpenter indeed swore, then Morgan had a right to be upset. But video of the incident suggests that Carpenter didn’t run away at all. He was on the mound the entire time. Still, Morgan seemed to imply that Carpenter’s failure to confront him was a cowardly act.
But where is the honor in what Morgan did, tweeting at Pujols from the safety of the team’s bus or charter flight? If Morgan is the authority on manly confrontation, why not deliver the diatribe to Pujols when he’s standing right next to him?
I don’t want to preempt Professor La Russa’s forthcoming lecture on how to win with class, but Morgan is acting like someone who has never played on a contending team before. (He hasn’t.)
The Brewers’ coaching staff — or at least their veteran players — must help Morgan realize the potential consequences of his actions when the stakes are this high. They can’t afford to have their center fielder lose his cool at a crucial moment during the postseason.
And this isn’t the first time Morgan has grabbed headlines for the wrong reasons. His combustibility was evident last year, when he charged the mound and incited a fight with the Florida Marlins. There’s a reason he has been traded twice, in spite of his talent: His notion of what constitutes acceptable behavior doesn’t agree with many others around the game.
It wasn’t long ago that the NHL suspended well-known nuisance Sean Avery after he said, with cameras rolling, that players in the league had started dating his “sloppy seconds.” Morgan’s tweet wasn’t nearly that offensive. But he needs to be careful. It would be a shame for the Brewers to lose a key player over a 140-character communiqué.
Twitter is a window to the personalities of the athletes we follow, and it’s perfectly acceptable for them to use it as a forum for trash talk. But there is a line of decorum, and Morgan crossed it. Shaquille O’Neal, one of the most popular athletes of all-time, has 4.2 million more Twitter followers than Morgan. Shaq really understands the medium. And if Twitter had been available to Shaq in his prime, I doubt he would have referred to Alonzo Mourning as a “she.”
At the risk of turning this into a referendum on political correctness in sports, women may be offended by the way Morgan’s comments equated weakness with femininity. Such remarks are commonplace in the macho culture of male sports, from junior high school to the major leagues. Reporters hear them in locker rooms all the time. We never report the banter, nor should we. We are guests in their workplace. Boys will be boys.
But Morgan seemed to forget that Twitter isn’t an extension of the locker room. When you say something titillating in a public setting — and Twitter is a public setting — then you must be prepared for columnists, fans, and people within the game to react strongly.
Morgan has become a central figure to the Brewers’ World Series aspirations, in a way no one expected when the season began. Now it’s time for someone to remind Tony Plush that he’s important because of his .313 batting average, not his Twitter musings. Morgan has more than 36,000 followers, but he has an even more important constituency to satisfy: the millions of fans across Wisconsin who believe this team can win the World Series.
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