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Nyjer Morgan Charges Mound, Setting Off Brawl Between Nationals, Marlins

Sep 1, 2010 – 11:07 PM
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FanHouse Staff

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Nyjer MorganWashington Nationals center fielder Nyjer Morgan found himself at the center of his biggest controversy yet Wednesday night, when he charged the mound and threw a punch at Florida Marlins pitcher Chris Volstad to kick off a bench-clearing brawl (see video here) between the two teams in the sixth inning of the Nats' 16-10 loss to Florida.

Morgan was angered when Volstad threw a pitch behind him, the second time the Marlins hurler appeared to take aim at the speedy outfielder. As that second purpose pitch flew past catcher Brad Davis and to the backstop at Sun Life Stadium, Morgan paused briefly, then tossed his bat aside and rushed toward Volstad. Morgan's punch appeared to glance off the side of Volstad's head, and almost immediately thereafter he was clothes-lined by first baseman Gaby Sanchez and pummeled by a number of his other Marlins teammates.

"He hit me the first time, so be it. But he hit two other of our guys? All right, cool. But then he whips another one behind me, we got to go," Morgan said of the events that pushed him over the edge. "I'm just sticking up for myself and just defending my teammates. I'm just going out there and doing what I have to do."

Morgan and Volstad, who had a bruise on his face in postgame interviews, were tossed from the game along with Marlins pitcher Jose Veras and manager Edwin Rodriguez. Nationals manager Jim Riggleman and pitcher Doug Slaten were ejected later in the game when Slaten hit Sanchez in the hip with a pitch.
Despite the multiple ejections, it is Morgan who is certain to be the talk of the incident.

He has been a lightning rod over the last week. He was suspended for seven games by Major League Baseball last Wednesday for throwing a ball into the stands that struck a fan in the face at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, a punishment he is appealing. Then over the weekend he angered Riggleman and his own teammates for a perceived cheap shot on Cardinals catcher Bryan Anderson as he came across the plate to score. Riggleman wound up apologizing to St. Louis.

But his actions over the last 24-plus hours have taken his antics up another notch.

On Tuesday, he barreled into Marlins catcher Brett Hayes in the 10th inning of Washington's 1-0 loss to Florida. Hayes was diagnosed with a separated shoulder as a result of the collision, which some Marlins players thought was dirty, and he's likely out for the year.

That was enough to garner some retaliation from Volstad on Wednesday. He successfully plunked Morgan in the fourth inning before throwing behind him in the sixth. After getting hit, Morgan fanned the flames further by stealing second and then third base in the fourth, at which point the Nationals were down 14-3, a margin of 11 runs.

"That was garbage. That's just bad baseball."
-- Nyjer Morgan on Chris Volstad throwing behind him in the sixth inning after already being plunked once
"That was garbage. That's just bad baseball," said Morgan. "It's only the fourth inning. If they're going to hold me on, I'm going to roll out (and steal a base). The circumstances were kind of out of whack, but the game was too early. It was only the fourth inning. If it happened again, I'd do it again. It's one of those things where I'm a hard-nosed player. I'm grimey."

Riggleman said after the game that he didn't think the stolen bases led to Volstad's second attempted plunking of Morgan because the Marlins were planning to go after him all along.

"I'm glad Nyjer stole those bases, to tell you the truth," he said. "They hit him, he went to first base, he took his medicine. I don't know that yesterday's play (on Hayes) was right or wrong, but we were going to let it go and Nyjer went to first base. ...

"If they hit you and you feel like you didn't do anything wrong, which that's the way Nyjer felt, ... that's his business. We decide when we run, we don't let anybody else decide when we run. Whatever their reason was for throwing at Nyjer again, I've got no problems with what took place after that."

But the Marlins were pretty clearly irked by Morgan's perhaps unnecessary aggressiveness on the basepaths.

"I cannot stand when a guy shows somebody up. There's no place in baseball for that. You're going to get what's coming to you if you do that. Tonight, we had to show him that we weren't going to put up with the way he was treating us after last night," said Marlins third baseman Wes Helms.

"I can't really say anything good about a guy that doesn't play the game the right way and doesn't play for the integrity of the game," Helms added. "I know he's stealing bases out of his own doing, he's trying to get back at us. That's the only reason we went after him the second time. If he wouldn't have stole the bases, I think it would have been over with, but since he stole the bases it kind of pumped us up a little more."

Awfully strong words all around, and this one might not be over. The Marlins head up to Washington next weekend for a three-game series at Nationals Park from Sept. 10-12.

Morgan, for his part, seems unconcerned about his reputation suffering after this recent string of incidents.

"People are going to have their own opinions. I know what kind of player I am. I'm going out there balls out," said Morgan. "I'm not going to go out there and take anything for granted. I'm going to show that I'm a hard-nosed ballplayer, and that's the way it is."

His teammates seem less sure.

"He's definitely done some things over the past couple weeks that are a little questionable, I think," Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said.

"But the whole thing in Philly, whatever. He shouldn't be thought of any differently for that. I didn't see the play, but I seriously doubt he turned and threw a ball at somebody's face. People throw balls in the stands all the time. But the thing with St. Louis was out of line, and we told him that. He's still learning the game. But the St. Louis play was really the only play that, I think, is in question. The play last night was, I think, clean."

With one suspension pending, and another one now to come, it's unlikely Major League Baseball will be as understanding.

Information from the Palm Beach Post and NatsInsider.com was used in this report.
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