Then and now: The evolution of Nyjer Morgan
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Since crash-landing in Milwaukee in 2011, Nyjer Morgan has become the Brewers’ most eccentric, unlikely star. A litany of delightfully bizarre “alter egos,” a knack for gonzo publicity stunts, and a general air of giddy insanity have made Morgan a fan-favorite in a team already overflowing with them. But as the Brewers’ 2012 season inches into its third week, it’s clear that Morgan has changed. His antics have been less pronounced, he seems to have laid off on his multiple-personality shtick, and, well, he’s been hitting for shit. But change is good, right? With that hopeful thought in mind, we round up a few of the differences between the batshit-crazy Nyjer Morgan of 2011, and the possibly less-batshit Morgan of 2012.
Then: Finished the 2011 season with a .304 batting average
Now: Starting the 2012 season with a .125 batting average
The man who would be Tony Plush has been putting up respectable numbers ever since his rookie year with the Pirates in 2007. When he split his time between the Pirates and the Nationals in 2009, his combined batting average topped off at a not-too-shabby .307. His average after his first season with the Brewers—.304—was just as impressive. Unfortunately, the first few weeks of this season have been a wash. Morgan is currently hitting a miserable .125, with only four hits and zero RBI. But it’s early—really early—so we’ll assume that it’s only a matter of time before he shows up in a press conference wearing that weird victory army helmet again.
The number of names on Morgan’s list of alter egos seemed to double with each passing week of the 2011 season. What began innocently enough with “Tony Plush”—Morgan’s “gentleman” alter ego—quickly exploded into “Tony Gumbo,” “Tony Tombstone,” “Mr. Eezzy Breezzy,” “Mr. Got 2 B Startin’ Somethin’,” and, last but not least, “Antonio Picante.” These days, the nickname game seems to have stopped—or, at the very least, it has reached its inevitable tipping point. The most apt alter ego for Morgan in 2012 would seem to be “Tony Hush,” a.k.a. “The Weatherman.” Cool, calm, and collected, Hush is the man who keeps his head down and weathers the .125 storm.
Then: Threw tobacco at Chris Carpenter
Now: Starred in commercial for PETA
Fun fact: Opposing players (and fans) can’t stand Nyjer Morgan. During a particularly contentious game last year against St. Louis, Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter allegedly dropped a polite “fuck you” after striking Morgan out in the top of the ninth. Morgan shot back with his own f-bomb, and topped it off by throwing his chewing tobacco at Carpenter. Perhaps in an effort to curb further tobacco/“fuck you” incidents, Morgan has softened his image in 2012. And what better way to silence the haters than by starring in a PETA commercial with his bestest, furriest pal in the whole world, Slick Willie? Oh, and coining a new word: “cat-mance.”
Then: Called Albert Pujols a woman on Twitter
Now: Tweets about hockey
There’s nothing more delightful than a professional athlete talking shit on Twitter, and Morgan wields the ubiquitous social media time-suck like a jazz musician. Following the same contentious Cardinals game, Morgan referred to Albert Pujols—who had jogged over and confronted Morgan after the tobacco incident—as “Alberta,” and claimed he/she “couldn’t see Plush if she had her gloves on!!! Wat was she thinking running afta Plush!!! She never been n tha ring!!!” These days, Morgan’s Twitter noise has quieted to a dull roar, and mostly consists of his thoughts on the San Jose Sharks (he likes them), some lighthearted trolling (he called the St. Louis Blues the “Flus”), and the occasional “Ahhhhhhhhh!!!”
Then: Pulling off some insane clutch shit
Now: Still pulling off some insane clutch shit
Here’s something that hasn’t changed over the past year: Morgan’s ability to come through with some ridiculous clutch plays. One of the highlights of the Brewers 2011 season—maybe the highlight?—was his game-winning hit in Game 5 of the NLDS, giving the Brewers their first postseason series victory since 1982. That moment may be hard to top, though Morgan gave it a shot Wednesday night against the Dodgers at Miller Park. In the bottom of the 10th with bases loaded and Morgan on third, Ryan Braun hit a high pop-up to shallow center field. Instead of heeding third-base coach Ed Sedar’s stop sign, Morgan went ahead anyway, slid into home, and won the game. Like so many things related to Morgan, the play was controversial—instant replay shows that he maaaaaay have actually been tagged out. Then there’s the matter of Morgan ignoring Sedar’s advice. (Pro tip: Don’t fuck with Sedar.) But hey, it worked, and Morgan was a game-winning hero. Still, we imagine Ron Roenicke may have paraphrased Major League’s Coach Lou Brown after the game: Nice play, Morgan. Don’t ever fucking do it again.