Milwaukee’s Nyjer Morgan already has a contentious relationship with the guardians of ballball etiquette, but it’s the former Pirates/Nats outfielder’s visit to San Francisco this weekend that dismayed the SF Chronicle’s Bruce Jenkins. While crediting Morgan with “trying to resurrect the art (of flamboyance) all by himself,”, Jenkins calls the player, “simply a disgrace in center field Friday night, at least by modern-day standards.”
The bleacher fans were riding him, as is their custom with most any opposing outfielder, and Morgan heard every word. He routinely engaged them with words and sweeping gestures, at least one of them carrying the hint of malice, and created a tempestuous atmosphere that easily could have led to alcohol-fueled retaliation.
Duane Kuiper chided Morgan on the KNBR/Comcast postgame show, saying it made no sense to incite fans in that manner. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke delivered the same message to Morgan after the game, saying it was OK to “be yourself” on the field, but only to a point. Asked by reporters how he felt about the fan abuse, a congenial Morgan replied, “I love it.”
Really? You actually enjoy it? “F- yeah,” he said with a smile.
As the game evolved, the ballpark became a stage for the likes of Jimmy Piersall, Billy Martin, Lou Piniella, Mark Fidrych, Pedro Martinez and the A’s Rickey Henderson and Jose Canseco. All of these guys broke the game’s strict codes of ethics, all about respect for the game and not “showing up” an opponent, but the landscape has changed.
Today, the likes of Manny Ramirez, Carlos Zambrano, Brandon Phillips and Milton Bradley are judged more harshly. Morgan was downright villainous as he passed through second-rate clubs in Pittsburgh and Washington, getting fined, suspended or reviled for fighting, throwing a baseball at fans, overly aggressive baserunning and just showing off.
It’s a little curious that Jenkins would be so quick to criticize Morgan for a toxic atmosphere at AT&T Ballpark rather than laying equal or greater blame at the feet of the paying customers, who might be slightly emboldened by columns like this, assuming many of them could read. It’s also puzzling that Carlos Zambrano and Milton Bradley are dragged into this ; if the gist of Jenkins piece is summarized by the question, “can you win a pennant in today’s game with an excess of flamboyance?”, what purpose is served by mistaking hot-doggery with anger management issues? For all of Bradley’s struggles with authority figures and fans, “flamboyance” was not a charge that was routinely leveled at him.