The Brewers outrighted Nyjer Morgan to the minors on Thursday, ending his two-year stint in Milwaukee.
It was probably the most predictable move the Brewers will make this offseason. From the day the season ended — and probably even before that — it was pretty clear Morgan had taken his final swings with the Brewers (take this chance to go back and read Jack’s farewell to Morgan on October 4, if you haven’t already). Even Morgan seemed to know he was moving on this winter with this tweet following the season finale:
Thank you Milwaukee for embracing the Plush movement & your support though the good & the bad!!! True Fans!!! Catch u on the flip side
— Nyjer Morgan – T Dot (@TheRealTPlush) October 4, 2012
Morgan hit .276/.333/.372 in 241 games as a Brewer, stole 25 bases and was driven in 105 times. Not bad for a guy who was acquired during the last week of Spring Training for Cutter Dykstra and cash.
He was arbitration-eligible again this winter, though, and made $2.35 million in 2012. Despite the disappointing season — a .239/.302/.308 line after hitting an electric .304/.357/.421 in 2011 — Morgan was likely going to get a small raise. The emergence of Norichika Aoki (due to make only $1.25 million next year) and strong September showing by Logan Schafer made this an easy decision.
Unfortunately for Morgan, he may have more than just a subpar 2012 working against him on the free agent market. He’s not exactly one of the most-liked personalities in the game, and has made enemies in quite a few cities. It probably goes without saying that eccentric outfielders who are coming off disappointing years and entering their age-32 season generally don’t sign early in free agency. Morgan is the type of player that might have to wait until January or February to find work.
And that’s a shame, because for all his perceived flaws and bad reputation, you’d have trouble finding a better teammate than Nyjer Morgan. There are plenty of reasons why Morgan is going to be one of the rare players to remain a fan favorite even after leaving Milwaukee.
For one, he’s just a fun guy to have on the roster. The Tony Plush stuff provided entertainment for two years and never really got stale. Post-game interviews with T-Plush were must-see television because they were totally unpredictable. There were no canned answers and cliches we’ve come to expect from other guys on the roster, just true emotion. You could tell he had a blast playing professional baseball, and we as fans love guys who don’t treat the game like a chore.
Sure, the alter egos are easier to embrace when he’s hitting .300, but to his credit he toned things down when he wasn’t playing (or wasn’t playing well). Tony Hush became a fixture on the 2012 Brewers bench, but even as his playing time diminished, he still worked hard and was the ultimate cheerleader. With Prince Fielder gone, the Brewers needed someone this year to keep things loose even when times were tough. Morgan was that guy.
We here at DoU try to be more objective than most, but we’re all baseball fans. Speaking for myself, wins and losses aren’t everything to me. I mostly just want to have *fun* watching baseball. Nyjer Morgan made it fun to watch the Brewers these past two years, whether it was late-game heroics or getting in the heads of opponents. I’ll keep my Beast Mode t-shirt, and we’ll all keep the memory of how Morgan made Bob Uecker happier than he’d been in over 25 years:
Good luck, Tony Plush/Hush/Gumble/Tombstone/Antonio Picante. I’ll just end this with my favorite quote about Morgan, from Doug Melvin in the New York Times (8/14/11):
“I wanted Nyjer Morgan,” Melvin said. “I didn’t know I was getting two people for one. I got Nyjer Morgan and an alter ego to be named later.”