Nyjer Morgan played in game 162 for the Brewers with little fanfare, striking out swinging in the final inning of the season. His batting line fell to an ugly .240/.302/.308. His slump was a story as the team lurched through the first three months of the season; his presence on the roster an afterthought as the team surged back into relevance.
Even without Morgan’s production, the Brewers outfield was one of the most productive in baseball. Mostly between Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez and Norichika Aoki the Brewers mustered a 119 OPS+ out of its outfield, the second best mark in the National League (Colorado, 123). With Logan Schafer showing some ability in September and Morgan due a raise from his $2.35 million contract should the Brewers tender him a contract, it would appear his time in Milwaukee is most likely over.
A tweet from Morgan all but confirms it:
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
In about three weeks, Morgan will officially become a free agent. And that will be that.
It shouldn’t be notable, how silent Morgan’s exit is. But Morgan is a player who many wish to see fail. He started a brawl one time in Florida and yelled some swears and tossed a wad of tobacco at noted over-the-top person Chris Carpenter (who was not innocent of any swear-yelling himself). Such a rap sheet prompted this overly wrought piece suggesting Morgan was turning into baseball’s Chad Johnson/Ochocinco or Terrell Owens, the Brewers’ chemistry was at risk and Morgan could be on his way out of Milwaukee sooner rather than later — and there was plenty more where that came from, whether in newspapers or comments sections or in angry bleacher conversations around the country.
It’s later, and Morgan is indeed on his way out. In the interim, the Brewers produced their winningest two-season stretch — 179-145 (.552 winning percentage) — since the team won 188 games between the 1978 and 1979 seasons. The Brewers went 9-4 in the final 13 games of the season following the Carpenter incident. Morgan himself limped to the finish line — he hit just .179/.281/.258 in the postseason. But one of those five hits was the clincher against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NLDS, a great moment in team history that will live on forever — I believe even after the team finds its way back to the World Series.
The Brewers never won a pennant or a championship with Nyjer Morgan, and for the dedicated detractors, that’s probably enough. But to argue that he or his attitude was anything but a positive for this team and for this city or state is absurd. When Morgan was going hot, he gave this team a character unseen for a generation of fans.
When he wasn’t hot, his “antics” — a word solely used to deride and condescend toward a player who did things differently — may have fallen out of the public eye. But even with my limited access — just the on-field mics and the dugout cameras — you could tell his encouraging, positive dugout nature never left even as he failed to find a groove in 2012. There was always a little bit of that T-Plush magic lurking in the Brewers dugout, the excitement and competitive nature of Nyjer Morgan never absent.
The fire that burns in Nyjer Morgan scares people. Because he isn’t reserved. Because he doesn’t fit the old school mold. Because he’s black and occasionally angry.
The fire that burns in Nyjer Morgan inspires me. Watching him accomplish so many of his career and life goals in 2011 was a remarkable experience, one that so many people reveled in and identified with and loved.
Things happen. Guys who hit one year burn out the next year. I still believe in Morgan as an MLB player — he hit .250/.313/.366 after June 1 and is still more than a proficient center fielder. A team could use that off the bench, and I guarantee you a team could use a character like Nyjer Morgan.