It Really Hasn’t Been a Good Week for Nyjer Morgan

There has to be a wager involved with this, somehow. Why else would a major league player attempt to go from zero-to-Alex Rodriguez in a bizarre and misguided weeklong quest to become baseball’s Most Hated Player?

World, meet Nyjer Morgan. You might not have known him in mid-August, but you certainly do now.

Over the last seven days, he’s gotten into it with fans, his own manager and various members of the opposition, both as the player delivering punishment and the one receiving it.

Had he paid a lick of attention to baseball’s unwritten rules along the way, virtually all of it could have been avoided.

He’s in today’s news for yesterday’s fight, but Morgan’s slide began on Aug. 25, when he threw a ball into the stands in Philadelphia. Some say he threw it to the fans, some say he threw it at the fans. Morgan claims it was a big misunderstanding (a tack corroborated by at least one member of the crowd), but the league quickly levied a suspension for his actions, which is currently under appeal. (The piece of Code he ignored: Never engage with hecklers. It rarely ends well.)

On Aug. 27, Morgan got picked off base in the eighth inning of a close game against St. Louis, which proved particularly costly when the batter, Willie Harris, subsequently hit a home run. The Nationals lost, 4-2. Morgan was confronted after the game by Nationals manager Jim Riggleman, and dropped from leadoff to eighth in the batting order.

His response: The following day, he attempted to level Cardinals catcher Bryan Anderson in a play at the plate, despite the fact that Anderson had his back to the play and was moving in the opposite direction. Morgan was so focused on his target that he veered away from the plate to make contact, and in fact never scored. (Code: Run into catchers only when a slide would lead to a likely out. Even more importantly, never let personal vendettas get in the way of your team’s success.)

Riggleman was angry enough about it to call his player out in public, after apologizing to both Anderson and Tony La Russa. Morgan, he said, as reported by Nationals Daily News, did an “unprofessional thing,” and, indicating that lessons would be learned, “you’ll never see it again” from him. (The manager wasn’t quite accurate on this point.)

Riggleman then benched Morgan for the series finale, under the auspices that he had become too prominent a target to safely take the field.

On Aug. 30, Morgan responded to Riggleman. “I guess he perceived it as some nasty play with the intentions of trying to hurt somebody before coming to me and asking me about the situation, which was very unacceptable,” he told the Washington Post. “But on my half, I’m not going to go ahead and throw fuel on the fire. I’m going to try to be as professional as I can about the situation.”

It’s frequently the case, of course, that when players feel the need to proclaim the fact that they’re being “professional,” they’re actually anything but. (Code violation: Never call out your manager in public.)

In fact, Morgan cited the unwritten rules in his own defense, saying that Riggleman “just basically did a cardinal sin. You don’t blast your player in the papers.” (This is true, unless the player’s behavior has deteriorated to the point where the manager feels he has few other options. )

It didn’t take long for Morgan to stir further controversy. In the 10th inning of a scoreless game on Aug. 31, he ran into Marlins catcher Brett Hayes with enough force to place him on the disabled list for the remainder of the season with an injured shoulder. While Morgan didn’t go out of his way to reach his target this time, consensus held that he would have been safe—with the winning run, no less—had he slid. (See previous Code citation about running into catchers. The Marlins won it with a run in the bottom of the frame.)

In light of Morgan’s previous indiscretion with a catcher, the play seemed like the act of a guy hoping for someone to try to knock the chip off his shoulder. (Watch it here.)

When he took the field for the bottom of the inning, Morgan again got into it with fans, this time being caught on tape cussing them out. (See previous unwritten-rule citation regarding fan interactions.)

Any one of these things can constitute a distraction in the clubhouse. The sum of them, especially coming as they did in the span of a week, reads like the linescore of a borderline sociopath.

Which brings us to yesterday’s firestorm.

Morgan was hit in the fourth inning by Marlins starter Chris Volstad—clear retaliation for his treatment of Hayes the day before. Not content to let it end there, Morgan subsequently stole second and third on the next two pitches, while his team trailed by 11 runs in the fourth inning.

This is a clear violation of the unwritten rules, although under ordinary circumstances, a player’s own teammates care more about him staying put in that type of situation than does the opposition. Morgan’s steals, however, were an unequivocal message to the Marlins, conveying that he neither appreciated their treatment of him, nor respected their right to do what they did. (Code: If you send a message to the other team, expect one in return.)

“That was garbage,” he told reporters after the game. “That’s just bad baseball. It’s only the fourth inning. If they’re going to hold me on, I’m going to roll out. 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. And I just wanted to go out there and try to protect myself. I didn’t want to get outside the box. There’s bit a little bit of controversy surrounding the kid lately. But it’s just one of things.”

That’s one way to look at it. Another way is that “the kid” essentially gave the Marlins little choice but to reinforce their point. Which they did, when Volstad threw a pitch behind him two innings later.

“I think that’s the only reason we tried to go after him a second time,” said Marlins third baseman Wes Helms in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “Since he stole the bases, I think it pumped us up a little more and got to Volstad a little bit. . . . I cannot stand when a guy shows somebody up or show the integrity of the game up to the fans or whatever. There’s just no place in baseball for that. In my opinion, you’re going to get what’s coming to you if you do that. Tonight, it was time we had to show him we weren’t going to put up with the way he was treating us, but also with the way he was trying to take bases down 10 runs. After he got hit, you know why he did it. . . . 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.”

It’s not like Morgan needed to further prove a willingness to put his personal agenda ahead of the integrity of the game, but he did. After Volstad’s pitch sailed behind him, Morgan charged the mound, and a rarity in baseball occurred—a fight that involved actual fighting.

The Marlins—particularly first baseman Gaby Sanchez—couldn’t wait to get their hands on Morgan, and players quickly piled up near the mound. (Watch it here.)

Other accounts offer copious details of the fight. One pertinent example doesn’t even involve Morgan, but third base coach Pat Listach, who was among the first people in the scrum. Baseball’s Code mandates that fighting is left to the players, with coaches and managers serving to fill the role of peacemakers. That was clearly not Listach’s intent, and he may well be disciplined by the league for his actions.

Should Morgan be given any sort of pass in this situation, it’s for the fact that his response to being drilled—the stealing of back-to-back bases—fell within the boundaries of reason; as he said, it was only the fourth inning and the Marlins were holding him on, which is frequently taken as a tacit green light for eager baserunners.

Also, even more importantly, the Marlins took their shot earlier in the game. Between Morgan’s steals and the injury to his catcher, Volstad can hardly be blamed for wanting to get in another blow—but Morgan’s assumption that it was one too many is not unreasonable. In the middle of the fight, Riggleman could be seen mouthing the words “one time” to Florida manager Edwin Rodriguez, indicating the number of retaliatory attempts to which he felt the Marlins were entitled. (“We decide when we run,” said Riggleman in the Sun-Sentinel. “The Florida Marlins will not decide when we run.”)

“I understand they had to get me back a little bit,” said Morgan in the Post. “It’s part of the game. . . . I guess they took it the wrong way. He hit me the first time, so be it. But he hit two other of our guys?” (Volstad did indeed hit three batters on the day.) “Alright, cool. But then he whips another one behind me, we got to go. 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.”

Doing what he had to do, of course, is up for interpretation. Saying that there’s a case to be made for Morgan’s viewpoint on the incidents leading up to the fight does nothing to discourage the sentiment that the guy has been wildly, unassailably, dangerously out of line for the better part of a week.

Guys like Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez can flaunt the unwritten rules at their discretion; their jobs are safe, so long as they continue to produce.

When it’s a leadoff hitter with a .317 OBP, who led the league in being caught stealing last year and is on the way to doing it again, the margins are considerably tighter.

Watch out, Nyjer Morgan. There aren’t many people in your corner right about now.

- Jason

Update: Gaby Sanchez now says that the Marlins were not “really holding (Morgan) on,” prior to his fourth-inning stolen bases. For what it’s worth.

Update (9-03-10): MLB has ruled. Morgan will be suspended for eight games, in addition to the seven that had already been handed out (which is currently under appeal). Also suspended were, from the Marlins, Volstad (six games), pitcher Alex Sanabia (who must have done some heavy and unnecessary hitting in the scrum, for five), Sanchez (three), Edwin Rodriguez (one). Pitcher Jose Veras was fined.

Suspended from the Nationals were pitcher Doug Slaten (probably for furthering tensions by hitting Sanchez in response to the first baseman’s clothesline tackle of Morgan to begin the fight) and Listach (three games each), and Jim Riggleman (two games). Riggleman and Listach also were fined.

Update (9-16-10): Morgan’s suspension was reduced to eight games.

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39 Comments

Filed under Chris Volstad, Fights, Nyjer Morgan, Retaliation, Running Into the Catcher

39 responses to “It Really Hasn’t Been a Good Week for Nyjer Morgan

  1. I was watching this unfold last night and figured you’d have something to say about it. I particularly liked how Morgan had his backside handed to him by Gaby Sanchez. That made my day.

    Clarification: Why not steal when down by 11 runs? Just because you need more baserunners in that situation to really claw out of it? I understand not running while *up* by 11, but I’m unclear on the violation here. Maybe I need to read the book again….

    • jturbow

      It’s really more a strategy question than anything — kind of the inverse of playing aggressively to tie the score or take a lead.

      Morgan’s run only means something toward a comeback if the guys behind him in the order come through. If they don’t, the Nats are still down by a lot and Morgan has risked being thrown out on the basepaths. If the rest of the lineup does come through, however, staging a rally to get the team back into the game, Morgan would score from first, regardless.

      In last night’s game, his steals were offensive mostly because they were intended to be offensive. Morgan knew exactly what he was doing, and how the Marlins would take it.

      In that regard, he got what he deserved.

      -jt-

  2. Extraneous Ed

    Ditto what Seth asked. Why in the world does it offend the Marlins for him to steal bases when they are ahead by 11 runs? Its only the 4th inning. Why not just have a mercy rule like in little league then?

    • jturbow

      It’s thin skin on their part, no doubt. Morgan ultimately put himself into scoring position, then scored. Hard to take too much issue with that.

      Again, however, it’s about the message. Taken in a vacuum, Volstad’s pitch behind Morgan could easily be seen as an over-reaction, but tempers were already high and Morgan’s reputation as a hot-head had preceded him. So when he did another hot-headed (and utterly telegraphed) thing in stealing two bases, the Marlins responded.

      If there’s gray area to any part of this, it’s right here. Morgan doesn’t likely have many defenders, save for this segment of his saga, and there’s no shortage of people willing to condemn him for this, as well.

      -jt-

  3. Will

    Listach diving in headfirst was necessary because Nyjer was under a pile of at least 4 or 5 Marlins by that point. Nyjer was getting owned. If Listach hadn’t dived on top of Volstad, Nyjer wouldn’t have gotten out alive.

    • jturbow

      Listach was actually the first person after Volstad and Morgan to join the pile. (Sanchez had rolled to the side.) He could just as easily have stayed up and tried to prevent other players from piling on.

      In Listach’s defense, he didn’t appear to throw any punches when he had Volstad pinned down, trying instead to simply subdue the guy who, at 6-foot-8 and 230 pounds, was one of the biggest men on the field.

      Still, coaches have no business mixing it up with players in all but the most extreme circumstances.

      -jt-

  4. Patrick

    I have a question about retaliation. So when someone does something that merits retaliation by the opposing team. Is there a code on who you hit? In other words, Morgan was obviously going to get beaned for injuring the catcher, but why did 2 of his teammates get plunked as well. Don’t you just deal with the offending party directly. (Excluding pitchers). I was just curious about that.

    • jturbow

      It’s a good question. Different teams have different ways of going about it. In this case, Morgan was the obvious source for retaliation, since he was the one who committed the infraction.

      If a team is retaliating because its cleanup hitter got drilled, however, it would likely target the other team’s cleanup hitter (especially in the American League, where pitchers don’t have to face the consequences for their actions).

      Sometimes it’s position for position (you get my shortstop, I’ll get yours), sometimes it’s just about getting the first guy who comes to the plate, in an effort to get it over with quickly.

      In the case of the Marlins last night, I’d reckon that wildness had something to do with it, as well. The Morgan drilling was clearly intentional; the other two less so.

      -jt-

    • Scooter

      Speaking as a Nats fan — and as someone who fully expected Morgan to get plunked, so my eyes were wide open — I did not believe the other two hit batsmen by Volstad were intentional.

  5. GREAT rundown of all the events! Good work.

    -Matt

  6. Feel Wood

    “Update: Gaby Sanchez now says that the Marlins were not “really holding (Morgan) on,” prior to his fourth-inning stolen bases. For what it’s worth.”

    Your nice recap of the evening’s events needs to be extended a bit. Sanchez clotheslined Morgan after he hit Volstad, yet Sanchez escaped being ejected. So the next time Sanchez came up, he was plunked by Nats pitcher Doug Slaten, and both Slaten and Riggleman were ejected since by that point the umps had issued warnings to both benches.

    And yeah, I’d have to agree with Sanchez that the Marlins weren’t really holding Morgan on. Because, you know, they did such a good job of it, didn’t they?

  7. sullyzz

    Why haven’t the Umps taken any criticism in this brawl? When a situation has presented itself where there may be “retaliation” the Umps give pre-game warnings to both clubs. Everyone expected the Marlins to retaliate in this game; were there pre-game warnings? Volstad hit two other batters prior to hitting Morgan. Volstad should have been ejected at least two innings prior to the brawl. Yes, Volstad and Morgan will both likely be suspended, but I think it is primarily the Umps fault that this brawl took place. Volstad should have been ejected after hitting Morgan in the fourth inning, and maybe after hitting either Gonzalez or Nieves prior to that.

    • jturbow

      For the most part, and I think it’s true here, the umps are aware of what’s going on. They can judge intent from accident, and Volstad’s first two HBPs appeared to be unintentional. There’s also something to the notion that Volstad had little reason to hit anybody other than Morgan, since he was the only guy on the Nationals who had done anything worthy of retaliation.

      Umpires will frequently grant teams the leeway to get in an appropriate retaliatory shot. They, like most players, understand that it’s an essential component of the process teams use to put bad blood behind them, and that if it’s stifled before it’s enacted, the offended team will simply wait until a later date, at which point ill feelings will have had the chance to fester.

      Volstad’s actions in the HBP were appropriate for the circumstance. The umpires’ judgment was appropriate for the circumstance. Then Morgan had to go steal two bases, and hostilities were renewed.

      If Morgan hadn’t charged the mound, Volstad would likely have been ejected, anyway. That was the moment for the umpire to step in, and the brawl precluded it, at least for a few minutes. I don’t see that they did anything wrong.

      -jt-

      • sullyzz

        I attended (season ticket holder) a game in DC where we hit Brandon Phillips for plowing over our catcher Wil Neives…..Phillips was appropriately dealt with during his next at-bat by Bautista, with a ball to his ribs. Bautista was immediately tossed, and should have been, without any warnings ever given. Volstad should have been give warnings by the Umps when he hit the other two batters (intentional or not) and tossed when he hit Morgan. I love watching the fights, but I hate it when they happen….there is no place in baseball for that type of activity. I also disagree with you that it is against the unwritten rules to steal when down by 11 in the 4th inning. Because of the steals, he eventually scores on a sacrifice. I have seen this argued both ways, and baseball experts have argued on both sides, so this is not one of those “unwritten” rules that everyone knows and agrees with….either way, it is stupid not to try and win the game when down by 11 runs, and Nyjer stealing bases is one of the Nats primary offensive weapons; he is one of the league leaders. Telling Nyjer NOT to steal, simply because he has to abide by some stupid “unwritten” rule, would be like telling Adam Dunn not to hit a Home Run if he were in the same situation. I like Riggleman’s take on the situation, “no one tells us when to run.” I’ve been a baseball fan for over 35 years, so I am obviously much older than that, and I think most of these “unwritten” baseball codes are ridiculous….especially this one, which is one that I had NEVER heard prior to this game; however, I WAS aware of the one that states a player is not suppose to steal if the team is WINNING by a large margin. BTW….I wonder if the Braves “layed down” the other day when they were beating the Rockies by 9? The Rockies won that game….maybe their entire team deserves to be hit for continuing to play hard while they were down. One last note….I also do not agree with the reports that Nyger “leveled” or attemped to level Anderson of the Cards……he bumped the guy. It was wrong, I fully agree, but he bumped the guy.

      • jturbow

        As I said in this space before, the unwritten rule regarding stealing a base when down by a wide margin is more tactical than moral. The notion is to play as risk-free on the basepaths as possible, because every runner counts and outs are at a premium. Morgan may be fast, but he’s also better than anyone in the National League at getting thrown out trying to steal.

        Regardless, the Marlins were upset less at the stolen bases than the intent behind them. Morgan was sending a clear message, and that message was received.

        That’s the beauty of retaliation. Morgan runs over Hayes, and Volstad’s response says that the Marlins will not tolerate such behavior.

        By stealing two bases on the next two pitches, however, Morgan essentially painted it as a lesson unlearned, that he’ll do what he wants, when he wants to do it. The essence of his message: I’ll run over your catcher again, if the mood strikes.

        Volstad is ultimately responsible for ensuring that members of the opposition do not take shots at his club. In my mind, when it comes to maintaining respect in his own clubhouse, he did the right thing.

        -jt-

      • sullyzz

        Fair enough….we can agree to disagree.

      • jturbow

        It’s why I love this topic. There are good points to be made all around …

        -jt-

      • I was at the game that sullyzz is talking about with Batista. I didn’t think that he deserved to be thrown out. Everybody in the stadium new Philips was going to get hit. Let him get hit and take his base and move on. Then issue the warnings. I felt that it was an example of how MLB tries to squash the unwritten rules an provide an incentive for things to fester. Basically, if you’re going to throw a guy out without warning him, it creates an incentive for the “file it away” kind of retaliation that you describe in your book that makes things more unpredictable and chaotic.

        I felt that the ejection of Batista was more Heave Ho Joe West and crew trying to interject themselves into the game again.

      • jturbow

        Umpires have different methods for dealing with these things. I, too, get annoyed at itchy trigger fingers, and appreciate when they have the foresight to let the Code take its course, but stop it before it becomes excessive.

        Volstad-Morgan is a perfect example. It was known that Morgan would be drilled — should be drilled — and that scenario was allowed to run its course. Once it escalated with the ball thrown behind Morgan’s back, it seemed to me like the appropriate time for umpire intervention.

        -jt-

      • RichP

        I’m agree. The replay shows the home plate umpire is clearly in the process of throwing Volstad out when Morgan decides to charge the mound.
        http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=11615635

  8. Nice seeing several Nats fans hit the comments here. I’m visiting on a link from David Huzzard at Federal Baseball.

    I have read your book, and I’m surprised that you didn’t mention one creative way for Nyjer Morgan to have stood up for himself and not subject himself to all of the image blowback he’s going to get by charging the mound so soon after all of the other nonsense in your post. Why not wait to see if Volstad’s going to get thrown out? If he does, you’ve kind of one a little bit there. Regardless, it might not be a bad idea to drag a bunt up the first base line and aggressively run through the bag to make the covering Volstad pay. Either you get a potential free shot on Volstad or your back on base. And if you’re back on base steal two more bases in another frustrating play.

    Likewise, the Marlins could have tried to get back at Morgan after the first stolen base with an aggressive mean slapping pickoff play at 2nd. For me, the stolen base issue is neutral. If Nyjer was talking a lot of smack on the basepaths after the first steal or when he got to third base, the additional retaliation from the Marlins might have been warranted. That rule about not stealing bases when you’re down by a bunch of runs needs to be revisited, though.

    Anyways, glad that I’d read your book so that I could have some perspective on issues like this before they happen.

    • jturbow

      Interesting notion, bunting down the line and running over the pitcher. That’s a tactic that hasn’t much been used in many years (Jackie Robinson was the best at it). While it’s totally legal (when executed correctly), it’s a violent play, and, coming off two controversial collisions with catchers, Morgan would have drawn just as much condemnation for that as he did for charging the mound.

      As for the Marlins’ response, expect that hard tags will be in order pretty much in perpetuity, as long as Morgan is wearing a National League uniform.

      -jt-

  9. Ethan

    Just wanted to tack on more kudos for the rundown of events. There’s not a great deal of continuity from day to day on something like ESPN’s baseball coverage or Sportscenter highlights where things like plunkings, brush back pitches or benches clearing often exist in vacuum devoid of real solid explanation. So before now, if i saw what i believed to be either code violations or some semblance of retaliation in a game or highlight, there wasn’t much of a way to get to the bottom of it, to gain any real insight or resolution on the matter. And those things, which the book is full of, are what make up the fascinating history and character of baseball. Thanks for all the research and being the catalyst for very interesting discussion.

  10. danfost

    Great job, Jason – since reading your book and blog, I am now amazed at how the discussion of the unwritten rules is hidden in plain view. I love that the players do talk about it.

    I’ll give kudos too to the announcers of this game. In the clip you showed, they really seemed to nail all the points.

    I think Listach did the right thing in trying to get Volstad off Morgan. I was amazed, given your description of how Riggleman and presumably other Nationals view Morgan, how everyone came to his defense out there. But that is the other rule – Everyone joins a fight.

    Well, I was disappointed that there was no A-Rod-Braden rematch yesterday — but this more than makes up for it!

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  13. Feel Wood

    “If Morgan hadn’t charged the mound, Volstad would likely have been ejected, anyway. That was the moment for the umpire to step in, and the brawl precluded it, at least for a few minutes. I don’t see that they did anything wrong.”

    I haven’t parsed the video myself to verify it, but some commenters have said that the ump had already moved to eject Volstad during the moment of indecision Morgan had before he charged the mound. Of course absent eyes in the back of his head Morgan probably didn’t know that.

  14. RMF

    You are a moron. He was beaned, then thrown at again. You are a PC, limp wristed wanker. And as far as Pat Listach is concerned, all, he did was lay on top of Morgan, who was at the bottom of a pile of Marlin’s players, in order to protect him. You sir, are a biased imbecile.

    • jturbow

      To be clear: I have no dog in this fight, outside of wanting to see people behave properly. I do make my points with civility, however, so I have that going for me.

      -jt-

  15. brm

    It isn’t surprising that you interpret these events as validating the ideas in your book–that baseball players follow an unwritten but widely understood code to police the game–but when I read and listen to all the various commenters I reach the opposite conclusion. I see a lot of disagreement about many of these events and very little evidence of common agreement on what exactly the unwritten rules are. I see disagreements not only among the fans who are posting on the web, but also expressed by some of the former players who’ve commented on these points. If there were really such widespread agreement about the code, it’s hard to see how things would have escalated to a brawl.

    For example, was Nyjer violating the code when he ran into Brett Hayes? A lot of disagreement on that one. Most players seem to agree that colliding with the catcher is not fundamentally a dirty play, though it does seem to merit retaliation if the catcher is hurt. But while some people interpreted Nyjer’s collission with Hayes as a clean but unfortunate play, others (including the Marlins) interpreted it as egregious because of Nyjer’s earlier collission with Anderson. Everyone did seem to agree that Nyjer should expect to be drilled the next game, but if Riggleman thought there would be more than that, he would have benched him like he did after the Anderson game.

    Was there agreement that Nyjer’s stealing second and third was a violation of the code? Not at all–there’s more disagreement about this one than anything else. A lot of folks, including Nats announcer Ray Knight, did say that his stealing was showing up the Marlins. But plenty of others said that a losing team in the fourth inning has every right to steal. If Nyjer’s stealing were widely understood as a violation of the code, I can’t believe that Riggleman would have given him the green light (or he could have lifted him after doing it). The widespread disagreement on this point suggests that there is no rule or “code” covering this event, and that each team interpreted the appropriate behavior differently.

    I hope I don’t come across as too disparaging–there is widespread agreement that some of Nyjer’s actions (collding with Anderson, talking back and taunting fans) were over the line. But for me, the striking thing about this case is how differently various commenters interpret the moral issues and the unwritten rules for this case.

    • jturbow

      Brent, this is an excellent post. And you’re absolutely right — there’s little unanimity of opinion on many items that make up the unwritten rulebook.

      Even when it comes to the most basic of rules, such as “don’t steal a base when your team has a big lead late,” the concept of “big lead” and “late” can vary from dugout to dugout, which can lead to bad blood.

      In Morgan’s case, there’s a lot of gray area. His hit on Hayes didn’t expressly violate the Code (it was clean), but the fact that it was unnecessary (he could have scored had he slid) did. When Hayes turned up injured (severely, as it turns out), retaliation became mandatory.

      In a vacuum, Morgan’s thefts of second and third showed little more than bad baseball sense, but in this case, they held far more meaning. Hostilities should have ended the moment Volstad hit him. This is the beauty of the Code: Morgan violates an unwritten rule, the Marlins respond and all sides move on.

      But those stolen bases represented Morgan’s response to Florida’s response. They were essentially saying that he was going to do what he wanted, when he wanted to do it — injured catcher or otherwise — and there was nothing the Marlins could do to stop him.

      Having talked to some 250 big leaguers and ex-big leaguers for my book, I found out long ago that there’s hardly a consensus of opinion on this stuff. That’s what makes it so fascinating, and has helped give legs to the discussions surrounding the Morgan incidents.

      I can’t claim that the people who insist he did nothing wrong by stealing those bases are incorrect. I just happen to disagree with them.

      Thanks for the thoughtful note.

      -jt-

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