This week, however, saw a different kind of retaliation—less fiery, but more bureaucratic and far more profound. Logan Morrison offended members of the Florida Marlins front office, and they appeared to respond in kind.
In short: A charity bowling tournament in which Morrison was supposed to participate was canceled because the team’s community foundation failed to sell enough lanes in advance. Morrison, disappointed, responded by boycotting a subsequent photo session with season ticket holders.
The lesson: Don’t mess with management. Later that day, despite ranking second on the team with 17 homers and third with 60 RBIs, Morrison was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans. The team cited his .249 batting average as the reason.
There are a couple unwritten rules in play here, one of them stating that offbeat players must be truly established before unleashing the full force of their personalities. Morrison fits that bill.
He’s made enough waves on Twitter during his short career that team president David Samson suggested that he cool it down. Earlier in the season, the second-year player told reporters that the firing of hitting coach John Mallee had been ordered by team owner Jeffrey Loria (drawing a direct rebuke from Loria himself). Just last week, Morrison leveled another round of criticism at Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez—compounding his confrontation with the shortstop in June.
The same day Morrison was demoted, his clubhouse confidante (and fellow Ramirez critic) Wes Helms—who had advised his protege against attending the photo session—was released. (Helms was hitting just .191 in a very limited role, but the timing of the move was, at the least, curious.)
Case in point regarding the correlation between status and freedom of speech: team veep Jeff Conine, Mr. Marlin himself, said earlier this season that he’d “probably” trade Ramirez if given the choice. The repercussions (aside from an angry response from Ramirez): None.
For a lesson on how to abide by this particular piece of Code, turn to Giants closer Brian Wilson, who didn’t come by his quirks recently—he just knew how to hide them as a younger player.
“I had the beard in 2007, but they made me shave it when I had to go to Triple-A . . .” he said in an interview late last season. “I wasn’t allowed to have the mohawk in the minor leagues. I got it two weeks after I was called up in ’06, and the full-on one came in 2009.”
By which point he was coming off an All-Star season in which he finished second in the National League in saves. Soon thereafter came the beard as we now know it.
Marlins catcher John Buck, among others, suggested that Morrison tone things down. Another of Morrison’s teammates had it exactly right when he suggested, in a Palm Beach Post article, that the outfielder’s timing was off.
“In five years, when you’re a stud, that’s when you can get away with that,” said the player, who went unnamed. “It was a perfect time for (the Marlins to demote Morrison) because we’re out of (the race). I’ll tell you what, though: If we’re close to the Braves right now, I’ll bet you they don’t make that move.”
The other unwritten rule in play here—and this goes for all walks of life, not just baseball—is to be careful with whom one picks one’s battles. Team management is rarely a good place to start.
For a historic lesson, look to Chicago in 1939, when recently acquired Cubs shortstop Dick Bartell, arriving for a spring training game, insulted an overweight man struggling to get through a ballpark turnstile.
Bartell didn’t know it at the time, but the man, Ed Burns, was one of the team’s official scorers, and made life miserable for Bartell—a starter in the first ever-All-Star Game six years earlier—by charging him with questionable errors throughout the season, and charging errors on the other team that could have gone for hits for Bartell. From The Baseball Codes: “The error parade got to be such an institution that at that winter’s baseball writers’ dinner, a baby bootie was brought onstage with the pronouncement ‘A boot for Bartell.’ Throughout the evening, a parade of shoes was presented for the audience, each slightly larger than the last, and all with the same statement: ‘Another boot for Bartell.”
Bartell hit .238 that season, 48 points below his career mark, and for the ﬁrst time in eight years his ﬁelding percentage was below the league average. Although Burns later apologized, Bartell was shipped out following the season for spare parts.
Morrison is young enough and talented enough to avoid that fate, but—no matter how correct he may actually be—he clearly has some stark lessons to learn.