Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Reaction from Nats clubhouse

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Benches and bullpens emptied after Chris Volstad threw behind Nyjer Morgan.
MIAMI — There was obviously plenty of reaction from the Nationals clubhouse after tonight's bench-clearing brawl. I'll present a full account with my thoughts in a little bit, but there's so much material that probably won't make it in, I wanted to present it all for everyone to read and digest.

Here's a wide sampling of what was said afterward...

What was your reaction to getting hit the first time?
"We police it. It was a hard play yesterday. I understand they had to get me back a little bit. It's part of the game. I'm hard player. I'm going out there and just playing 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? 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."

What did you think when he threw at you the second time?
"That was garbage. 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 those things. I'm a solid, hard-nosed player. When I'm out there between the lines, I'm out there to win and I'm out there to play hard, and play hard for this organization."

Are you worried about how people might lump all the events of this week together?
"People are going to have their own opinions. I know what kind of player I am. I'm going out there balls out. I'm not going to go out there and take anything for granted. I'm going to show that I'm a hard-nosed ballplayer, and that's the way it is."

Did you think you'd get hit the second time?
"No. I thought it was over after that. Once I saw the ball go behind me, it's time to go. Once is good enough. Twice, it's time to go."

Was stealing two bases after getting hit you trying to get revenge?
"Just playing the game."

Did you sense it was building up to that?
"We thought they might throw at Nyjer. They waited til it was his second time up, third time up, I don't know what it was. We sensed it might happen. Nyjer put the bat down and went to first base. Then everything took place and they decided to throw at him again."

Do you think it was appropriate for him to steal those bases?
"You know, my feeling has always been, if you hit somebody, then you did what you set out to do. You hit him, and now if he decides to run on you, that's his business. I got no problem with that. We decide when we run. The Florida Marlins will not decide when we run. We will decide when we run. Nobody will decide when we run. I don't put restrictions on when somebody else can run. That's not in my control. But nobody's going to put the controls on me as to when our club runs. If Nyjer decides to run, he ran. That's his business. He felt that's the way I'm going to get my payback. Sometimes some guys get it in the form of going in hard at somebody at second base on a double play. I've seen that many times. But Nyjer took his revenge in the form of a stolen base. And I don't have any problem with it."

Are you concerned about Nyjer's mental state?
"I think each situation is unique. They're separate. I didn't defend Nyjer running into Anderson with the Cardinals. But last night, to me, was a situation where Nyjer made a decision that he wasn't going to be able to slide. The only chance he had was to try to dislodge the ball. He made that decision. I feel terrible that their catcher got hurt. I don't know what more I can say about that. It bothers me that their catcher got hurt. I never like to see anybody get hurt. But they made the decision to throw at Nyjer. They did. Then, the question is: Do we throw at them? I got some of my veteran players together. I said it's your ballclub. If you want somebody getting thrown at, I'll order it right now. And everybody said, 'Nah, it's over. It's over. They threw at him, and it's over.' That being the case, when they threw at him the second time, then it's not over."

Did you address your team after the game?
"I just told them I'm proud of them, the way they kept competing. We've had a couple games this year where I've pointed out that the opposition was down and they kept coming at us. They kept playing. That's why you've got to keep adding on. And we won those games, but the games were a little widespread and the next thing you know they're close. I said, that's why you've got to keep playing. You've got to add on. The Marlins added on. But we kept playing, to the point where it gets a little uncomfortable in the other dugout because you're closing the gap."

Are you concerned that Nyjer is getting a bad reputation around baseball?
"No. I'm sure that the Cardinals probably have some animosity toward Nyjer, and the Marlins will. But we'll protect Nyjer. If anybody takes some liberties and does anything, then we'll protect him. There will be no free shots, I can guarantee you that. Nobody's going to throw at our guys without somebody getting thrown at."

Could you sense it building up to that?
"We knew he might hit him one time for I guess what they thought was a dirty play yesterday. I've known Brett since college. Nobody wants to see anyone get hurt, but the consensus from is, I don't think it was a dirty play yesterday. I wouldn't say it was the cleanest play, but in baseball terms, that's been done a million times and no one's said anything. Nyjer doesn't want to hurt anyone. No one wants to hurt anyone. I guess we thought they might hit him. They hit him once, and that's fine. But to hit him twice, that was a little ... I wouldn't say that's the right way to go about things. Even to hit him once is questionable. But to hit him twice? I don't know."

Some might say stealing two bases down 11 runs is bad baseball etiquette.
"Well, they had their closer in for the eighth, so that tells you how quickly the game can change. I agree with that, though. At that time, it might not be what the baseball book says to do. We've all been taught things like that. But he scored the run right there, and in the end we're only down five runs. It's a weird situation. Obviously, he's probably doing that because he's upset they hit him. But to throw at him again for doing that is a little bit over the top, I think. The first one, if they want to do it, fine. But they also should have done it his first at-bat, not when after they're ahead 14-5. If you're going to do it, do it. Don't wait. If they would have done it first at-bat, it would've been over, nothing would have happened."

What is the feeling inside this clubhouse on Nyjer?
"He's definitely done some things over the past couple weeks that are a little questionable, I think. We've all talked. Me and Pudge have talked to him. It's not something that anyone else outside of here needs to know. We handle stuff in here. But the whole thing in Philly, whatever. He shouldn't be thought of any differently for that. I didn't see the play, but I seriously doubt he turned and threw a ball at somebody's face. People throw balls in the stands all the time. But the thing with St. Louis was out of line, and we told him that. He's still learning the game. But the St. Louis play was really the only play that, I think, is in question. The play last night was, I think, clean. Like I said, you don't want to see someone get hurt. I've known Brett for five or six years now. That's the last thing you want to see. But I'm sure he's been in worse collisions than that and hasn't gotten hurt. Nyjer's just trying to score a run on that play. He obviously has to learn a little more about the game. But you can't take away from how hard he plays. That's what he does every day. It's not like he's changed over the last week or two. That's the attitude, the way he's played ever since he's been here. That's who he is."

(Listach, who was coaching third base, immediately ran to the mound and tackled Chris Volstad as the brawl began.)
What's your intention as you go in there?
"My intention is to not let anybody get hurt. Chris did what he thought he had to do, and Nyjer did what he had to do. But I'm not going to allow it to be six guys on one, with Nyjer out there by himself. I'm going to defend him and make sure he doesn't get hurt, or anybody hurts anybody else. It's to really break up the fight, that's all."

What was your big-league debut like?
"It was great. I had such a fun time. It was a little fast for me and I was nervous. I just had to slow myself down a little bit. But I had a great time. It was just a great experience to be here."

What did you think about the brawl?
"It was exciting. But you know, that had to happen. They continued to throw at him. It happens. But it was exciting for the first night. ... My heart was racing, because I was already nervous. And then it had to happen on the first night. I was really racing."

Was it strange fighting alongside guys you just met?
"Guys in your uniform, they're your teammates and you protect them. Anything that happens, you want to go out and protect them."


Sam said...

Seems like Zimm didn't want to say anything that would incriminate himself in the clubhouse (i.e. what happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse), but I agree with him. He is very professional. He managed to say that he supports Morgan while still having talked with him. Solid leader and solid professional. I sincerely hope that he sticks around for a long, long time.

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_for_Me said...

Great reporting, as usual, Mark. The more I think about this, the more I think the national media (ESPN, Harold Reynolds on MLB, the usual suspects) are just jumping on Nyjer a bit heavy here. Riggs and Zimm are right. Once was expected, even acceptable. Twice was over the top. If nothing else, it makes the upcoming Marlins series next week a little more interesting. I hope we give the ball to Bally Star for a couple of those games. These Marlins punks will be diving for cover.

swang said...

I think I blame the issue on the Umps. Volstad hit 2 people BEFORE he hit Nyjer the first time. If you watch the replays it was obvious what Volstad was doing. In fact, the ump tossed him even before Nyjer charged.

I don't see the SBs as "bush league" or "unprofessional" Even if you talk about the unwritten book of Baseball etiquette, the two SBs is payback for the other 2 HBPs, which were totally unecessary.

Volstad should have been tossed after the second HBP. All the HBPs today looked intentional.

Anonymous said...

As a Nats and Expos fan, we've been walked over by the marlins over the past few years so many times, there's no way I will defend them. I don't understand how anybody here should side with them

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_for_Me said...

Anonymous 12:32 is right. This Marlins bunch just eats us, and has for five years. Even worthless Bonifacio mauls us. That's what makes Jesus's injury so depressing. I was so looking forward to Jesus breaking the Marlins bats six times a year. Now, we are subjected to watching Olsen never get out of the second inning. The worm is going to turn with these guys, and I'm going to thoroughly enjoy the Nats going 16-and-3 against these bums some year.

Anonymous said...

In every sport you need a guy who pushes the boundries, plays hard, will give a hard foul, will do stuff to piss the other team off and get to their heads and will enforce things because you can't let the opposition just walk all over you.

Anonymous said...

I don't care what anyone says. If you are down, you try to score any way you can. There is absolutely nothing wrong with stealing the bases if they are going to give them to you.

The Nats are not obligated to lie down and die just because the other team goes up big early.

beyond that, Nyjer has turned into a complete headcase and it is hurting the team. he needs to go until the Nyjer Morgan from last season shows up.

Anonymous said...

I've been waiting for someone to light some fire under this team for a while now. And maybe Nyjer has done that now. The only thing he did wrong on Wednesday was getting into it with the crowd. Other than that I also defend Nyj just like Riggs and Co. are doing. A few guys that earned some respect from me during that game were Riggs for his solid support and Slaten for throwing at that punk Sanchez. I will be there on Monday to cheer for Nyjer and the Nats and also when the stinking Fish come to town next week to boo their behinds.


Anonymous said...

I'm with you Anon 12:47. We've been needing someone like that for a while.


This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...


1) It wasn't Monlina (it's Molina btw), it was the back-up Anderson.

2) It's Nyjer, not Nyger.

And again, can't fault the man for starting some fire on this team. We badly need that.

Section 222 said...

I've commented way too much on this tonight, but I can't believe anyone would say that Nyjer stealing two bases was a legitimate reason to throw at him. Was it smart baseball for Nyjer to steal -- no. Was it reason to be beaned -- definitely not.

There are some amazing quotes in here, and I wouldn't be surprised if some of them come back to haunt the speakers as MLB reviews the incident. With the reaction this is getting, I expect some long suspensions are in our future.

Finally, Zim was very diplomatic and is a good team leader. But how long does someone have to play in the majors before his teammates stop making excuses for him. "Nyjer's still learning the game." I mean really Zim. That is lame. This is not a young team and Nyjer is not still learning the game. He's just a bad player.

JaneB said...

I only could listen to parts of the game on MLB because I'm out of town on business, so I'm reeeeeeeeally grateful for Marks analysis and these interviews. I agree with JMW IV that you get runs back how you can. And Nyjer manufactures runs by staking bases. That aggressiveness is why we have him. Insert nation vas cheer here.

Swang hit it on the head when she or he wrote that the Umps bear some blame here. They let it be Nats hunting season tonight, sounds like. To wham two of our guys, instead of Nyjer, should have been punished. But this free passes lead to everything else.

I'm still gonna wear my Nyjer shirt to the park this weekend.

Go Nats!
I'm glad the clubhouse is standing by him. I always try to be positive.

Let Teddy Win said...

Great recap as usual, Mark.

It seemed a couple of hours ago like we'd seen the last of Nyjer Morgan in a Nationals uniform. I did not listen to the press conference and have just caught myself up through your coverage. It's very interesting to hear the Nats' perspective and Jim's defense of him.

I just love love love this:

"Do we throw at them? I got some of my veteran players together. I said it's your ballclub. If you want somebody getting thrown at, I'll order it right now. And everybody said, 'Nah, it's over. It's over. They threw at him, and it's over.' That being the case, when they threw at him the second time, then it's not over."

That's priceless.

There's no question it's personal. What I didn't realize was that it's personal for a lot more people than just Nyjer. Maybe they'll continue to have his back after all.

Anonymous said...

The thing I think a lot of you commenters are not appreciating is that no matter how we (the hardcore Nats fans) may feel about this particular night, most people in baseball, including the powerful ones, are only going to think about this in the context of all the other ridiculous things Nyjer has done this season. This is NOT how the Nats should be getting attention, and it may well lead to Morgan's suspension for the rest of the year. Add that to the fact that Nyjer isn't actually a good player, and I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't come back to the Nats next year (at least not as a starter).

JaneB said...

Auto-spell messed me up. I meant "insert natsone va's cheer here."

People who say Nyjer should have taken the slide in last night are missing the FACT that he didn't have time to slide; neither he nor the base coach who sent him in realized they were making the play at home base till it was too late. Pile on about the Cards situation, if you want. But please stop acting like the marlins situation was identical. It wasn't.


"natsone_va" ... thanks for the correction, my bad.

Dan said...

The descriptions of Morgan as a "thug" or as playing "street" baseball make me uneasy. Such terms are not necessarily intentionally loaded racially, but in a Nationals context, they have typically been used in reference to African-American players, most obviously Morgan, Milledge and Dukes.

I do think, however, that the Marlins response in this instance is fully understandable. Morgan is a marginal player who does not seem to appreciate that he is even at his best an important role player. He seems to have little ability to keep himself within limits, which during the course of this season has again and again exposed his potential liabilities.

His hit on the St. Louis catcher was uncalled for. Last night's collision was more ambiguous and I, for one, cannot demand that all players must have Hanley Ramirez's instincts. But the plate was not blocked and I can understand why Marlin players might have considered Morgan's play a dirty one.

Whether the baseball code is a logical one is again open to question. But baseball is Morgan's profession, and his decision to steal two bases in a blow-out represents a clear lack of understanding of his guild's guidelines.


I doubt if anyone is going to question Nyjer's desire to play the game but how it plays the game in somewhat of a reckless manner is not Nats baseball.

If Nyjer would of slid into home Tuesday night, the Nats win, but he did not and the result was being out again hurting the Nats chances to win a baseball game.

Did he not take a cheap shot on the Cardinals Anderson the other day as well ... and what was the result? He missed homeplate and the players pushed him back to touch the plate which resulted in automatic out.

The more that I see Nyjer play, he has rabbit ears and is more worried about having not so positive dialog with the fans who heckle him.

If the Dibble is gone for speaking his opinion and keeping it real in the booth, then how much longer are the Nats going to tolerate Nyjer's reckless play? AND ... From what I've been seeing of late, some unnecessary physical contact with the catchers and one resulted in a season ending injury which should of never happened.

If Nyjer just played the game to his ability, then he could be a positive contributor on a daily basis but he has not shown that yet in my opinion.

Maybe Nyjer has the little man complex?

The Pibbster

Nattydread said...

Let Teddy Win captures the heart of the matter well. Riggleman -- and the team --- stand behind Nyjer. That's a plus. Nice to see that, and its obvious that Nyjer isn't one of the "veterans" that Riggs confides in.

Nyjer has lost focus. He's made a few bad decisions, he's jawing with the fans, he's making bonehead plays on the base path. He does not have natural ballplayer skills. That's hurting the team.

Is he a headcase who needs to go? Not so sure about that.

Nyjer is a 4th outfielder ex-hockey player playing above himself in the MLB, his cinderella run is over and he's frustrated with his situation.

What the Nats need is to add pieces. Morgan will not be starting CF for a competitive team.


That NATS future for the outfield ...

CF - Bernadina
RF - Morse
LF - Maxwell

Time to run with it already!

Dryw Loves the Nats said...

Until Zim is willing to PUBLICLY call out Nyjer, or even hint that he wants to, I will TRY to give him the benefit of the doubt.

And can I take a moment to comment on how much I love Espinosa's responses? He wants to be here, he didn't let the craziness of the night ruin his debut, and he's already committed to the team. This is the kind of player we want to have around!

HHover said...

Those of you claiming that Morgan's 2 SBs were nothing but him trying to win the game--not him being a jerk or trying to show the other team up--need to take it up with Riggs, who called the 2 SBs "revenge" and "payback" (and thanks to Mark there for giving us the extended version of comments from him and other players).

Anonymous8 said...

The Pibbster is replacing Morgan in the outfield and putting in JMax. Yah, Morgan will serve 2 consecutive suspensions and need to be replaced but JMAX? JMAX?

The guy gets 2 hits. Amazing what happens when he shortens his swing and isn't trying to hit it 500 feet.

Anonymous said...

Loria turned a great Expos team into garbage for 15 years. Nyjer could have gone out there with a tank and I would have been fine with it.

JT in Lincoln

A DC Wonk said...

JMax, two hits? Hey -- his average is up to .134 now!

JaneB -- I completely agree with your analysis on Nyjer's non-slide (I wrote the same thing in a thread that night)

Let Teddy Win -- I also thought Riggs quote was an all-time classic. Let's roll the videotape and hear in one more time!

"Do we throw at them? I got some of my veteran players together. I said it's your ballclub. If you want somebody getting thrown at, I'll order it right now. And everybody said, 'Nah, it's over. It's over. They threw at him, and it's over.' That being the case, when they threw at him the second time, then it's not over."

Yeah . . . maybe (hopefully) this has lit a fire under the Nats.

Stranded_in_Philly said...

@Nattdread .... you nailed it. He has lost focus. Even when Nyjer Morgan IS focused, he still makes inexplicably bad decisions on the field. I disagree about natural baseball skills, however. Nyjer has all the physical talent you would want in a leadoff hitter, if not the great arm of a centerfielder. But he doesn't seem to have the mental aspects of the game down: he takes bad routes, throws to the wrong bag, bunts every at bat.... the list goes on. Moreover, a look at his stats for the last two years (an admittedly small sample) reveals that he only seems to show up with the bat in the second half of the season. Apparently we can add to all of this some serious frustration and anger issues.

MLB will probably see the last couple weeks as a whole, and suspend Nyjer for the year. To me, this is a good thing... management seems married to this guy, maybe a little intervention will help us move on.

Caps Nut said...

Well, I'm glad somebody said it...

First of all, Volstad hit not one, but TWO Nats before plunking Morgan in retaliation.

Secondly, Volstad waited for Morgan's third trip to the plate to extract his pound of flesh for the previous evening.

Third, Volstad had an 11 run lead before he gave up the base to Morgan. As noted above, he could have given up first base to Morgan with the score much, much closer, but instead waited until he had an 11 run cushion.

Finally, yes I get that the Nats were down 11 runs, but they still had 17 outs to play with and still could have won the game. The easiest way to do that is to chip away at the lead instead of going for a big inning. As others here have noted, just because the Nats were down big doesn't mean they should have rolled over played dead. To get upset that they didn't is bush league.


Sorry, forgot about Willingham being out, so probably not Maxwell at this time.

Evan S said...

I love the fight. Morgan had every right to stand up for himself. The idea that "he isn't allowed to run" because they are down by ten runs is ridiculous. The fight was entertaining and I suppose justified. The suspensions will come down, the team will dance around the fire a little, and that will be the end of it.

CrimsonMac said...

I don't think Nyjer "had a right to stand up for himself". If Volstad had wanted to hit him, why did he throw 3 feet behind him? Volstad is good enough a pitcher to hit a man if he wanted to do so. I have no problem with Nyjer stealing those bases. That is part of his game. But it should not be part of his game to purposely injure another player. I have seen the re-run many times. Nyjer could have slid and scored. Home plate was not blocked. His play was predetermined and intended to hurt the catcher. MLB cannot condone such behavior from anyone.

Come on "Dan said'. Why do you think it necessary to throw in the race card. Grow up.

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