Posted on: February 24, 2012 12:49 pm
PHOENIX -- A happy bunch of Brewers had two overwhelming reactions while reporting to work and awaiting newly cleared slugger Ryan Braun's arrival Friday morning.
"I'm thrilled," outfielder Nyjer Morgan said. "It's like another Christmas."
"He's the best player in the league," outfielder Corey Hart said. "That's a pretty good pickup we got."
But they were far less pleased that Braun's ordeal became public in the first place, and that Major League Baseball essentially declared him guilty of steroid use in a statement saying the league "vehemently disagrees" with the arbiter's decision overturning his 50-game suspension.
"I was actually disappointed that major league baseball didn't wait until Ryan spoke before they said something," Milwaukee player representative Chris Narveson said. "We're definitely in favor of drug testing. We just want it done right.
"All it takes is one administrative mess-up to cause a fault. There can be a glitch in the system."
"It's a problem when you're guilty until you're proven innocent," veteran pitcher Shaun Marcum said. "In a court of law it's the opposite.
"It's a crappy situation. Ryan is one of those guys who's not going to do anything like that. The guy rarely puts alcohol into his body. I don't see him putting steroids in there."
The fact that what was supposed to have been a private process leaked to ESPN in December bothered all of them.
"The things that happened with this can't happen again," Hart said. "Because of what happened, I assume things will change. You hurt the reputation of one of the best players in the league.
"He'll get it back, but fans are always going to wonder. And it's not fair to him.
"He's one of the hardest working guys I've ever seen. For his reputation to be messed with, it's discouraging."
Brewers catcher Jonthan Lucroy said he was "disappointed" in MLB being so quick and so aggressive to publicly dispute the verdict.
"It's almost like they're being a sore loser," Lucroy said. "It was a low blow. I don't think it's right to do that. This is the process, and it worked in the player's favor one time and they react like that?"
Bottom line, the Brewers have their MVP's back and say they believed in him the whole time.
"I think it shows that if you come out and do it the right thing and tell the truth and be honest, it means something," Lucroy said. "The process worked."
Posted on: October 11, 2011 6:19 pm
Edited on: October 11, 2011 6:20 pm
ST. LOUIS -- Yanked out of their comfy and productive home park, the Brewers at least have ace Yovani Gallardo starting Game 3 Wednesday as this National League Championship Series shifts scenes.
Lifesaver for them, right?
Um, maybe not.
Milwaukee's Misery Index in Missouri is uncomfortably high as the Brewers face the pivotal Game 3: Gallardo, lifetime against the Cardinals, is 1-7 with a 5.66 ERA in 11 starts. Extract a smaller sample size to just 2011, and it's 1-3 with a 5.70 ERA in four starts.
Amplifying the situation is this: Gallardo right now appears to be Milwaukee's best shot. He's 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA in two postseason starts for the Brewers, while those starters not named "Gallardo" -- Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum and Randy Wolf -- are 1-3 with an 11.52 ERA in five starts.
Milwaukee's first-year manager, Ron Roenicke, has only see Gallardo's 2011 starts against the Cardinals and has no explanation for the struggles.
"There's not a good reason why," Roenicke says. "You know they have a good offense. Sometimes an offense matches up better against a certain type of pitcher. If it's a power pitcher and you have an offense that really handles the fastball well, that could be a reason. And same on the other end. If an offense matches up really well against guys that have the off-speed, slower stuff. ...
"I don't know what the case is with this, but I know we expect him to pitch a good game."
Elementary as it sounds, it starts at the beginning for both Gallardo and the rest of the rotation. While St. Louis leadoff man Rafael Furcal is just 2 for 10 against Milwaukee in the first two games, No. 2 hitter Jon Jay has severely wounded them with a .500 on-base percentage in the two games (.444 batting average).
When these two reach base consistently, that means Albert Pujols -- and Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman behind him -- is even more dangerous. Jay has scored four runs in the first two games of this NLCS, three of which were included among Pujols' five RBI in Game 2.
"We're not too concerned with what we've done in the past," Jay said of the Cards' success against Gallardo. "We just try to have good at-bats. He's a great pitcher. You have to make him throw strikes. If we can have good at-bats and work the count, we'll be all right."
As for Pujols' Game 2 fireworks, it's hard to imagine the Brewers pitching to him any more than they have to from here on out. But when they do, Roenicke said, the key is simple.
"We have to make good pitches," the manager said. "Even Albert, as good a hitter as he is, if you put the pitch exactly where you want to, he's still, percentage-wise, going to have a tough time to continue to hurt us like he has."
Easier said than done. Especially given the current numbers of a rotation of which Roenicke said, "Our starters, that's why we are where we are today. Our starters have pitched great all year, and our relievers have been great, too. ... The playoffs, we have not pitched as well with our starters. But if we are going to win this thing, our starters need to pitch well.
"That's the four of them. We can't get by with just one or two pitchers."
Among other things, expecting a low-scoring pitcher's duel between Gallardo and Chris Carpenter on Wednesday night, Roenicke hinted that he my start Carlos Gomez over Nyjer Morgan in center field in a nod to Gomez's defense.
Posted on: October 9, 2011 10:27 pm
MILWAUKEE -- Nyjer Morgan stirred nothing up with the Cardinals in Game 1 Sunday. He was unusually quiet because, well, he wasn't in the lineup. He pinch-hit in the seventh, struck out, then hung around as a defensive replacement in right field without making a play.
Nevertheless, when the Brewers opened the clubhouse after their 9-6 win, there Morgan was, hollering at Jerry Hairston Jr.
"I had told him I was going to kill him in Fantasy Football today," Hairston said. "He has a terrible team. And he went off."
As in, Morgan's team had a great Sunday and whipped Hairston's team.
"That Nyjer Morgan, I tell you what, it's his year, isn't it?" Hairston said. "He had probably the worst Fantasy draft ever. He picked, like, nine tight ends.
"And today, he's killing it."
Posted on: October 8, 2011 5:32 pm
The F-bomb Heard 'Round the Baseball World boomeranged back to Milwaukee outfielder Nyjer Morgan on Saturday as the Brewers and Cardinals prepared for Game 1 of the NLCS on Sunday, and Morgan had one reaction: Sorry.
"Honestly, I didn't even realize the mic was right there on me," said Morgan, who dropped two very audible F-bombs on TBS field reporter Sam Ryan during Friday's postgame interview following Milwaukee's dramatic Game 5 win over Arizona. "I was sorry for the nation. You know, I am a role model out here."
With that thought, Morgan stopped and let out a big belly laugh.
"I'm serious, I am a role model and kids hear that and I don't condone it, but I was caught up in the moment, man," he continued. "That doesn't happen to everybody. So I'm sorry for that. Next time I'll think about it before I spit it out. Yeah."
What will he say next time?
"I don't know," he said. "'All right!' I'll give a Tiger Woods fist bump."
Meanwhile, someone asked Zack Greinke, Milwaukee's Game 1 starter, his impression of Morgan.
"Ninety-five percent of the time, he's great," Greinke said. "Everybody else probably likes him 100 percent of the time. But every now and then, he talks too much for me and gets annoying.
"But I tell him that. Everyone on the team loves him. He has a good heart, and he's fun."
Posted on: October 7, 2011 8:54 pm
MILWAUKEE -- This might be a beer town, but they will take champagne. Oh yes they will. Especially when it's the first postseason champagne they've sprayed in 29 hard, lean years.
Especially when it's a team as free-spirited and beloved as this year's Brewers, who drew three million fans to Miller Park this summer and, with a scintillating 3-2, 10-inning Game 5 win over the Diamondbacks on Friday, earned the privilege to draw several thousand more over the next 10 or so days.
National League Championship Series, here they come.
First time ever.
Not since 1982 have the Brewers moved to within one step of the World Series, and back then, they were in the American League. And yes, they advanced to the Fall Classic, where they fell to St. Louis.
Since then, it's been 29 Octobers of raking the leaves and cheering for the Packers.
What a game, what a season.
To hold on and win, Milwaukee's bullpen had to face down an Arizona team with 48 come-from-behind wins, most in the majors this year. But the Brewers' bullpen is so good, it hadn't blown a lead after the seventh inning since July 4.
There was tension, there was sweat, there was nail biting.
And for the first time since 1982, the result was a win in a postseason series.
The Brewers won this last winter, when they decided to keep Prince Fielder and swing for the fences in 2011. They won it when the acquired Shaun Marcum and Zack Greinke. Won it in July, when they landed closer-turned-setup-man Francisco Rodriguez from the New York Mets the night of the All-Star Games.
And they won it with one out in the 10th when Nyjer Morgan drove a 2-2 pitch against Arizona closer J.J. Putz up the middle, scoring Carlos Gomez from second.
Miller Park immediately went crazy, blue and gold confetti papering the place.
What a game, what a season. Next stop: NLCS.
Posted on: September 8, 2011 6:14 pm
I met this Tony Plush dude in another life.
And I'm here to give the Brewers plenty of advance warning: If he's not fenced in, and soon, this is a guy who will sabotage all the great things happening in Milwaukee this summer.
Know where I got that idea?
From Tony Plush himself.
Yeah, I met Nyjer Morgan's alter ego, sort of, this spring when he was with the Washington Nationals. Back then, Morgan was going to be an important piece of the puzzle for the Nationals. Then-manager Jim Riggleman even said Morgan had been "outstanding" so far in the spring after a disappointing and controversial 2010.
Now, here's what Morgan told me in early March:
"I want to prove to myself and to the organization that the player in '09 is who they're going to get in '11, instead of the immature player from '10. I left Tony Plush behind."
That was my introduction to T-Plush.
"Tony Plush," Morgan told me, grinning. "That's from back in the day. Me and my friend. It's like Jekyll and Hyde.
"It got to the point where it was time to grow up. It's time to turn into a true professional. It's time to kick some ass."
And in Milwaukee, he has been kicking butt. He's hitting .313 with a .360 on-base percentage. He's stolen 12 bags in 15 attempts. He's sparked the Brewers.
But as we saw Wednesday night in St. Louis, Morgan has regressed badly in the professionalism department.
The uncalled for showdown with Chris Carpenter was bad enough. But referring to Albert Pujols as "Alberta" on Twitter later that night? Come on.
Clearly, Brewers general manager Doug Melvin does not plan to tolerate the antics. He said as much during a radio interview Thursday, noting that manager Ron Roenicke would talk with Morgan.
That conversation apparently has happened: MLB.com's Adam McCalvy spoke with Morgan on Thursday afternoon and tweeted that Morgan told him, "I'm Tony Hush today."
The guy is smart and clever (Morgan, not McCalvy, though Adam has his moments, too). He's a wonderful talent and great fun to watch.
But by his own admission to me in March, he needed to mature and he vowed he had "left Tony Plush behind."
Next thing we know, Tony Plush is back, and raging.
Both the Brewers and Morgan need to figure this out and get a handle on it pronto. Because this could be the most special season in Brewers' history.
Or, the man Melvin smartly acquired in late March -- just 3 1/2 weeks after Morgan promised me it was time to grow up -- could torch it all by himself.
Or, all by himselves.
Likes: Stephen Strasburg back in action. ... Texas-Angels, still close (hey, we've got to have at least one good race, don't we?). ... Ian Kennedy flourishing in Arizona. ... The way Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain have continued to pitch lights out and not uttered a word about the criminal lack of run support they've received in San Francisco this year. ... Always look forward to Michigan-Notre Dame. ... Looking for my guys at Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central to earn another W this Friday night, over Grosse Ile, and run that record to 2-1. ... Bob Seger back out on the road this fall.
Dislikes: Tim Wakefield's got to get his 200th win one of these starts, doesn't he? Poor guy is 0 for 7 in trying to get No. 200. ... Eddie Murphy hosting the Oscars. What's next, the Yankees starting a game at 11 p.m.? ... Finally catching up to this season's Entourage, which I thought jumped the shark last summer. Through the first couple of shows and it's lackluster enough I may not even finish this season.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"It seems that all my bridges have been burned
"But you say, 'That's exactly how this grace thing works'
"It's not the long walk home that will change this heart
"But the welcome I receive with every start"
-- Mumford & Sons, Roll Away Your Stone
Posted on: March 3, 2011 9:23 am
VIERA, Fla. -- Outtakes from hanging out with the Nationals and, among other things, talking Tommy John with Stephen Strasburg and wondering whether Nyjer Morgan will keep it together this summer. ...
"I don't feel like anybody feels we're done looking," Werth says. "I feel Riz [general manager Mike Rizzo] is still out there looking for the right pieces, like trying to get Greinke. He's an aggressive guy. This is starting to turn into a win-now situation."
-- Before there was Stephen Strasburg, there was Jordan Zimmermann. High draft pick, potential ace pitcher, Tommy John ligament transfer surgery. ...
Zimmermann, 24, is projected to start the season in Washington's rotation in what will be his first full summer back following the Tommy John procedure. Not only are the Nats thrilled that Zimmermann is about ready to pitch in, he's able to serve another purpose, too.
"It's nice to have somebody to talk to," Strasburg says. "Somebody to see if what you're feeling is the same way he felt as the process goes on."
But, Strasburg noted, "you talk to three different guys who have had the surgery, you get three different answers as to how fast you can come back.
"It's more a matter of how you're going, how your strength is."
-- A year ago, Strasburg was all the buzz. Now, it's the Nats' second consecutive No. 1 Pick of the Century, outfielder Bryce Harper. Difference is, Harper is only 18 and has as much a chance of seeing the majors this summer as Ted Williams does of managing another Washington team in D.C.
Still, he's in major-league camp because he's on the 40-man roster, and the Nationals sure have enjoyed having him so far.
"It's been great for him," general manager Mike Rizzo says. "He's going to learn a lot from this. He's a sponge. He's a student of the game. He's a baseball rat. He keeps his mouth shut and his ears open. We have some veteran leadership now, and it's a credit to Bryce that he's [soaking it up].
"It's much like with Strasburg last year. They've really embraced Bryce as one of their own."
Among others, Werth has made sure to deliver various tips and pointers to Harper.
"He's young," Werth says. "But he's a lot further along at that age than I was. He's a special talent."
-- Rizzo on Nyjer Morgan and his troubled second half of 2010: "I think those were isolated incidents, out-of-character incidents. He's a very positive person and he plays the game hard. Sure, at times last year he got himself into trouble. But in his career, now, I think the extracurricular stuff will be eliminated.
"He's a big piece for us. His defensive presence in center field, his defensive range, he's a pest at the top of the lineup and he's capable of stealing 50 bases a year."
Sunblock Day? About two hours of light rain in Florida here in the past two-and-a-half weeks. If you're coming, bring the sunblock. If you're already here, get some more.
Likes: Talking to Yogi Berra in the Yankees' dugout the other day at Steinbrenner Field. ... Talking to David Wells in the Yankees clubhouse. He's never dull. ... This beautifully done story on Mets media relations man Jay Hortwitz from Jeff Pearlman. ... Caught the last half of the PBS American Masters series on the musicians of the legendary Troubadour in Los Angeles -- James Taylor, Carole King, the Eagles, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt and many others. Great documentary. Very well done. Sure hope I can catch up to the entire show in the near future. ... A new Lucinda Williams disc, Blessed. Haven't picked it up yet. Will soon. She's great.
Dislikes: The middle-aged man in the hotel workout room the other day who was using the exercise bike right next to me -- and riding barefoot. I get it, it's Florida, where bare feet and flip flops are perfectly acceptable. But come on. If you're going to work up a sweat in a workout room, have some respect for those around you. Disgusting. Thank goodness I was running on a treadmill and had no intention of using the bike.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Well in the town where I was raised
-- Mac MacAnally, Back Where I Come From
Posted on: March 2, 2011 1:50 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2011 2:00 pm
VIERA, Fla. -- Nyjer Morgan didn't so much disappoint last summer as deliver a spectacular train wreck of a disappointment.
Bad enough that his on-base percentage dropped to .310 from .360 in '09, and that his batting average plummeted 54 points, from to .253 from .307.
But what made him toxic was his whacked-out behavior on the field late in the season, from earning a suspension when he threw a baseball into the stands in Philadelphia and hit a fan in the head to the ugliness of a brawl with the Marlins that traced back to the night before, when he bowled over catcher Brett Hayes on a play at the plate that was viewed as dirty. Hayes separated his shoulder in the collision. And this came after he ran over St. Louis catcher Brian Anderson -- "unecessarily", in major league baseball's eyes.
In center field and in the leadoff role in 2011, Morgan will be a huge help to the Washington Nationals if he can revert to anything close to his performance when they acquired him from Pittsburgh in the second-half of '09 (he hit .351 with a .396 on-base percentage in 49 games for the Nats then).
But he will be lucky to make it out of spring training with the club if he reverts to anything close to the unbalanced outfielder he was last August and September.
"I'm a valuable piece to this team," Morgan said during a long conversation the other day. "I know what I'm capable of doing.
"If I do it right, I'm definitely one of the top leadoff hitters in the game. If I do what I did last year, I'm not going to help this organization become a winning organization."
Morgan, 30, explained that last season he "had a bunch of s--- on my table, some personal stuff. My own personal stuff. ... I had a rough stretch. I had a month that was rough. You live and learn off of your mistakes."
He declined to explain what "personal stuff" he had going that could have caused such outrageous behavior.
"I had my downs last year," Morgan said. "The year before I had my ups.
"Now I'm a little older, a little wiser. I can see things coming now instead of just reacting and being immature."
Part of what he says he can see coming is right in his own organization.
"If I don't do what I'm supposed to do, I'm going to be on the damn bench," he said. "It's a no-brainer. They don't want that s--- from last year. They want the player I was in '09.
"I got that. I'm definitely all aboard."
The Nationals sure hope so.
"He's been outstanding," manager Jim Riggleman said, noting that Morgan has been especially receptive to early instruction from hitting coach Rick Eckstein and outfield coach Bo Porter. "He's got a lot of bounce in his step and a smile on his face. He's working hard."
Morgan promises that will continue.
"My head was a little swollen last year, I ain't going to lie to you," he said.
He also feels he's in a good place because he had a full winter of workouts -- starting two weeks after the season ended -- as opposed to two winters ago, when he was limited following the broken had that ended his '09 season in August.
"I want to prove to myself and to the organization that the player in '09 is who they're going to get in '11, instead of the immature player from '10," Morgan said. "I left Tony Plush behind."
"Tony Plush," he said, grinning. "That's [an alter ego] from back in the day. Me and my friend. It's like Jekyll and Hyde.
"It got to the point where it was time to grow up. It's time to turn into a true professional. It's time to kick some ass."