Sunday, January 26, 2014

Searching for Tony Plush

                           I've been saying for years that there needs to be more characters in the game.  When Ozzie Gullien was fired as manager of the Marlins, it almost seemed like an end of an era.  Gone are the days of Bill "Spaceman" Lee, Al "Mad Hungarian" Hrabowsky, and Dennis "Oil can" Boyd.  Nicknames seem few and far between these days.  Sure, you have your Tim "The Freak" Lincecums and your Carlos "El Caballo" Lee (who has retired, actually), but the true oddballs seem to be on the way out...which is why I was happy to hear that the Cleveland Indians had signed Nyger Morgan to a minor league deal.

                 Morgan doesn't have a nickname, per se, more of an alter ego by the name "Tony Plush."  In recent years, football players like Chad Johnson (Ocho Cinco) and basketball players like Ron Artest ( Meta World Peace) have out and out changed their names...Johnson simply changed his name to his number in Spanish, and Artest to probably the last thing in the world he has ever represented.  These moves seemed more like an ego thing, while Morgan just seems like he's trying to get a rise out of people.  Of course, Johnson and Artest were both superstars, while Nyger is...well,  the jury's still out...

         Let's just say that baseball wasn't Morgan's first choice...Believe or not, it was hockey, being inspired by watching the 1988 Olympics. He played as an affiliate players for the Vernon Vipers of the BCHL, where he received ten penalty minutes (due, in part to his notorious temper). After not making the squad during training camp, he wandered from semi pro team, to semi pro team in Canada, 'til he decided to give baseball a try, eventually getting signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates, and making his debut with the big club in 2007.

            He was traded to the Nationals for an even bigger head case, Lastings Milledge. Milledge was famous for a stunt he pulled while with the Mets, going around the field and hi fiving the fans after his first home run in the majors.  It was with the Nationals where Morgan let his emotions get the best of him, as he tried to rob a home run from the Oriole's Adam Jones...thinking the ball fell out of his glove and over the fence, Nyger threw his glove in disgust, and stormed off, leaving his team mate to retrieve the ball, but not after Jones had circled the bases for an inside the park home .run

          His temper got him in trouble again, as he was accused of throwing a ball at a fan.  That move- plus another incident where he charged the mound after being plunked- led to him being fined.  On the plus side, he also became the first Nationals' player to steal three bases in a game.  He was/is undeniably fast, being among the league leaders in stolen bases for a few years.  However, he also led the league in caught stealing twice...Tim Raines, he aint.

             His best year so far was with the Brewers in 2011; hitting over .300 and stealing 42 bases.  Nyger also got the game winning hit in game five of the 2011 LDS.  It was around this time he developed the Tony Plush character.  His stock never seemed higher.  However, due to a poor 2012, Morgan- like a lot of major leaguers do- decided to revive his career in Japan.  It seems to have worked, as the Indians are giving him a shot.  Will he make the team  ?  I hope so...he is a breath of fresh air among the robots and Goddies in the game.  He's almost like a less psychotic Milton Bradley...the baseball player, not the game board company...but then again, aren't we all...

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