MLB handed out suspensions today following Wednesday’s brawl between the Florida Marlins and Washington Nationals. Nyjer Morgan received eight games (in addition to the seven game suspension he has been appealing for hitting a fan in the head with a ball he threw into the stands on August 21); Chris Volstad received six games; Marlins’ pitcher Alex Sanabia received five games, Gaby Sanchez and Nationals’ pitcher Doug Slaten and 3B coach Pat Listach each received three games, and managers Jim Riggleman and Edwin Rodriguez received two and one game suspensions respectively.
Frankly, an eight game suspension for Morgan seems just about right. He charged the mound, but only after being hit by a pitch in the fourth inning and a second pitch was thrown behind his back in the sixth. I don’t think MLB could reasonably suspend Morgan for either of the two big home plate collisions, mainly because they waited too long on the cheap shot Morgan took on Cardinals’ catcher Bryan Anderson last Saturday and the collision with Marlins’ catcher Hayes on Tuesday really wasn’t a play justifying discipline.
MLB does not have unlimited discretion in disciplining players, because the Players’ Association will file a grievance for any discipline that does not comply with prior precedents for similar conduct. MLB could take into account Morgan’s previous suspension, but it’s also worth noting that MLB justified Morgan’s relatively long eight game suspension (five or six games seems like a more typical suspension for charging the mound and setting off a brawl in these circumstances) by handing out significant suspensions to the other players, managers and coaches involved in the brawl.
One has to suspect that Morgan’s recent spate of bad conduct has a lot to do with the poor season he’s having and the fact that he must at some level realize his major league career is in serious jeopardy. He turned 30 in July, which is getting old for a marginal major leaguer.
Also, after a fine 2009 campaign in which Morgan was a solid lead-off man (.369 on-base percentage, 42 steals with a 71 percent success rate and a .757 OPS) and was also one of the Senior Circuit’s best defensive outfielders, (according to fangraphs’ UZR ratings), Morgan has been terrible in 2010. His .317 OBP doesn’t cut it, and his center field defense (according again to fangraphs) has been a shade below average.
Not surprising then Morgan is either frustrated or determined to be more aggressive to try to get better results as the season winds down.