Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Year With The Gentleman Tony Plush

One year ago today, the Milwaukee Brewers traded for a talented but troubled outfielder named Nyjer Morgan. A mercurial player who had flashed glimmers of talent in every aspect of the game but power, I knew Morgan almost exclusively from a week-long stretch of near insanity that saw him throw a ball at a fan, truck a catcher who didn't even have the ball on a "play" at the plate, and set off an absurd brawl between the Marlins and Nationals (see the video in this article). Shut down for the end of the 2010 season, his future on the Nationals was in doubt. On March 23, 2011, it became official as the Nationals decided to bench Morgan in favor of perennial reclamation project Rick Ankiel. For all we knew, that was the end of the crazy and wonderful Nyjer Morgan experience.

Nyjer Morgan in an Elvis wig? Sure.

On March 27, 2011, the Nationals traded Morgan to the Brewers and my life was forever changed. You see, Nyjer Morgan may actually be an insane person. I really mean that. Morgan doesn't act like a normal major leaguer, and he doesn't want to be treated as one. He's a post-modern train wreck in the vein of Ron Artest. Both have fabulously named alter-egos and penchants for instigation and extreme honesty and are always a threat to completely unhinge, but somehow they remain self-aware enough to actively peddle this image of insanity.

When the Brewers traded for Morgan, I looked him up on Wikipedia and found a nugget whose significance I could hardly imagine at the time: "Morgan frequently refers to himself as Tony Plush which he states is his "name on the field" or his "gentleman's name." Under his nickname, Morgan will occasionally make a hand signal to look like a "T" after reaching base." I texted some friends about it, trying to come up with a gentleman's name for myself that could out-do that. I couldn't. I was half-expecting that this whole business was some weirdly-referenced Wikipedia factoid, but thankfully it wasn't.

First some background. Nyjer Morgan is a baseball player, and a pretty damn good one, but baseball is not Nyjer Morgan's calling. Nyjer Morgan's first love is hockey. (By the way, check how many one-sentence paragraphs kick off that article. It's astounding.) He played 2 years of minor league hockey before switching to baseball when he was drafted in 2002. Last year, Morgan hit .304 and was the spark-plug for a Brewers team that won 96 games. He was also, and continues to be, a crazy person.

Nyjer Morgan: Hockey Star

I didn't know what to expect that fateful March 27, but oh what a year it's been. T-Plush is eternally amusing and simultaneously the best and worst interview in baseball. To wit:
  • Nyjer Morgan struck out in a big moment against the Cardinals and threw his chewing tobacco at a visibly excited Chris Carpenter. Albert Pujols didn't take too kindly to that and ran to challenge Morgan, only to be held back by teammates. Albert Pujols is a lot bigger than Nyjer Morgan and likely would have beaten the shit out of him. Undaunted, Morgan tweeted this:  Alberta couldn't see Plush if she had her gloves on!!! Wat was she thinking running afta Plush!!! She never been n tha ring!!! So, yeah.
That's a thoroughly partial list of the inane and insane things Morgan has done that I could come up with off the top of my head. There are more. Oh trust me, there are more. Just know that, in one year, he's displaced the departed Prince Fielder and the tainted Ryan Braun as my favorite Brewer. He brought an edge and some serious game to last year's team, and even if he never replicates last year's success it's been a thrill cheering the gentleman Tony Plush on. Aaaaaaaah!

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