In light of the bench clearing brawl that followed Florida Marlins' starter Chris Volstad's second purpose pitch to Nats' center fielder Nyjer Morgan last night, a lot of discussion has focused on whether or not Morgan's decision to quickly steal second and then third in the next at bat after the beaning had reopened the situation for further retaliation after Morgan had barreled Florida's catcher Brett Hayes over the previous night resulting in what was later diagnosed as a separated shoulder. On the MLB Network's MLB Tonight highlight show, former major leaguer Harold Reynolds said, "I know they're losing, but there are protocols within the game, so once he did [steal the bases] then it's open war again, he brought that back on himself and that's why I think this thing continued to escalate." Nats' Skipper Jim Riggleman, whose comments Mr. Reynolds referenced before expressing the opinion quoted above, didn't have any problem with Morgan's decision to take out the catcher in game two, or steal the two bases after he was hit in retaliation. When asked on the MASN post game broadcast if Morgan stealing the two bases was what reignited things, Mr. Riggleman had the following response:
Jim Riggleman: "No, I think they were going hit him again anyway, and I'm glad Nyjer stole those bases to tell you the truth. They hit him, he went to first base, he took his medicine. I don't know that yesterday's play was right or wrong, but we were going to let it go. Nyjer went to first base, but if they hit you and you feel like you didn't do anything wrong, which that's the way Nyjer felt about it, he took those bases, that's his business. We'll decide when we run, we don't let anyone else decided when we run. So whatever their reason was for throwing at Nyjer again, I've got no problems with what took place after that.
Q: Was it professional to steal the bases after the HBP?
Jim Riggleman: "If [Morgan] felt that he had done something wrong than I would have put the hold on him, so I didn't put the hold on, he chose to run, I didn't know he was going to run, but I didn't care that he ran, because I know Nyjer felt that he didn't have a place to slide [the previous night], that's a decision he made. But right or wrong, they hit him and for him to steal the bases, I don't have a problem with it..."
It's a matter of Morgan's decision making in my mind, however. Morgan decided to run the Cardinals' catcher Bryan Anderson the other night on a play at the plate when Anderson wasn't standing over the plate as the Marlins' backstop had. Morgan's choice to hit the catcher instead of bothering to touch the plate was a bad one. It was a cheap shot and it also cost the Nationals a run as he came into contact with his teammates before going back to touch the dish and was called out. In the play at the plate against Florida, catcher Brett Hayes made a bad decision to straddle the plate and force Morgan to make a decision as he rounded third, and the choice to take out the catcher as opposed to sliding, and try to knock the ball free, was questionable in terms of his chances for success, but not outside the lines.
The decision Morgan made to steal two bases after he was hit, even with the Nats down eleven runs at the time, was pretty clearly an attempt to respond to the HBP. Can you honestly argue that Morgan's decision to steal the bases was solely about trying to get the Nats within 10 runs and cut down on the lead? Do you believe that? I think Morgan's decision to respond negatively to his manager's comments in the press recently was a poor one. I think his decision to run the Cardinals' catcher was a poor one. Should he have stolen the bases? Harold Reynolds doesn't think so, Rayn Zimmerman along with some of Morgan's teammates questioned the decision, but Morgan decided what he thought was the correct response. If he's given the opportunity to make his own choices and makes poor choices each time, isn't it about time you took the power to make those decisions out of his hands? Something tells me MLB is going to make the decision Jim Riggleman says he wasn't willing to, and "put the hold on him." Discuss...