Nats center fielder Nyjer Morgan was brought to the Nationals to shore up the team’s defense. He did just that on Friday night in South Florida when he robbed Marlins catcher Ronnie Paulino of an extra base hit with runners in scoring position. Mark an “S” on his jersey for the superman impersonation, flying through the air and diving to make the play!
Sending outfielder Lastings Milledge and reliever Joel Hanrahan to the Pirates in exchange for Nyjer and southpaw Sean Burnett is still considered around baseball as being Mike Rizzo’s best deal to date (if not the steal of the 2009 season!).
Nyjer does whatever he can to get an edge. He told me on Saturday he sits in on the pitchers/catchers meetings before each series so he can learn more about the approach his teammates will take. He said it helps him and the other outfielders get in good position on defense.
Not only does Nyjer drastically improve the defense up the middle, he brings personality to the ballclub. The man who is the tablesetter for the Nats’ offense is such a spark plug at the top of Jim Riggleman’s lineup. He creates havoc on the basepaths and he has a knack for disrupting the rhythm of opposing pitchers.
Recently, Nyjer’s personality has rubbed off on the entire team. He carries with him on the road the sacred “Elvis Wig” which goes to the nightly Player of the Game when the team wins. He tells me it’s a group effort to decide who gets to wear the wig - when it’s not a clear cut obvious choice.
He said, too, it’s helping to create a bond among the guys in the clubhouse. Everyone is having fun and they’re a cohesive unit.
It may seem silly to see grown men wearing a plastic silver wig after games but it’s a big part of the personality of these 2010 Washington Nationals that are finding a way to win on a regular basis. And fittingly, it was Nyjer Morgan who first brought the wig to the Nats clubhouse.