Nyjer Morgan's wild week has landed him an eight-game suspension, one of nine punishments handed out Friday by Major League Baseball following a brawl between Washington Nationals and Florida Marlins.
MLB suspended Nationals outfielder Morgan and fined him an undisclosed amount for three separate incidents over the past week. Friday's penalty is in addition to a seven-game suspension he received Aug. 25 that is currently under appeal.
Six players, both managers and a coach were cited after a review of Wednesday night's odd and ugly game in Miami, won 16-10 by the Marlins. Florida pitcher Chris Volstad was suspended for six games, pitcher Alex Sanabia for five, first baseman Gaby Sanchez for three, and manager Edwin Rodriguez for one. Volstad and Rodriguez also were fined, as was pitcher Jose Veras.
All the Marlins players who were issued suspensions plan to appeal. Same for the Nationals.
"Whether I believe it's fair or not doesn't really matter," Sanchez said. "You're going to get punished, especially when a brawl like that happens."
For Washington, pitcher Doug Slaten and third base coach Pat Listach were suspended for three games, and manager Jim Riggleman for two games. Riggleman and Listach also were fined.
Listach's ban was trimmed to two games after Washington asked MLB to review his actions again.
"I'm a little surprised at [the suspensions and fines[ overall," Riggleman said. "I thought they were a little heavy, certainly heavier than I expected. However, I think Major League Baseball is also sending out a message with these suspensions and especially with the fines, and that's that it doesn't want bench-clearing brawls in this sport."
All but two of the suspensions were scheduled to begin Friday. Sanabia's suspension was set to begin Wednesday in order to avoid overlapping with fellow pitcher Volstad's, and Listach's suspension is scheduled to begin Sunday to avoid overlapping with Riggleman's.
Rodriguez was serving his suspension Friday, with bench coach Brandon Hyde tabbed to manage Florida against Atlanta. Rodriguez said Volstad would next start on Tuesday, and Sanchez didn't expect the appeals to be heard until the Marlins visit Washington next weekend.
Bench coach John McLaren was in charge of the Nationals for Friday night's game at Pittsburgh.
But the focus is overwhelmingly on Morgan.
His current spate of notoriety began Aug. 21, when he threw a ball at a fan in the stands in Philadelphia. The appeal of his seven-game suspension for that misdeed is scheduled to be heard Tuesday.
"The perception of him, the last month or so, is not a good one," Marlins outfielder Logan Morrison said.
Then, last Saturday, Morgan ran over St. Louis Cardinals catcher Bryan Anderson in the bottom of the eighth inning at Nationals Park, even though Anderson didn't have the ball. Morgan neglected to touch home plate in the process and was called out. Riggleman benched Morgan the next day for what the manager called "unprofessional" play, and Morgan publicly disagreed with Riggleman's decision.
On Tuesday, Morgan ran over another catcher, this time Florida's Brett Hayes, while attempting to score from second on a ground ball in the 10th inning. Hayes held onto the ball to tag Morgan out, but the catcher separated his left shoulder on the play.
The Nationals were expecting retaliation on Wednesday, and it came. Volstad hit Morgan with a pitch in the fourth inning, but Morgan promptly answered by stealing second and third, even though the Nationals were trailing 14-3.
Volstad then threw his first pitch of the sixth behind Morgan, setting off a fight. Morgan charged the mound took a swing at Volstad, but Sanchez quickly arrived on the scene and clotheslined Morgan, knocking off Morgan's batting helmet and sending him to the ground. Morgan, Volstad, Rodriguez and Veras were ejected. Morgan was loudly booed when he raised his arms to egg on the crowd as he was escorted off the field.
"I can't look back at it now and say I would do anything different," Sanchez said. "I wouldn't have. I'm out there trying to protect my pitcher."
Later in the game, Slaten and Riggleman were ejected after Sanchez was hit with a pitch with two outs in the seventh.
After the game, Riggleman backed Morgan, saying it was OK for the Marlins to throw at the outfielder once but not twice. Riggleman also had no problem with Morgan, who declined comment Friday, stealing the two bases.
On Friday, the manager said he hopes Morgan's reputation isn't damaged by all attention from MLB.
"I believe they are three separate incidents that just happened to occur close together," Riggleman said. "He has no history of problems in any of those three cities or against those three teams."
Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said some of Morgan's actions have given him pause but "he's a young, aggressive player and sometimes things like that happen."
MLB's statement Friday said Morgan was being suspended for "unnecessarily" running over Anderson on Saturday, for "inappropriate comments" directed toward the fans on Tuesday, and for charging the mound and making inappropriate gestures and comments toward the fans on Wednesday.
Riggleman was also given an additional fine by Frank Robinson, senior vice president of major league operations, for "inappropriate comments regarding the incident."