Friday, December 18, 2015

EX-MLBer NYJER MORGAN SIGNS WITH PERICOS

From its 1531 founding by Spaniards through centuries as the scene of some of Mexico's most important historic moments (including the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, in which Mexican forced defeated French invaders in an event celebrated today as Cinco de Mayo), Puebla is known as a dignified, cultured and relatively quiet colonial city of 2.5 million residents.

Enter Nyjer Morgan.

The volatile ex-Major Leaguer has signed a deal to play for the Puebla Pericos in 2016.  Morgan had an abbreviated stay last summer with the Korea Baseball Organization's Hanwha Eagles, for whom he batted .273 in ten games.  The 2014 season was also a relatively inactive one for the San Francisco-born outfielder, who batted .341 over 15 games for the Cleveland Indians but posted just .200 in as many games for the Tribe's AAA Columbus affiliate.  He spent the entire 2013 campaign in Japan, where he hit .294 with 11 homers for the Pacific League's Yokohama BayStars.

It's been a tough few seasons for the 34-year-old, who attended high school in Canada before being picked by Pittsburgh out of Walla Walla (WA) Community College in the 33rd round of the 2002 draft.  Morgan toiled five seasons in the Pirates system before hitting .299 for Pittsburgh in a late-season call-up in 2007. He split the following year between AAA and MLB, but 2009 was his breakout year.  Despite a June trade that sent him to Washington, Morgan hit .307 for the year (.351 for the Nats) to finish tenth in the National League while his 42 stolen bases ranked second in the senior circuit. His performance dipped in 2010, however, and he was dealt again prior to the 2011 campaign, this time to Milwaukee.  As with Washington, Morgan got off to a strong start with the Brewers, batting .304 his first season, but his average fell to .239 in 2012 and he was granted free agency following the season after he refused to be assigned to the Brewers' AAA Nashville affiliate, leading to his journey to Japan.

Along the way, Morgan built a reputation both as a centerfielder whose speed allowed him to cover a lot of ground while being a threat on the basepaths and as a temperamental player capable of sometimes-entertaining outbursts in the middle of a game.  He once threw his glove and walked away after he thought he'd deflected a fly ball from Baltimore's Adam Jones over the fence for a home run when, in fact, he'd knocked the ball back onto the playing field and Jones ended up cruising around the bags for an inside-the-park home run.  Morgan also once threw a ball at a fan in Philadelphia, received a suspension after precipitating a brawl by charging the mound after two beanballs innings after slamming into a Marlins catcher
and separating his shoulder, and he was criticized after shouting two obscenities picked up by TV microphones after the Brewers won the 2011 NL Division Series.

A career .282 hitter who appeared in seven MLB seasons, Morgan was also a very talented hockey player as a teen, reaching the Major Junior Regina Pats before settling on baseball as a career choice.  He had a Twitter following of over 80,000 during his big league days, where he gave himself the nickname of "Tony Plush" as a sort of alter-ego.

Regardless of how Nyjer Morgan performs on the field in Mexico this summer, Pueblans in the stands at Estadio Hermanos Serdan will not be bored.