The most reliable word involving Logan Morrison, the outspoken young Florida Marlin demoted to New Orleans (AAA) last weekend, is that the Marlins—from manager Jack McKeon up to and possibly including president Larry Beinfest and even owner Jeffrey Loria—think the outfielder needs to “mature” a little more. As in, knock it off with calling out lackadaisical team stars. As in, show up when the team orders your presence at team functions. As in, knock off the Tweeting, Tweetie Pie you ain’t. As in, run along, sonny, you bother me.
As in, perhaps, to hell with your cancer charity, never mind that your non-smoking father’s death of lung cancer prodded you to set it up. And just shut up and go along with it when we tell the world it was your .249 batting average (Morrison has still shown power and on-base ability but he’s slumped since the All-Star break) and not your charity, or your unwillingness to let us treat Hanley Ramirez like he owns the joint, that got you sent to the land of red beans and rice.
Tom Morrison died at 51 last December; his baseball-playing son has since set up a lung cancer charity. Apparently, when LoMo (as he’s known popularly in Florida; LoMoMarlins is his Twitter handle) discovered a profound lack of team support for a bowling tournament he’d set up to raise money for the charity, he struck back almost benignly, when since-released teammate Wes Helms told him—apparently with some team brass overhearing—that he wasn’t really required to turn up for a Marlins meet-and-greet with season ticket-holders.
So Morrison didn’t turn up. Guess what happened the very next day? Helms got pinked, and Morrison got sent to New Orleans. Never mind how unpopular the Marlins’ ownership and administration might be among a fan base that seems to dwindle by the season, or among a baseball cognoscenti that ranks the Loria regime somewhere among what we used to call banana republics. Even people who have no vested interest in the Marlins’ fortunes can’t be amused by these doings.
Morrison’s real crime may well have been his willingness to call it as he saw it regarding talented, spoiled, overindulged Hanley Ramirez. Sports Illustrated quoted at least one unnamed Marlins insider as saying that, “When push comes to shove, it seems like Hanley wins one hundred times out of one hundred.” He called out Ramirez for loafing often enough; he had it out with Ramirez privately over Ramirez’s refusal to autograph a leg cast Morrison was auctioning for his charity, never mind that that little scrum got leaked to the press, anyway. Blend that to his public objection when batting instructor John Mallee was pinked earlier in the season, and Morrison becomes the hair in the Marlins’ soup.
The Marlins’ administration is sensitive enough to being known as a fire-at-will bunch. They seem to have been such ever since Joe Girardi got pinked even though he won Manager of the Year honours managing the Fish. Now, there is a sense in which you could have justified pinking both Girardi and his bench coach Gary Tuck. Loria, say what you will, has certain rights as the team’s owner. One of them is to sit in the ballpark and root or object just like any fan in the park. When Loria sitting in the park objected to the day’s umpiring, and Tuck all but ordered him to keep his mouth shut, Loria was distinctly unamused.
I wrote about it elsewhere when it happened, and received a few angry missives in reply, to the effect that I’d be best served calling out an odious owner rather than calling out an insubordinate subordinate such as the much-respected Tuck. I’d write the same thing again in the same circumstance if it happened today. I understood where the two men were coming from, but there is a right and a wrong way to voice that kind of objection, and the wrong way is to imply, as I thought both Tuck and Girardi had, that Loria had no damn business acting as he did. Never mind that it’s his team, for better or worse.
The Morrison issue, however, isn’t even close to the Girardi-Tuck issue, and I notice that neither Girardi nor Tuck has lacked for employment (or, in Girardi’s case, a World Series ring) since. If McKeon objected to Morrison’s outspokenness and Twitterpating, well, that’s McKeon the old-school survivor thinking the young players ought to keep in their place until they’ve got a few seasons in the big leagues to back them up. Fair enough. But the odd benching aside, what has McKeon done about Ramirez? If his superiors are telling him to stay out of it and let Hanley be Hanley, it begs the question as to how old-school McKeon can tolerate managing under that burden.
One notes a few of Morrison’s Marlins teammates seemed to amplify the real issue with Twitter: Morrison taking himself right to the fans rather than going through the beat reporters or the house. Imagine that. A baseball player speaking directly to the fans. The horror. It’s one thing to think that Morrison might have been better known for his Tweets than his thump at the plate, but where was the clubhouse leadership otherwise that it left certain business (such as Ramirez) to a 23-year-old sophomore.
Among the most telling comments came from Hall of Famer Andre Dawson, a Marlins’ special assistant. “There is a lot that has happened this season with this ballclub,” Dawson told the Palm Beach Post, “and going forward moving into a new ballpark we want to have 25 individuals on the same page. We can’t baby-sit and try to correct egos and attitudes at this point. We’re trying to go in a direction because we’re in a new environment now.” In other words, the leadership vacuum that deep-sixes an outspoken sophomore while coddling a veteran who’s supposed to know better and doesn’t, seemingly, won’t be filled anytime soon. You wonder what Dawson the player, who was a respected clubhouse leader in his time, would say to Dawson the outer executive about that.
Morrison could be accused of many things but insubordination isn’t one of them. If his team wouldn’t support his admirable charity, given the chance, why on earth should he have felt obligated to partake in a team P.R. event that had far less nobility than a bowling tournament aimed at raising money for a lung cancer charity? He could have swallowed and shown up, but Morrison appears to be far less the hypocrite than a lot of people in and around his team’s leadership.
That his manager and his team brass choose to let a clearly insubordinate or at least indifferent player have his run of the playpen, while farming out a promising if outspoken younger player, without answering the questions as to why it took a 23-year-old sophomore to step into a vacuum that has no business existing, says far more against the Marlins’ administration than it ever will against the sophomore now nicknamed, in some places, LoMoZephyrs.