There are reasons why Nyjer Morgan could conceivably be benched. He's in a major slump, wasn't a great hitter to begin with, is getting thrown out trying to steal bases too much and is making fielding mistakes in center field.
But those reasons aren't the ones many Nationals fans were screaming about on Saturday. No, they wanted Morgan benched for this fielding gaffe, because Jim Riggleman needed to send a message that stuff like that won't be tolerated.
To that, I say, what's the purpose? What does benching Nyjer Morgan on the spot accomplish?
This isn't to defend the play, mind you. It was an example of a remarkable lack of awareness. But honestly, was it really a kind of unforgiveable sin that merited an immediate benching?
So, the lesson is that it's OK to have a temper tantrum as long as the bench is too short for the manager to pull you from the game
Needham compared the situation to how former manager Manny Acta didn't pull Robert Fick from the game after Fick didn't run out a key double-play ball a couple years ago. No accountability is the subtext.
To that, I say, hold on a second. There's a big difference between Nyjer Morgan expressing his frustration in a misguided and stupid way and Robert Fick not trying to run out a ground ball. One is the sign of misplaced passion; the other is the sign of not enough effort. The first needs to be managed; the second simply can't be tolerated.
And as for accountability, the play damn near cost the Nationals the game! One of the reasons managers don't tolerate not running out a ground ball is that, in the grand scheme of things, it's relatively insignificant to a game's result. It's just one out, and rarely does it cost a team runs. Therefore, in order to get the point across to a player, a manager needs to take them out to show that, regardless of the circumstances in the game, you have to run out your ground balls. Riggleman doesn't need to do that in this case, because the play carried way more significance to the game's result. Morgan gets the point simply by looking at the scoreboard. Why add insult to injury, considering this is the first time something like this has happened to Morgan?
Nationals fans needs to ask themselves this: if that was Ryan Zimmerman instead of Nyjer Morgan, would your reaction be the same? Be honest with yourselves, because I'm legitimately curious. My guess is that it wouldn't be. Morgan's been a disaster in all respects this month, but if he's benched, it should be for his play, not to send a message.