Logan Morrison sent to AAA New Orleans: Marlins and Loria Censor LoMo
Sunday August 14, 2011
MLB reports: The Florida Marlins have one of the brightest prospects in the game in its system. Logan Morrison, the 23-year old first baseman/outfielder is seen as one of the next up-and-coming stars. I have compared him on many occasions to Will Clark and Mark Grace for his outstanding eye at the plate and smooth swing. Blocked at first base by incumbent Gaby Sanchez, Logan (“LoMo”) Morrison has transitioned himself into a fairly steady outfielder. Yet despite being one of the Marlins best offensive players and team leaders, LoMo finds himself headed to AAA as of last night.
At 56-62, 13.5 GB behind the 1st place Phillies, 2011 has been a lost season for the Marlins. Now is the time for the team to play its younger players, to get their feet wet and ready for next season. Further the Marlins are opening up their new stadium in 2012 and need to build hype and excitement in selling future tickets. With the team in last place, one would expect the Marlins to promote and push its best prospects and young players in selling the team to its fan base. But rather than encourage its players to promote the team and connect with the fans, the Marlins and its owner Jeffrey Loria have demoted LoMo to the minors. A big part of the reason is the social media known as Twitter.
For those of you not familiar or not active on Twitter, you may not know Logan Morrison is an active tweeter. Using the handle @LoMoMarlins, LoMo is one of the most popular athletes on the site and is often found speaking and joking with fans. In an age where athletes are either completely disconnected from fans or getting into hot water by being arrested/making inappropriate statements, LoMo is refreshing. Morrison is a clean-cut athlete who is outgoing and fun. I could not put specific numbers for you today, but I am sure that Morrison is singlehandedly responsible for building thousands of loyal Marlins followers, just based on his tweets. At 6’3″, 235 lbs, Morrison has the looks and ability to be the face of the Marlins. With the new stadium set to open up, I would expect the Marlins to promote the team around Morrison. Rather the team has alienated one of its top talents and in the process, angered the fan base it should be reaching out to.
For background, the process of sending down LoMo is further upsetting based on how much he gives back to the Marlins. He worked hard to learn a new position and become an above average outfielder. He plays hurt. He trains hard. LoMo is also active in the community giving countless hours back in charity work. Not that it should factor in his role on the team, but LoMo also lost his father to cancer in December 2010. As father and son were very close, the loss of dad was obviously very hard for the young man to overcome. I was very impressed that LoMo was able to go back on twitter and continue with his life in baseball, proving that he has a strong will and bigger heart. Being active in the support of fighting cancer and volunteering his time, LoMo has a true heart of gold. For the average superstar that collects a paycheque and goes home, LoMo stands above. The Marlins are lucky to have him and need to embrace his heart and passion rather than censoring him.
There is more to the LoMo demotion than meets the eye. There is always more to the story behind the scenes, likely more than we realize. Morrison was very critical of his teammate Hanley Ramirez, which the team did not appreciate. Although Hanley has been criticized for his lack of hustle and selfishness at times, Morrison was reprimanded by the team for speaking out. I was actually impressed that Morrison was acting as a team leader and making his teammates accountable to the team first and foremost. Then a recent story came out about Morrison not appearing at a team function and the team once again disciplining him. But as background, Morrison is very active in the community and making appearances for the Marlins. Apparently the team dropped the ball in organizing a function, which dissapointed Morrison to the point that he spoke out on the next function. Considering how much time Morrison gives, I do not believe the team is in a position to say that he did not make himself available. If anything, Morrison makes himself too much available and it appears the Marlins are taking him for granted.
Then there are the stats. LoMo was batting .249 at the time of demotion and the team indicated that he needed time to work on his game. Considering that LoMo has a .327 OBP, .464 SLG, 17 home runs and 60 RBIs, I cannot say that based on the numbers LoMo deserved to be sent down. The best place for LoMo to learn is at the majors and the Marlins need to help him get to the next level, not hurt him. But these types of actions are nothing new for team owner Jeffrey Loria. Ex-Manager Joe Girardi was let go due to personality conflicts with Loria. All Girardi did was join the Yankees and win a World Series title. Did I mention that Girardi was named 2006 NL Manager of the Year, weeks after being fired by Loria? Disgraceful in my opinion. A team owner should be on the sidelines letting his or her baseball people run a team. When an owner becomes bigger than their team, it is a problem. Loria loves the spotlight and being the centre of attention. As LoMo becomes a big star and most popular player on the team, the LoMo demotion smells more like a power play than a baseball move. It is not right and should not be acceptable in today’s MLB.
Carlos Zambrano walked out on his team the other day, cleaned out his locker and threatened retirement. The player’s association has filed a grievance on his behalf. Perhaps a grievance should now be filed on behalf of LoMo. Major League Baseball needs to take action to protect a player like Logan Morrison who is hindered and unnecessarily punished by a team. If such an action could be taken, baseball would actually be saving Loria from himself. The longer LoMo is in the minors, the more likely he is to rebel and feel even more alienated from his team. For a baseball club in desperate need of fans and moving to its new stadium, the timing of this demotion could not have come at a worse time. Considering how much baseball has helped Loria over the years (purchase and sale of Expos, purchase of Marlins and subsequent new stadium), Loria has an obligation to manage the Marlins in a manner that is most conducive to make the team productive and competitive. The LoMo demotion may be argued by the team to be based on production. At the end of the day, this demotion is a power play and that just plain stinks.
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