I was ambivalent about Joe Morgan, The Player. I hated the team on which he became a superstar, the Big Red Machine, but it wasn't because they were hateful. It was just because they were so much better than the Cubs.
Back then, it was a singularly sobering thing to see Morgan step to the plate against your team. He ran like his pants were on fire, and he could hit the ball a mile. And when he wasn't clubbing long home runs to left, center and right, he was hitting line drives. In my mind's eye--hardly 100% accurate, but still--I cannot picture him popping up or hitting a dribbler back to the mound, especially if the game was at a potential turning point.
I could even overlook that chicken wing, elbow flapping business of Morgan's as just a benign eccentricity, unlike Sammy's home run bunny hop, for instance.
After Morgan retired, he became an announcer, eventually landing beside one of my favorites, Jon Miller, at ESPN, and the more I heard Morgan in that capacity, the less ambivalent I was. Morgan's hallmark is a kind of condescending white noise that's bearable so long as you don't actually pay attention to him. (Tim McCarver, by contrast, offers condescending noise which is flat-out inescapable. Point to Mr. Morgan!)
In time, ESPN chose to elevate Morgan to personality status and so, gave him a regular Q&A column at espn.com, which, for all I know, he still has. It was there that I saw how Morgan's condescension was flavored with a bitter refusal to embrace anything that even resembled new ways of thinking about our 150-year-old favorite game. Morgan's rejection of every tenet expressed in Michael Lewis's Moneyball was unequivocal...and hysterical. So, too, is a misunderstanding he has clung to that the book was written not about A's General Manager, Billy Beane, but by him. Surprise, surprise--Morgan is no fan of Billy Beane.
(Mike Carminati of Mike's Baseball Rants used to reprint Morgan's Q&A columns, juxtaposing Morgan's answers to fans' questions with his own. Alongside Morgan's pigheaded bluster, Carminati would offer reasonable answers rooted in logic and supported by fact, with the occasional acidic dig at Joe. The effect was delicious, and for as long as Carminati wrote them, those pieces were among my favorite Internet treats.)
A few years back, when the Baseball Hall of Fame's Veterans Committee assumed its current, non-functional configuration, Morgan became the committee's de facto spokesman, owing, I suppose, to his high visibility slot at ESPN. In this role, the Ol' Elbow Flapper has failed to perform at even replacement level.
To be clear, I do not hold Morgan personally responsible for keeping Ron Santo out of the Hall of Fame. A reader at The Cub Reporter even suggested last week that Morgan had actually supported Santo's candidacy in each of the past three Veterans Committee votes. (I haven't seen this confirmed anywhere else.)
My issue with Morgan is his arrogance and defensiveness with the press, his complete lack of grace, and his obvious failure to respond to his Veterans Committee role by demonstrating any sense of scholarship. (In a radio confrontation with Bruce Levine of ESPN 1000 in Chicago a couple weeks ago, Morgan admitted he was unqualified to pass judgement on any of the non-players eligible for the Hall of Fame in the most recent vote.)
In short, instead of acting like a conscientious caretaker of one of his sport's greatest treasures, Morgan comports himself like a bouncer trying to keep the rabble out of his club.
For all those reasons, it is a pleasure and a privilege to add Mr. Morgan to the Enemies Of The Blog List. He will be installed posthaste in the #2 position.
The fact that he is behind, not ahead, of Mr. Hamilton says more about my contempt for Milo than words ever could.
Congrats, Joe. Your t-shirt and membership card are in the mail.