The idea of a mess in centerfield must bring up the same sensations as coming home to a Nationals fan. From the team's inception, the land of Mantle and Mays has been a defining problem. They've played guys who could have been centerfielders at one point, just not when the Nats tried them (Wilkerson, Preston Wilson). They've played guys who would eventually be good enough, just not when the Nats tried them (Marlon Byrd). They've occasionally started guys better suited for 4th or 5th OF slots (Willie Harris). They occasionally treated like a 4th or 5th OF guys better suited to start (Ryan Church). They've started guys that they hoped would learn to hit (Nook Logan), and guys that they hoped would learn to field (Lastings Milledge).
Last year was supposed to be different though. Nyjer Morgan could certainly field and even if he would never hit again like he did in those last 50 games with the Nats in 2009, his career numbers suggested a guy that would at least be average. Now me being super s-m-r-t and all - I kind of felt Nats fans were getting ahead of themselves. Morgan's "career stats" were too limited to really draw any sort of conclusion from. I thought he could do worse than expected. Then he surprised everyone by being the worst offensive CF in baseball.
The Nats are back to square one now. No good options in center. They have three guys, in Bernadina, Ankiel, and Nix that COULD play center and COULD hit, but for none of the three is it their natural position. Any of the three could ending up failing both in the field and at the plate and it wouldn't be that much of a surprise. Which is why I'm for starting Nyjer Morgan in center. I feel pretty confident that despite the hiccups last year, he can play the position better than anyone on the Nats roster right now. If the Nats are really going defense first it would be silly to take arguably the 2nd most important defensive position and go with another "hope this works out" situation.
If the Nats were dealing with someone younger (I'm looking at you Corey Brown) or more offensively adept I'd probably be on the "No Morgan" bandwagon. But Ankiel is older, Nix is the same age, and Bernadina, the baby, still turns 27 in a few months. There isn't anyone aging into his prime here. As for offensively, yeah Morgan sucked last season (.253 / .319 / .314) but so did Bernadina (.246 / .307 / .384). Ankiel wasn't quite as bad (.232 / .321 / .389) but that's still not good and the year before he had the same average and slugging with a .285 OBP.
Defensively, there is even less in favor of switching from Morgan. All the fancy fielding stats (UZR, Total Zone, and Fielding WAR, if you must now) favor Nyjer over these two in admittedly a BAD year from him in the field. If you are pulling for Roger or Rick I have to ask, what exactly is your motivation?
(which brings up by omission the interesting point that Laynce Nix is the only one of the four that was good at the plate last year and didn't have a terrible season offensively in one of the past 2 years. He hasn't played enough CF in years to be a good judge of how well he'd do there now, but he was excellent in left for the Reds last year and unlike Bernadina and Ankiel, he hasn't proven he CAN'T play center at a high level. Which means OF COURSE he's only being considered for the spot as an emergency back-up. Let's be serious, this is still the Nats here.)
Morgan shouldn't have the leash he had last year. If he struggles mightily at the plate again, then he can be pulled and pulled pretty quickly. One year is an aberration, two is a pattern. But if he does struggle enough to get pulled, I won't care who plays the position after him. (Unless it's Corey Brown). Whoever it is it will almost certainly be just another chapter in the sorry CF mess the Nats suffer through year after year. The never ending curse of Inning-Endy Chavez.