Archive for the 'Daniel Murphy' Category

Murphy’s Law

Why did so many of us Mets fans not be that concerned that the Mets did not retain Daniel Murphy after the 2015 season?

I admit to being one of those fans.  I convinced myself at the end of the 2015 World Series that Murphy’s ridiculous wild ride through the playoffs could not be sustained into the future.  How wrong I was but my decision was nowhere near as important as Sandy Alderson’s.  In hindsight am I blaming Sandy?  Why of course I am, I have to blame someone.

While with the Mets, Murphy was known as kind of a boneheaded player who could flat out hit.  His play at second base was less than adequate and on a team that so much wanted good infield defense to support its fine young pitching, it was clear Murphy would not be retained after his contract expired.  His level of offensive play, while always good, got much better in 2015, especially when the playoffs began.  Suffice it to say, without Daniel Murphy, the Mets would not have gone as deep into the 2015 post season without him.

In the division series against Los Angeles, Murph hit 3 homeruns and batted in 5 run.  In the deciding game, Murphy doubled in the first run of the game against Zach Greinke giving the Mets the early 1-0 lead.  With the Mets trailing 2-1 in the fourth inning, Murphy singled.  With one out, and Lucas Duda up, Murphy stole second on a pitch that ended up to be ball four to Duda.  Because the Dodgers employed the shift against Duda, no one was defending third base.  Murphy saw that and as he nonchalantly went into second, he turned on the afterburners and took third base.  It was an absolutely brilliant move from a player not really known for his head being in the game once he stepped out of the batter’s box.  Travis d’Arnaud’s sacrifice fly scored Murph with the tying run.  Then in the sixth, it was Daniel Murphy front and center again, launching a high drive into the right field stands off of Greinke giving the Mets a 3-2 lead.  All three runs scored were the result of something that their second baseman did.  The Mets won the series in five games against the Dodgers thanks to Murphy.

He did it again in the league championship series, facing a very good Chicago Cubs ball club.  Murphy homered in all four games, the same number of games it took the Mets to sweep the Cubs.   All in all, Murphy drove in six runs and had a double to go along with his four dingers, nine hits total and ended up winning the NLCS MVP award.  The New York Mets reached their first World Series in sixteen years, fifth overall because of Murph.

After a stellar division and league series, it was hard to think that Murphy would not be back.  But the Mets faltered in the World Series only managing to win one game against the American League champion Kansas City Royals.  Murphy only mustered three hits, none of them for extra bases and he drove in no runs.  The magic Murphy rode through the playoffs disappeared in the fall classic.  It became a little easier to accept that Daniel’s performance was a fluke and the Mets hierarchy should not be fooled into giving him a long term contract with him being such a liability in the field.

The Mets ultimately offered Murph the qualifying offer meaning if he accepted, he would return to the club for one year then become a free agent again at the end of 2016. Of course he refused, realizing his value would be more with another team.  New Nationals manager Dusty Baker may have had some input to Washington’s brain trust.  Seeing the possibility of Murphy seeking revenge on his old team nineteen times a season might work wonders for the Nats.  The gamble paid off.  Murphy signed a three year deal with Washington and his improved hitting style he gained from Mets batting coach Kevin Long continued.  As the Mets faltered in 2016, Murphy with very consistent hitting around him won another division title, this time wearing red.  Although the Mets made the wildcard, the Nats played in the division series but lost to the Dodgers.  Murphy had as many hits (7) in the 2016 division series as he had in the ’15 series but with no homeruns.  He did drive in six however, and was not the reason that Washington failed to advance.

So in the last laugh category, it appears Murphy is the winner.  This season, Murphy’s Nats are running away with the division as the Mets flounder seven games under .500.  There has not been one game played yet between Washington and the Mets that Murphy has not gotten a hit against his former team.  The Mets may want to put up a sign the next time they play the Nationals that says “No Bully Zone” because that’s what the Nats do to them every time they meet.  They are to the Mets what the 1990’s Atlanta Braves were, a team the Mets just can’t beat and part of that is because they let a consummate hitter of their own go play for a division foe.  It was a gamble that many agreed with but it has burned the Mets for two straight seasons now.

Meanwhile back in Flushing, the Mets have had Neil Walker play second base.  He is better than Murphy with the glove and he provided the Mets with very good offence in 2016 but not so much this season.  Unfortunately both seasons were marred by injury.  Last year’s season ending back surgery may be the reason why Walker has not been as good offensively.  Others who have played second include Wilmer Flores, Kelly Johnson, Ty Kelly, Eric Campbell, T.J. Rivera, Matt Reynolds, Gavin Cecchini, and now reluctantly Asdrubal Cabrera while Walker is on the disabled list with a pulled hamstring.  There are some good hitters in that group but none of them including Walker seems to provide that feeling of a sure hit as Murphy does.  In 78 games this season, Murphy is hitting a Major League leading .341 with 14 homeruns and 60 RBI.  That’s the third highest RBI total on the Nats.  The closet player the Mets have to those numbers lies with Jay Bruce with 21 homers and 57 runs batted in.  But realize that Bruce is likely gone before the trade deadline unless the Mets get serious about this season very soon.

So it’s easy to criticize after the fact.  That’s what we fans do it all the time.  I’m not really blaming Alderson for not offering a similar contract but had he done so, Murph would have taken it because he never really wanted to leave.  It just infuriates me that the Mets are where they are and the Nats are once again dominating the division.  This was supposed to have been our year, the Mets year.  With their pitching staff for the ages and resigning Yoenis Cespedes to a long term deal, this was supposed to be another exciting pennant drive between the Mets and the Nats.  Instead, it seems as if the Mets are where the baseball gods always want them to be: looking up at .500, another season, another waste of our time.

It confounds me that a team from New York with the media and money available to them, consistently fail to sustain success.  I’m not a basketball fan and I often feel bad for my friends who are Knicks fans and the misery they go through.  Then it dawned on me that they must feel the same empathy for me.