The Antarctic ice shelf is in a state of collapse and planet-hunting scientists may have spotted a vast alien array in a distant corner of the universe but really, honestly, could we talk Daniel Murphy for a few minutes?
You’ve seen Mets like this one before. Ron Hunt, a long-ago second baseman, managed to hit .275 or so with no particular speed. He specialized in being hit by pitchers. This was a strange talent; as a kid, it struck me as weirdly cool. Then there was Steady Ed Kranepool, a busted prospect who turned himself into a fine and beloved pinch-hitter.Photo
Thursday night, Murphy faced Zack Greinke, a stunningly good pitcher, and hit a double in the first inning that put the Mets on the scoreboard and registered as a tough jab to the Dodgers’ midsection. Then, in the fourth inning, with the Mets trailing and Jacob deGrom performing an inning-by-inning Harry Houdini escape act, Murphy led off with a single. When Greinke walked Duda, Murphy did a slow trot toward second base. Then he looked here and there, like a kid trying to escape a parent’s watchful eye, and bolted to third base.
A defensive shift had been on, and the Dodgers’ defenders had snoozed. Murphy slid into third base untouched. He scored the tying run on a sacrifice fly.
In the sixth inning, with the score still tied and Mets fans in a state of high anxiety — here I speak from close, anthropological observation of myself, my sons and my wife — Murphy turned on yet another Greinke pitch. His bat swept through the zone, his top hand flashing off the bat as it whipped around his neck. An arcing shot landed in the right-field stands. The august Dodger pitcher, who took to walking around the back of the mound mumbling to himself, could be forgiven for asking: Who is this pest?
When reporters tried to talk about what he did, Murphy gave credit to Lucas Duda for eking out a walk, which was more or less the sum of the contributions of the .111-hitting big first baseman in that playoff series.
“Zack and I were kind of dancing around all night,” Murphy said, neglecting to add that he ended that dance by shoving the All-Star pitcher down the backstairs.
He had made a wreck of All-Star pitchers in this series, also hitting two homers off Clayton Kershaw.
You don’t want to fall into a deep swoon. Murphy is not the Irish-American Joe Morgan. He’s a mono focused hitter. You come into the locker room in midsummer, and he is studying game video on his laptop. Then he slips out to do a little more hitting in the cage. Then he’s back at the computer, or picking the brain of the batting coach.
He’s scrappy, intense, and has more than a few holes in the pants of his game. His defense combines mediocre with intensity. He takes charge of grounders and pop-ups a more self-aware player might leave to better defenders around him.
A few weeks back, I talked to Keith Hernandez, who is a color commentator for the Mets and in the 1980s was an even finer first baseman. He admires Murphy and his hitting obsessions. The rest of Murphy’s game can give him agita. “Did you see his base running last night?” Hernandez asked after a night in which Murphy had run the bases like a headless horseman. “What was his thought process?
“I am tired of him saying, ‘My bad, my bad.’ Well, stop doing it!”
General Manager Sandy Alderson snapped off a salute to Murphy on Thursday night, saying he essentially was a one-man offense. But the front office has signaled that Murphy could well wear another uniform next year. He is a free agent, and this penny-pinching franchise is seen as unlikely to spend the $30 million to $40 million needed to re-sign him. (The Mets are fond of this game of pretend, in which the owners, the Wilpons, tell themselves that they do business in Milwaukee instead of in the largest and wealthiest city in the United States.)
Next year, the Mets could feature Wilmer Flores at second base, or Dilson Herrera, a minor league prospect. It’s hard to imagine, however, that a team that looks like a playoff contender for the next few years could not make use of a passionate hitter who can fill in at three positions.
Not to mention he comes to bat to the music of the Dropkick Murphys, a fine Celtic punk band.
“Adjectives are going to fall short of how this all feels right now,” Murphy said as he took a Champagne bath Thursday night.
The hope is that Murphy can produce more high adjectival feats into early November. And after that perhaps the Mets will chose to reward a dirty-uniformed ballplayer with a new contract.
Read more http://rss.nytimes.com/c/34625/f/640350/s/4abe8767/sc/35/l/0L0Snytimes0N0C20A150C10A0C170Csports0Cbaseball0Cdaniel0Emurphy0Ewins0Eover0Emets0Efans0Eeven0Eas0Ehe0Emay0Eleave0Ethem0Bhtml0Dpartner0Frss0Gemc0Frss/story01.htm