New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy has taken over the spotlight in the National League playoffs. The homerun he hit off Jake Arrieta in Game 2 of the NLCS was his fifth of the post season. An incredible performance when Murphy is not normally considered a homerun hitter. It is even more surprising when you realize that in this post season Murphy has homered off of the likely top 3 vote getters for the National League Cy Young Award. Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and now Jake Arrieta have all fallen victim to Murphy’s power. Kershaw was touched up twice and let’s not forget that the Cubs Jon Lester also has been stung by Murphy. Daniel Murphy is hitting .357 with 5 HR’s and 8 RBI’s in the post season and basically has carried the Mets offensively along with Curtis Granderson. The Mets are leading the NLCS with a 2-0 advantage heading into tonight’s Game 3 in Chicago. It will be Jacob deGrom for the Mets vs. Kyle Hendricks for the Cubs. I am quite certain that Daniel Murphy will be ready to go.
A lot of the talk in New York all season regarding Murphy has centered on whether or not the Mets should re-sign the pending free agent. Murphy has been with the Mets for his entire career and is now 30 years old. His salary was $8 million for 2015 and he will certainly be seeking more than that in his next contract and he will want some years. What do you do with a player that has averaged .280 with 10 HR’s and 65 RBI’s over his 6 full seasons playing several positions but none of them very well? It is a good question and one that will get tougher and tougher for the Mets to answer if Murphy continues to lead the Mets to the promise land during this incredible run. Murphy is a “tweener” by all measures. He is not a 25 HR and 80 to 100 RBI guy. However he is not a “punch and judy” hitting infielder either. He does not steal bases and his defense is always in question. So the question of what to do with Murphy may have already been decided by Sandy Alderson. Met broadcaster Gary Cohen has already gone on record as saying that he would have “no interest” in signing Murphy after this season. There has been some talk that the Mets would be very happy to just promote Dilson Herrera from Triple A next year to play second base. Herrera hit .327 with 11 HR’s and 50 RBI’s in 327 at-bats at Las Vegas in 2015. A Ruben Tejada and Wilmer Flores combination has not been ruled out either.
Jerry Maguire taught us that “we live in a cynical world” and he is absolutely right about that. We focus on what people are not good at and forget what their strengths are. The big knock on Murphy has been that he is not a good fielder. To me he seems to have found a home at second base and appears to be getting more comfortable there. He was bounced around from the outfield to third base to first base over the years. An unfair knock on Murphy is that he has no speed. Very few players do have speed and it is not like Murphy is clogging up the base paths. He stole 23 bases a couple of seasons back. He does need to improve his base running decisions. Murphy does not hit 20 homers and does not drive in 100 runs. Yes that is true. So there are all the negatives from your cynical world.
How about the positives? Daniel Murphy had 73 RBI’s in 2015. Only Brian Dozier (77) and Robinson Cano (79) had more among MLB second baseman. Murphy only played 69 games at 2B but I think we can all agree it is his best position so now you know where he stacks up against his contemporaries. Keep in mind also that Murphy only played 130 games and for more than half the year was batting in a terrible offensive lineup. If he played a full season in a good lineup he would have easily been over 80 RBI’s and possibly over 20 homers. It is also worth noting that Murphy has played in a bad offensive lineup for several years which very well could have kept his numbers down in recent years. He is a hitter, plain and simple. Is he a late bloomer? He could very well be. Murphy himself attributes some of his success to Mets Hitting Coach Kevin Long. I have another positive for you. He is a player rising to the occasion under intense scrutiny and those players are very hard to find. He seems to have become and emotional leader on and off the field. He is well liked by his teammates and revered by the fans.
I seem to remember a similar Met player in the 80’s that could have been viewed the exact same way as Murphy and he is now part of Met royalty. That player was Keith Hernandez. In the 6 seasons prior to Hernandez’s age 30 season he averaged .300 with 11 HR’s and 78 RBI’s. Those were not exactly the kind of power numbers that you would expect from your first baseman but that is what Hernandez was. In 1984 Hernandez turned 30 and two years later the Mets won the World Series with Hernandez as their field general and huge veteran presence in the clubhouse. Players often do not get paid for the “intangibles” but they are real and they contribute to the day to day winning ways of a baseball team. I don’t know what the Mets will do with Daniel Murphy after this season. However I suspect that Murphy will do just fine wherever he plays. The Mets may not realize what they had in Murphy until he is not there anymore.