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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Murphy's Awe

Just for an evening, it would be pretty fun to be a big-league ballplayer. I don’t mean as a walk-on — a Joe Boyd thrust onto a stage not normally yours. I mean, wouldn’t it be fun to be an invisible traveling companion — someone who could see what the player sees, hear what the player hears and most importantly do what the player does?

Who would you choose to be? I’m sure it would be fun to be scoop up balls at third base like David Wright, or throw an ungodly slider and moonwalk off the mound like Jenrry Mejia, or even jiggle the belly fat in an impressive way like Bartolo Colon. (Though hmm, after this long on book tour I can do that one myself.)

But if I were going to get my ridealong day, I think I’d be Daniel Murphy.

When he’s on — and part of what makes Murph Murph is neither you nor he can predict when he’ll be on — no one has more fun on the field, and no one manages to be less cool about his successes. Which, endearingly enough, is very cool.

To be clear, Tuesday night wasn’t the night I’d have chosen to be Zack Wheeler. Wheeler threw 118 pitches — 64 strikes and 54 balls. He faced 24 batters and 13 of them reached base. In any normal game, that would be a recipe for absorbing a beating and huddling in dismay at one end of the bench while the regulars were excused from further duty. Tonight, though, it was enough — not to get the win, despite Terry Collins’ best efforts on Wheeler’s behalf — but to wind up on the winning side. Wheeler couldn’t screw this game up badly enough to lose, not with Murph and Ruben Tejada pulling off unlikely double plays and the Mets walloping Vidal Nuno and Alfredo Aceves. Wheeler has great stuff, and has pitched in bad luck and in front of bad defense, but tonight there was no excuse to be made for him.

No, I’d be Daniel Murphy. There was Murph in the second, smothering a Kelly Johnson grounder that was ticketed for the outfield while skidding across the Yankee Stadium infield dirt on one palm, then somehow turning and shooting a throw to Tejada before topping onto his backside. That had to hurt, I thought when I saw the replay, but Murph looked down at his palm and brushed at his forearm as if it were all a great adventure.

Or there’s Murph standing tall after Tejada grabs a short hop or watches a ball spin out of his glove but into his hand or otherwise is forced to improvise. I always worry about him standing at second with a knee locked and vulnerable, but he doesn’t seem to worry — if something happens it’ll happen. It’s the Zen of Murph, I suppose.

But the most fun moment to be Daniel Murphy on Tuesday night would of course have been the fifth inning, when he clocked a pedestrian fastball from Aceves to deep right, sending it clanging off the foul pole. High off the foul pole — this was not a cheap Yankee Stadium home run but a Mo Vaughn special, a threat to unwary hot-dog vendors in the deepest environs of the yard. Murph chugged around the bases, seemingly deep in thought about the cool thing he’d just done, until it burst out of him with a yell as he faced his own dugout.

I don’t know quite how Murph does these things; it’s fairly obvious Murph doesn’t know either. When things go badly he’s as pissed and befuddled as you are; when things go well he’s ready to leap off his couch and high-five everyone, except he was the one who just did the high-fiveable thing. You’re in awe and he’s in awe and things will go wrong again soon enough, but right now, oh my goodness isn’t it fun to be Daniel Murphy, New York Met?

Programming note: This was also gonna be about Chase Field, where I was watching the D’backs beat the Nats while listening to Howie and Josh from Yankee Stadium. But I’m way too tired and have to get up way too early. It’ll wait.

14 comments to Murphy’s Awe

  • Dave

    Wright might be the face of the franchise and Harvey might be the Broadway Joe/Keith Hernandez rock star with the arm candy, but Murph is the heart and soul. Once upon a time we all cringed at the thought of him as an everyday 2Bman, and like Keith said last night you never quite know what you’re going to get from him in the field, but there isn’t a day I’m not glad he’s ours.

    • open the gates

      Agreed. Seems the Mets always have a guy like that – a Ron Swoboda, a Mookie Wilson, a Benny Agbayani, a Daniel Murphy, – who will never be the best at what he does, or even close, but makes you root for his success. And when he succeeds, often, so does the team.

  • Jesse

    Ron said after the fourth that Wheeler didn’t deserve to come back in and get the win. I agreed, and I’m loving the little bit of an edge his game call has taken on. Makes me think he’s holding this team to a higher standard than the last few years.

    • sturock

      I agree! And I’ve noticed it too. Turn the corner already. Rebuilding means improving– even if it’s just baby steps at first. It’s time for this team to win more games than it loses. And Ron is expressing that for all of us.

      Meanwhile, I applaud the recent personnel moves. Welcome DeGrom and Montero, Flores and Campbell. Bring up more young guys!

      And see ya later, Farnsworth and Valverde: you are just not helping the Mets move forward.

  • open the gates

    Truth is, right about now I wouldn’t mind being Lucas Duda. Ike is gone, Satin is back in the minors, and no one is thinking of Eric Campbell as anything other than a backup. And Duda really looks comfortable now, both at the plate and in the field. Maybe he’s finally coming into his own.

  • ToBeDetermined

    Purely as a “passenger”, Murphy wouldn’t be a bad choice. Or Duda. But I might go with Juan Lagares. The ability to do things in the outfield that almost nobody else can do and make them look easy seems like a cool experience.

    But if I could also have a tiny bit of influence from the figurative back of the brain – just enough to prod him to stay focused, remain confident, and play up to his natural abilities – I might go with Ruben Tejada. The differential between Good Ruben and Bad Ruben is starting to remind me of Good Ollie and Bad Ollie, and I’d love to see a different result this time.

    (Both of these possibilities are conditional on including the ability to understand the Spanish I/we hear and read. It’d be way too frustrating without that.)

  • Kevin from Flushing

    Obviously we all want to see Wright on board a World Series winner, but it’d be pretty great if Murph can be a part of that too. He’s even got the Shea cred.

    I’m fearful we’ll get the Wheeler TJS announcement this week.

    Very curious to hear your account of the game. Did you turn heads with seemingly “spontaneous” cheering in the stands?

  • March'62

    Actually Murph’s HR was definitely a Yankee Stadium special. If the foul pole was 30 feet further back where it belongs, that ball would have hooked foul.
    I’ve been trying to come up with a Sterling call for a Murphy HR:
    1. Murphy lays down the law
    2. Dan – you’re the man
    3. Daniel you’re a star
    4. Murph will circle the turf

  • rich porricelli

    Murphy gets up there and takes a good cut…good solid put-it-in-play contact. Second only to Wright as best hitter on team in recent years…

  • Lenny65

    If Murphy had been a Met during a more successful era I think he’d be downright beloved. Like David Wright, he’s had the misfortune of playing for some pretty sad squads during his Met tenure. He leaves it all out there every night, that’s for sure and he’s quietly done his job well for years now without controversy or complaint.

  • 5w30

    But Murph is the guy that trade rumors always swirl about…

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