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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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Daniel Murphy, Avatar of Chaos

Five weeks ago, if the Mets had been down 5-0 I would’ve found something better to do with my time.

But that was five weeks ago, and that team that no longer exists. Tonight, when the Mets fell five runs behind, I figured they’d come back and was curious how they’d do it.

It’s remarkable — it’s as if the lineup that wore Mets uniforms until late July was not just from another season but from another decade, and their stats had been grafted on to this season’s through some bizarre act of nouveau recordkeeping.

It was a funny night as a chronicler, too. We’re finishing up our annual week on Long Beach Island, and schedules aligned to give us a chance to catch up with old friends. We took it and so I spent the early innings admiring the beauty of a spectacular sunset, content to let whatever the Mets were up to wait a bit. When I checked briefly it was 0-0 in the third, so I figured the Mets could wait a little more.

I love the way baseball rewards both careful watching of each and every pitch and a casual eye or ear on the game while you attend to whatever life’s brought you. So after parting ways with our friends I found myself riding through the Beach Haven night on a bicycle while Howie Rose and Josh Lewin spoke from my pocket. Those voices in the darkness informed me that things had not gone well in my absence; Good New Niese had yielded to Bad Old Niese for an inning that left the score Phillies 5, Mets 0.

That wasn’t good, but it was early yet. And, indeed, by the time I put my bike in a rack outside the restaurant it was 5-2. By the time the food came it was 5-5. I smiled but wasn’t surprised — we’ve come to expect such nightly miracles from Mets 2.0.

5-5, of course, was just the beginning. The Mets had ridden home runs from Travis d’Arnaud, Yoenis Cespedes and Kelly Johnson to a tie, and the game was in the hands of the bullpens.

Which seemed scary, but as Greg noted yesterday, the usually suspect have turned trustworthy. Recent hero Logan Verrett was first out of the gate with a spotless inning, Hansel Robles stared down quick-pitch debaters Jeff Francoeur and Darin Ruf, Sean Gilmartin made the Phils look downright foolish with slow curves and sliders, and then Carlos Torres came on.

Torres has lacked whatever magic he seemed to have in previous campaigns — which is just another way of saying he’s a middle reliever — but he immediately pulled a rabbit out of his hat. Francoeur shot a ball up the middle, which hit off Torres’s back foot. The ball took a crazy bounce into no-man’s land between first and second, where Daniel Murphy smothered it, lost the handle and flung it blindly in the direction of first — the same location where Torres just happened to be arriving. If you didn’t see it, don’t fret — it’s here, and you’ll be seeing it on highlight shows for the next decade or so anyway.

Torres survived the 11th and the 12th, helped by David Wright scooping up a short hop with two outs and Cesar Hernandez steaming homeward from third. Oddly yet also somehow inevitably, Torres then teamed up with Murphy again for the rally that would win the game.

The Phillies had been doing their damnedest to lose, sending out palooka reliever after palooka reliever to walk some Mets and give up bullets to others. But that’s no guarantee of a loss — the bullets went right to Phillie fielders and the walked became the stranded.

Until the 13th, when Torres led off and hit a shot of his own up the middle, one which Freddy Galvis was able to field and juggle but not throw. Curtis Granderson‘s single sent Torres to second, and after a Cespedes flyout, Murph laced a double up the left-field line, chasing home both runs. By the time the Phils were done falling apart, the Mets had a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Murph, of course, is the Mets’ own avatar of chaos — a Loki figure who somehow bends the laws of baseball physics by his mere presence.

Sometimes this is a bad thing — Murph can run the bases as if he thinks he’s invisible (to quote Wright from a couple of years back) or double down on a defensive lapse to create a disaster that simple inaction would have avoided.

Sometimes these Murphian emanations are merely odd — the camera finds Murph wearing an oversized expression of elation or depression, or catches him yapping frenetically to no one in particular, or spots him contorting his body to express triumph or self-loathing.

And sometimes, well, it’s great. Such as when Murph hurls a ball in what he believes is the direction of first base and this time he’s not only right but a teammate has also sprinted there in the nick of time. Or when he lashes out at a baseball and sends it shooting up the line or arcing into the seats.

Murph is our Ron Swoboda — a player whose emotional commitment to the game is infinite even if his talents for it are not. As fans, we live and die with the Mets’ victories and defeats. But watch Murph play ball for even a little while and you realize that as deeply as you may feel such things, you’ll never be lifted up or crushed by them the way Murphy is.

When Murph’s reality-bending force field makes him the hero, no Met fan in existence is as thrilled by what’s happened as Murph himself is. When those same redrafted laws of physics turn him into the goat, no Mets rooter is more horrified and disappointed. It’s hilarious and endearing and a little worrisome all at the same time, much like Murph himself.

And now Murph has the perfect season for his unique talents — one studded with epic wins and losses, runs of invulnerability and incompetence, and no certainty except that what happens next will be wilder and stranger than anything we’ve let ourselves imagine so far.

49 comments to Daniel Murphy, Avatar of Chaos

  • I love Murphy. I’m gonna miss him.

  • Steven

    The team that couldn’t score runs now does so in record bunches.
    The team that doesn’t hit the ball out of the park now averages 2 HRs per game.
    The team that couldn’t win on the road sweeps the Rockies and Phillies to finish off an 8-1 trip.
    The team that was 52-50 near the end of July is now 71-56 near the end of August.
    The team that makes us crazy is making us talk about possible starters and relievers for playoff games.

    #LetsGoMets

  • Gianni Privacio

    Utterly hilarious and insightful take on Murphy, Loki LOL. That toss to Torres was amazing. Of course not surprised at all seeing him go the other way in the 13th – check out his body language, seemed like he guided the ball to the open spot.

    Then of course you’d have to expect Torres, probably the only guy on the team so far this year that hasn’t done something outsized to contribute, to make that play. Wright is wright, he showed what a great athlete he can be. Given that middle relief is the team’s weak point right now ould be perfect timing for him to get in a groove.

    In closing, I call first! here: a ball went off a foot and things went the Mets’ way.

  • James

    Murph, of course, is the Mets’ own avatar of chaos — a Loki figure who somehow bends the laws of baseball physics by his mere presence.

    “I am Murphy, of Flushing, and I am burdened with glorious purpose.”

    *proceeds to stumble and tumble around on the ground before tossing the ball in the general direction of a base*

    As I’ve said to myself and my dad, a lifelong Mets fan, nothing Murphy does is graceful — but he gets it done… usually. It’s likewise easy to forget that he’s the second-longest tenured Met, outpaced by only the Captain himself. If anyone truly embodies the mythos of the modern Mets — the good, the bad, and the ugly — it’s Murph.

    • dmg

      i was at the game with a friend who’s a philly resident but an orioles fan, so he doesn’t always keep up with doings in the national league. that’s how i explained it to him: there’s good murphy, bad murphy and ugly murphy, and often we see all three in the same game.

      when he and torres made that play, i high-fived everyone in the vicinity, regardless of whom they were rooting for.

  • “But watch Murph play ball for even a little while and you realize that as deeply as you may feel such things, you’ll never be lifted up or crushed by them the way Murphy is.”

    Ha! Very well put. I like the comparison to Swoboda.

  • eric1973

    Don’t forget the ball getting caught in Murphy’s glove at the end!!! — Weirdness follows him everywhere. Love him, he and Flores are my faves and they’ve got to be in there at the same time.

    Murphy’s had around 5 (or more) really good hitting years out of 8, and Duda has had 1 good year out of 5. Can we see our way to making Murph the starting 1B next year? How can anyone sanely commit to Duda over Murph?

    • Matt in Richmond

      Saying Duda has had 1 good year out of 5 is an utterly bogus characterization. They jerked him around, tried to play him in the outfield, had him splitting time with Ike, and on and on. Last year was the FIRST time he got to play every day at a set position and he hit 30 bombs. I love Murph but he isn’t the power threat Lucas is, and first base is typically a power position. This run has demonstrated the importance of depth. Murph can play second and third and occasionally fill in at first, but he should absolutely not take over as an every day first baseman.

    • vertigone

      What are you using to reach this conclusion, batting average? Lucas Duda is a better player. He gets on base more frequently and hits for more power. Compare their OPS+. Not to mention, he doesn’t make the mental mistakes that Murphy does.

      Murph’s a valuable player, but he’s not a better option at first than Duda. Not even defensively, despite last night’s flukish wizardry.

  • Dave

    Starting to see little things that could be signs…when was the last time you saw a series in which multiple relief pitchers not only had at-bats, but got hits? Reminiscent of the 69 double header, both games 1-0…you know the rest.

    Boy, must suck being the Nats, what with their 2015 World Series rings apparently weighing them down there, 6 and a half back.

  • ljcmets

    That play was Ball-Off-the-Wall madness. You can hear it in Gary and Howie’s voices….there’s something happening here. (What it is ain’t exactly clear). If you are a Mets fan under 30 or so, THIS is what you’ve been waiting for. Who knows how this season will end, but you’ll remember it for the rest of your life.

  • Lou from Brazil

    I could think ahead to Murph’s future, but I’m trying to live in the moment in all aspects of life- Mets fandom included. Great win. I don’t care about records against other contenders, this team is playing incredible baseball. My faith in them will not be diminished right now.

    Funny to note that I too was sure the Mets would come back even down by five. I texted my brother back in the States mentioning I don’t like when Niese starts going all Niese on himself. And besides, I wrote the offense will pick him up anyway. Incredible testament to the impact the trades and returning injured have had on this lineup. Simply amazing.

  • dmg

    as noted above, i went to this game. overlooked in all the glory is just how great wright was patrolling 3rd. several plays would be highlight worthy, if the hackysack putout didn’t swamp the senses.

    i’ll be at the next two games at citi. here’s hoping the team keeps its focus and determination. oh, and a little magic.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Watch Murphy just after his game-winning double. He drops his bat to run and then, as if he suddenly remembered Larry Bowa, sort of flips his hand as if he was still holding the bat. It took about a half a second but it’s there.

    http://m.mlb.com/video/v419461483/nymphi-murphy-hits-a-tworun-double-in-the-13th/?game_pk=415552

    PS: Josh Lewin immediately compared The Play to the Ball on the Wall. After hearing both Gary’s and Josh’s excellent calls on it, I kept thinking of how John Sterling would have handled it. Ground ball to the right, er left, er right side, thru the hole, um, Murphy bobbles, safe!

  • eric1973

    We are so blessed to have the best announcers in baseball on Radio and TV. They were actually there, they know their Mets history, and are able to relate to longtime fans like myself and many others on this site.

    And please do not ever forget Lindsay Nelson, who left after 1978, and was the best of the bunch.

    My most cherished autographs gotten while waiting outside the Diamond Club are Lindsay Nelson, Bob Murphy, and Ralph Kiner.

    True gentleman, all.

  • Steve D

    A couple of times, I drew faint parallels to 1969…the Mets are now 71-56 and in 1969 they were 74-53. Not so faint anymore. The 1969 Mets finished 26-9, so it is unlikely the current Mets can keep pace, but with the schedule they are playing it might be close. The 1969 Mets were much better fundamentally, but I guess all teams were back then compared to today.

  • Andrew

    OK, this link of the “hackysack” play is tremendous because you hear the call from Gary, Josh and the Phillies’ TV and radio announcers too.

    http://m.mlb.com/video/topic/6479266/v419382183/must-c-carom-mets-complete-ridiculous-131-putout/?game_pk=415552

    BUT, at the 1:47 mark, when the video is nearly over, watch the interaction between Carlos and Francoeur…is that a “nice play” from Frenchy, or do you think just a “didn’t mean any harm” resulting from the push in the back???

    Anyway, INTERESTING!!!

    • I was interested in that encounter myself. In the clubhouse after the game, Torres said Francouer “could have crushed me” and added he was grateful that he didn’t. He saw it as good sportsmanship.

    • otb

      I guess I’m showing my age but I had never heard of hackysack until Ron and Gary used the term. I thought they were calling it a Hackensack play, and I wondered how the play originated there.

  • Dave

    BTW, love the Swoboda analogy…very apt. Rocky was all in, just like Murph.

    As for Murph’s future with the team, I guess in a best case scenario, they keep him for the role he essentially has right now, an almost everyday utility guy. Maybe they continue this mix and match infield. Of course, that costs more money, so maybe it doesn’t happen. But right now, probably best that we just focus on right now.

    • Rob E

      I’m sure money will be a consideration, but Murph is getting pushed out by the FUTURE, it’s not a case of the team letting him walk because they don’t want to pay him and being worse for it. Flores can sort of do what Murphy does now and at 24 he still has upside, and Herrera (who is ripping up AAA) is coming up behind him. Murphy is going to get $40-$50 million, so you have to consider whether you want to commit that when you have other options. That’s also money they’re going to need to throw at the pitchers eventually.

      No one likes to see guys like Murphy leave, but in the circle of baseball life, it’s a good thing if it’s under conditions like this. If you can let Murphy leave because you have talent coming up behind him, that’s GOOD. When you can’t trade an impending free agent because you’re in a pennant race, that’s also good.

      • Steven

        Totally agree with your general assessment but $40-$50 million for a poor-fielding, poor-baserunning, not-much-power-and-rarely-walks hitter who does some of the most boneheaded things you will ever see? I can’t see a team paying him anywhere near that type of money especially since he’ll be 31 next season.

        In the you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up arena, Murphy is born on April 1, aka April Fools Day. That might be the most apt birthday ever!

        P.S. I like the guy but if he wasn’t already a Met I would never want him on my team.

        • Dave

          Yeah, I agree $40-50M is a pretty generous estimate for a contract for Murph, he’s not getting that much. He’s a role player type of guy…if he goes elsewhere on the FA market this winter, I don’t think any of us could say with any certainty what position he’d even be playing. But in the right here, right now, he’s a great role player who is helping us win games, he’s been a Howard Johnson type of mensch who has switched around positions without complaining throughout his career, hit in about every spot in the batting order, and by now one of the few remaining players on the team who played at Shea as a Met (not that that helps them win games, but in other words, a Mets lifer so far). As for who plays 2nd in 2016, I won’t start worrying about that until I’m shoveling snow.

        • Rob E

          Chase Headley got 4 years/$52 million and though he is a much better fielder, I think Murphy is a better player. I can see AL teams bidding him up knowing they can hide him at DH if they have to.

          Murph is a really odd player…he’s not as good as half the people think, and he’s better than the other half of the people think. But there is certainly value in consistency at the level he has put up, and someone will pay for that.

          Someone above commented that he’ll sign with the Yankees. I hope to God NOT, but that would be a perfect situation for him. They have an obvious need, he’ll get his money, and he’ll put up stats that will make it look like a bargain.

        • Matt in Richmond

          He has brain cramps sometimes, but I don’t think it’s accurate to call him poor fielding. He has played 3rd 2nd and 1st and has played them all adequately, possibly even above average.

  • retire17

    You can really only judge a team-of-destiny team in retrospect, but this team is starting to tick some of the checkboxes: big come from behind wins, never-seen-that-before plays, unlikely heroes, and weird moments that turn out differently than you would have thought (e.g. “the incident” as Ron Darling calls it). Don’t want to get too excited too soon, but still….

  • argman

    Love the Swoboda analogy – my childhood favorite. Will be wearing my customized Swoboda t-shirt tonight to CitiField where the atmosphere should be electric.
    BTW, nice to see Niese not totally fall apart after his disaster inning. It could have been worse, but once the hitters started the comeback he kept the Phils in check. Might not have done that in the past.

  • mikeL

    it really is incredible how a team so aggravating has become so ridiculously fun to watch.
    and an offensive juggernaut! i resisted referencing murderers’ row thes past few days but then last nite ron darling invoked the ’27 yanks during the telecast. the team that couldn’t score.

    now the away stadiums are sounding a little like – shea? – after so
    many years of apparent indifference at citi. and stories about obnoxious visting mets-fan-hordes have become more frequent.
    i imagine other teams’ fans are beginnjng to hate the mets themselves.
    how ’86!
    i love it!

    will be sad to see murph go as he likely will – but what better sendoff than a run for the ages – and one can hope – a big ring on his hand!

    • Dave

      Agreed wholeheartedly. Murph and the Captain have been through a lot for us and for the Mets. They both deserve this.

    • Steve D

      Mike, on July 24, this team was dead last in BA, runs and just about everything else. They were a laughingstock and with good reason. Since then, they have scored 165 runs, tops in NL. Anybody watching closely knows they are now never out of a game. Even with the moves they made, nobody expected this. It still will hinge on deGrom, Harvey and Colon in the playoffs. I see those three as the starters, with Syndegaard and Niese in long relief. To the younger guys who have never lived through this, get ready for a wild ride.

  • Guy K.

    There’s good Murphy and bad Murphy, which suggests he is inconsistent. And, from game to game, he is. But from season to season, there has never been a more consistent Met other than Mookie Wilson. You wind Murphy up, he’ll zig, he’ll zag, he’ll stumble, he’ll get back up, and after all that, at the end of every season, damned if his batting average isn’t right smack dab at .290.

  • EricO

    Yes, there are many “signs” we may look back on as “destiny” after the fact. And there was Terry Collins yesterday buying in, saying that the Murph-Torres play and the Torres hit were signs that the Mets were gonna win. However I cannot get out of my mind the play that was the surest-fire augur of Mets destiny: Endy’s Game 7 Catch. I’m having the most fun in years as a fan, but the whole “desiny” angle is a fantasy I’m not indulging…at least until we win something.

  • eric1973

    Rob E — Love your middle paragraph regarding Murphy. I think it’s his consistency that gives us that chance to win day in and day out.

    You mention saving some of those millions for the pitching. They may need to save some of it for Cespedes, who just may actually be worth it, whatever he gets.

  • Eric

    Kudos to Granderson. Started the game 0 for 2, then 4 hits to center and left field, 1 walk.

  • eric1973

    Interesting point, Matt From Richmond, which goes to show how broadcasting styles have changed throughout the years.

    Nelson/Murphy/Kiner never had a cross word about anybody, even if they thought it, but Gary/Keith/Ron are pretty critical (and somewhat snarky, even), on a nightly basis. That’s a part of their charm.

    • Matt in Richmond

      Agreed. In my view they do an amazing job of maintaining journalistic credibility while still being enthusiastically pro home team.

  • Gary Schwartz

    Love the comparison to Rocky. Murph’s a better hitter, but about par as a fielder. Love his enthusiasm tho!

  • metsfaninparadise

    I loved his sympathetic leap when the shortstop jumped to catch a line drive

  • […] Daniel Murphy, Avatar of Chaos »    […]

  • […] this?) Up came Cuddyer — and there went Murphy, the Mets’ not-so-invisible ninja and avatar of chaos, stealing second. This time we witnessed a manifestation of Good Murph — he got a big jump, […]

  • […] this was a bizarre one even by the standards of our own lovable avatar of chaos. Up in the stands we all shrugged and muttered; that Murphy, whaddya gonna do? Down on the field, […]

  • Art

    “Murph has the perfect season for his unique talents” If this was high school literature, foreshadowing would be discussed. But seriously, you have to feel good for Murph and his amazing play.