- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

Uncle Murph

I’ve got one word for Daniel Murphy [1], and it’s not because he’s the brother of either of my parents, because he’s not. The word is “Uncle.”

I’ll say it again: Uncle, as in stop it, stop it, stop it. I give.

You’re the man. You never should have been allowed to escape to Washington. You should’ve been paid by your longtime employer. We should have accepted your infield foibles and baserunning miscalculations and whatever else it was we didn’t find net-positive about you and instead handed you a bat and asked you to live up to your offensive potential for us.

Is this hindsight? Hell yes, it’s hindsight. As humans, we are imbued with the ability to sort through recent evidence and come to revised conclusions. Only idiot radio hosts with names like Mad Dog would bark that people can’t change their minds when compelled.

After Saturday night’s game [2], in which Murph went his usual 9-for-9 with fifty runs batted in against whoever the Mets threw at him, I am compelled to admit thinking that, ah, we’re better off with Neil Walker [3] was December wisdom that doesn’t quite click in July.

Neil Walker’s a good, solid second baseman who is a perfectly serviceable hitter, sometimes a very productive one. But we can stop kidding ourselves that he is an overall upgrade over the Daniel Murphy who exists right now, essentially the same Daniel Murphy who swallowed two postseason series whole last October. At this stage of 2016, taking Walker over Murphy is like choosing the respectable court-appointed lawyer who looked good in a suit over Joe Pesci in My Cousin Vinny. Murphy’s methods as a Met may have been as unorthodox as Vincent Gambini’s in defending Ralph Macchio and friend in Alabama, but who drove off with the pennant and Marisa Tomei as the closing credits rolled?

To be clear, I prefer Walker in the categories of glove and savvy, and I have no complaints about him in a vacuum. I also, potential seriousness of quad injury notwithstanding, fully understand that the opportunity to re-sign the indispensable Yoenis Cespedes [4] developed because whatever it would have cost to have retained Murphy was off the books. And I do look forward not that far down the road to the Dilson Herrera [5] era eventually taking hold at second base. Even in the midst of a playoff chase ably aided by Cabrera to Walker to Loney, the thought of Rosario to Herrera to Smith is tantalizing.

But, c’mon. Look at what Murph is doing to everybody, never mind to us. Actually, look at what he’s doing to us, never mind what he’s doing to everybody. He’s in the worst possible National League East uniform from a competitive standpoint, one he is contracted to wear nineteen times annually against the Mets. He has seven more dates in 2016, including today, to do damage to us on behalf of the National pitching staff. Max Scherzer [6] didn’t need that much support on Saturday. Murph provided a surfeit anyway, as he does for every one of his hurlers when the Mets are the opponent.

I dunno. Maybe if Murphy didn’t have the Mets to wreak vengeance or whatever is fueling him upon, he’d be merely outstanding, not otherworldly. Maybe Murph as a hypothetical Met this year wouldn’t be all that different from what Murph as a Met was most years. Then again, Murph was a helluva Met against the Dodgers and Cubs when we really needed him. Less so against the Royals, of course, but as long as we’re surveying small sample sizes, it’s hard not to weight his nine mammoth performances a little heavier than his five less glittering ones. Cespedes was a detriment in the World Series, too, and we surely embraced his return.

Water under the Triborough. Murph is a National. It’s a National disaster every time he bats against us. Even if it made every bit of sense to include him out of Met plans as they evolved in the offseason, it doesn’t seem so sound in the reality of the season that followed. I can almost hear one of Bob Newhart’s classic one-sided telephone conversations trying to explain how the whole thing has unfolded.

“What’s that? You let the guy hitting .349 and slugging .593 go? And he’s leading what? Oh, the league. How much of his hitting is at your expense? I see…most of it. Well, you must have had a very qualified replacement in mind…uh-huh…he’s hitting .259 and slugging more than a hundred-fifty points less. No, I guess that isn’t as good. What about his defense? His defense is fine…but, no, I suppose there is no defending balls that fly way over the fence.”

***

By the by, I was at Saturday night’s Murphfest, in which the Mets fell to the Nats, 6-1. Scherzer was unhittable [7], Murphy was unstoppable, yet — except for a two-out, bottom of the ninth downpour — I had a wonderful time. Two-thirds of last fall may have been covered by Daniel Murphy’s NLDS and NLCS pounding, but all of 2015 at Citi Field was defined in my scorebook by the presence of one man, and that gent, like Murph, is also back in full Flushing force this weekend.

Skid has returned! You know, Skid Rowe, the Mets fan from California who maintained a life’s dream of moving to New York for 81 home games [8] and then actually did it [9]. He wound up at Citi Field for 88 home games as it turned out, because Skid discovered seven prizes of the unforeseen autumnal variety at the bottom of his enormous case of Cracker Jack. I hadn’t seen him since the World Series. Nobody in New York had. Every baseball season necessarily ends, and when ’15 ended, Skid headed west.

You can only keep a determined Mets fan on the wrong side of the country for so long. Skid attended fantasy camp this past January, and this is the weekend when they hold their reunion in Queens. The campers line up on the field before Sunday’s game, play each other on Monday when nobody else is around. Skid being Skid, he decided to put together his own reunion ahead of the sanctioned version. On Saturday, he reserved a block of seats in the Hyundai (formerly Champions, formerly Ebbets) Club for the friends and friends of friends he made through his adventure last year. Stephanie and I were privileged to be in Skid’s thoughts and then in his gang for this occasion. Joining him and some other excellent folks for nine innings, regardless of a little rain and an overload of Murphy and Scherzer, represented a singular highlight for me within the current season. He’s one of those people who lights up a ballpark on a dreary night, which is no easily estimable talent. I thank Skid again for making 2015 extra memorable and 2016 that much better.