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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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Before E-4, I Draw a Blank

I heard myself stick up for Kenny Rogers and Timo Perez the other night. Yeah, they left their fingerprints all over two of the most notorious moments in Mets postseason history, but, I said, the Mets wouldn’t have gotten as far as they did without them.

Being so generous of spirit, you’d figure I’d apply the same retroactive mercy rule to someone who was a Met a lot longer, did a lot more as a Met, and was, in his checkered postseason time, the epitome of wouldn’t have gotten as far as we did without him.

Yet I don’t. It’s not conscious. I just haven’t effectively compartmentalized on his behalf. All the good stuff he did is apparently crammed into a mental storage locker somewhere off the highway. The one particularly gruesome thing in his past is present whenever he is.

I see Daniel Murphy, I see that error from Game Four of the 2015 World Series. I also see a Washington National who clubs the crap out of the 2017 Mets, but there are too many of those to keep track of. Murphy’s just doing his job, which, to judge by the curly W on his work clothes, is either hitting a ton at the expense of Met pitching or directing customers in the lengthy checkout line to the register at cosmetics that just opened. In the business sense, Murphy’s simply another Harper, Zimmerman, Rendon, Wieters or, to use the most trenchant example, Max Scherzer. Scherzer beat the Mets’ brains in on Friday night, dominating them for eight innings en route to a most convincing 7-2 victory. Unlike his teammates, Scherzer did his damage without a bat. The Mets did no damage. They also needn’t have bothered with bats.

As a rule, Murphy could leave his glove at home and nobody would notice the difference. On October 31, 2015, Daniel’s glove avoided contact with a ground ball that scooted directly underneath it. The acute case of grasplessness converted a tenuous lead into a demoralizing tie, nudging open the door for the loss that pushed the World Series three-quarters of the way into Kansas City’s annoyingly aggressive arms. The Mets had been up 3-2 in the eighth and down 2-1 in the series. Eric Hosmer grounded to Murphy with two on and one out. Next thing you knew: E-4 and 3-3. Next thing after that: 5-3; 3-1; doom harbingered.

Sitting in Promenade almost directly behind home plate, I had an excellent view of the miserable play, at least until all those EMTs came up to administer oxygen after all the air was sucked out of our section. Maybe that onsite sightline contributed to the indelibility of the debacle. It was such a definitive turning point, too. Hold that 3-2 lead and the Mets compress the Series down to a best-of-three. Give it up, as they did, then the margin for error disappears. And if there was anything we learned about Daniel Murphy between 2008 and 2015, it was if you gave him margin, he’d give you error.

That’s what I remember about him as a Met. His glove, or lack thereof, in a crucial moment.

Here’s what I don’t remember without a nudge: Daniel Murphy slugged us into that World Series. He slugged us into the National League Championship Series. Stole us there, too. For two rounds, he was the most brilliant hitter the Mets ever had in any October. He homered off practically everybody who ever won a Cy Young. He outwitted the Dodgers. He dismantled the Cubs. The M in MVP surely stood for Murphy.

It’s not like I’ve forgotten that. It’s just that I forget it when I see him. When I see him, I see someone who’s hit .393 against the Mets across 2016 and 2017…and someone who fielded .000 for the Mets at the most critical crossroads of their extended 2015. If I think hard, I remember a likable chap who was never a natural at any position but filled in everywhere as asked and generally hit well for years, if not like he does today.

I don’t think of the nightly autumnal home run barrage that powered the Mets to a pennant. I know it happened, I know I reveled in it, I just don’t think about it. Maybe it’s because my view of those clouts wasn’t as clear as it was for that miscue. Maybe it’s because losing stings more than winning satisfies. Maybe it’s because there’s no emotional upside in assigning pleasant memories to current Nationals.

I somehow remember the 1999 Mets won all of Kenny Rogers’s home starts (seven) prior to his revealing a disconcerting allergy to the strike zone away from Shea. I somehow remember all the runs Timo Perez scored in the 2000 NLCS (eight) before he developed an affinity for presumptuous trotting. I know they committed sins that ultimately and decisively outweighed their good deeds, but I can easily access the good deeds. I’m intensely granular when it comes to what individual Mets have done, for better or for worse.

Daniel Murphy did far more for the Mets in the fall of 2015 than he did to them, but that memory tends to elude me, kind of like a ground ball once eluded a second baseman’s glove at the worst possible instant.

If you like a good Piazza-oriented podcast — and who doesn’t? — I have two for you: me and Pete McCarthy from WOR here; me and Jay Goldberg from the Bergino Baseball Clubhouse here. My thanks to each of them for having me over to their respective venues.

15 comments to Before E-4, I Draw a Blank

  • eric1973

    Murph also became our de-facto captain during that postseason, displaying a humbleness and humility in such a well-spoken and intelligent manner that made you wish he was our official captain all along.

  • LeClerc

    Quite a move to have Salas intentionally walk Murphy to load the bases – and then bring in Neil Ramirez.

  • UpstateNYMetfan

    Thank you for writing this post on Murphy. I’ve been struggling to deal with the whole Murphy phenomenon since early 2016 when it fairly quickly became apparent that Murph had transformed from likeable, serviceable,.280’s hitting lefty compliment to David Wright to now a singular Met bugaboo seemingly heck-bent on destroying all that is Metsian. In respect to Murphy, by all accounts, a good and decent guy, I rationally know that this is not (necessarily) true. I think the recent exchange between Murphy and umpire Alan Porter shows the quality of Murphy’s character. But dammit, I’m too emotional. Every time I see Murphy, now in his Nationals uniform, I cringe. When I see him up to bat against the Mets, I grit my teeth and my stomach churns. When he puts contact on the ball (which he does nearly every time, which to his credit, was pretty much true as a Met too) I hold my breath an extra second, “knowing” it’s going to find the hole or the gap (or the other side of an outfield fence). Men on? RBI’s forthcoming. And then I’m beside myself. I feel anger, I feel frustration, I feel hurt. I feel hopeless despair. Like I said, I’m pretty emotional. And I ask myself “why does this hurt so damn much?” He’s just a player, playing for another team, like hundreds of other MLB players, doing their job and trying to do all they can to win for their team. And goodness knows that numerous other former Mets have left us and gone on to willfully inflict damage on our team’s winning aspirations. But this kills me so much more. I don’t know if it was because the Mets were in the World Series in 2015, with Daniel Murphy playing such a huge part in getting us there, but then wilting when we still needed his heroics so badly, and now, it seems so dauntingly impossible to make it back to the W.S., let alone ultimately win it. We were so close in 2015. I think I speak for most Mets fans when I say that there remained a great deal of hope left in our hearts for future success despite the crushing blow of having lost, and lost so frustratingly in games of which most “featured” late Met leads. And I was pretty much okay with the Mets letting Murphy go. To me, Neil Walker seemed like a pretty nice replacement (especially since the trade involved booting Niese from the roster). Like so many others, I didn’t mind Murphy moving on, because I didn’t see what was coming. How could I? How could anyone? How has Murphy transformed from Willie Randolph (as player, not manager) to Rogers Hornsby?!? Where does this come from? As an emotional, irrational Mets fan, I can only “see” it for what it “must” be; this universe’s mad, iniquitous design on Mets fans’ hopes, dreams, and aspirations in an already unfair world where “we” must share a town with “those” Yankees (as a Mets fan, it always comes down to the Yankees, even when it doesn’t). My emotions quickly become overwrought nearly every time Murphy shares a field with the Mets, and I already feel defeated. Even when the Mets somehow prevail over Murphy’s Nats, I only feel relief and temporary satisfaction, not the pride of a fan who knew his team rightfully and deservedly won. I hate that feeling! And through most if not all of 2016, I thought that I hated Murphy too. I’ve come to realize I really don’t. I don’t necessarily root for him, but I harbor no ill will towards Murph either. Now, I just lament the loss of what I never knew we had. Indeed, in many ways, we never “had” it. 2016-17’s “Murph XP” (“eXtra Proficient?”) is quite different than his 2008-2015 “Millennium Edition” predecessor. Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson” runs through my head right now, with the modified lyrics of “Where have you gone, Daniel Murphy?” To the unlovable Nationals, of course. A little dramatic, I know, but it’s how I am feeling. Like I said, I’m emotional.

    • Eric

      Part of me is still looking forward to deGrom starting game 6 with Syndergaard poised to start game 7.

      The run to the 2015 WS was glorious – storybook (literally). Which sets up the painful memory that with just a few tweaks, the Mets could have swept the Royals, let alone taken the series to a respectable game 6 or 7. The Mets should have won the championship that looks far away right now.

      Of course, the Mets weren’t the only team that the Royals routinely beat in dramatic comeback fashion that post-season. They had their own storybook run.

  • Matt in Richmond

    The Mets made Murph a qualifying offer which would have paid him handsomely for 2016. If he was so confident that he was going to have anything close to the season that he did last year, the financially wise move would have been to accept the Mets offer. After the season he had last year he would have commanded a much richer contract than the relatively modest 3 year deal the Nats gave him.

    As for where we are now. The bad: Flores and Conforto are slumping at a really bad time. Rivera and Flores sloppy defense cost us several runs in the 9th when the game still was plausibly within reach. The good: Matz looking great for second straight start. Can’t really hold the homers against him too much, particularly Rendon’s which was utterly fluky. He was strong and consistent and efficient. Reyes was totally on point defensively in stark contrast to Flores and Rivera and was one of the only guys in the lineup to bring anything against Max. Except for Bruce who continues to be the team MVP and play at an All Star level. With a decisive advantage in the pitching matchup Sunday, if we can pull out today’s game against Strasburg (who was hammered his last start) we’ve still got a decent shot at a split.

    LGM

    Edited by moderator.

  • Chad Ochoseis

    “Murphy’s just doing his job, which, to judge by the curly W on his work clothes, is either hitting a ton at the expense of Met pitching or directing customers in the lengthy checkout line to the register at cosmetics that just opened.”

    This. This is why I continue to follow this team, even when there is no earthly reason to keep doing so.

  • Seth

    Maybe you don’t remember the “nightly autumnal home run barrage” because in the end, it was all for naught.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Nice handle Chad, and yes, that’s a beauty of a line.

  • Dave

    Murphy morphing into Ted Freaking Williams after years of consistent .280 with below-average power is like someone breaking up with you and you’re not even that upset, later to turn into a supermodel, and marrying someone rich and famous.

    Some stats I dug up: Murph currently has a 294-game hitting streak against the Mets, and over that time he is hitting 63.983 with an OPS of 147,489.750. They have announced some slightly different stats in the media, but the discrepancy is just from rounding.

    • 9th string catcher

      Thanks for crunching the numbers, Dave. I thought the stats looked light.

      There was a hint of Murphy coming into his own during the playoffs, but who could possibly assume it would continue? The biggest reason to sign him long term would have been as backup for Duda and Wright. But I wasn’t sorry to see him go – I don’t remember him for his WS error or his WS MVP. I remember him for years of being a terrible fielder, .280 hitter with 10 HRs and a mostly injured homophobe, who hit well in the clutch. On balance, still don’t miss him.

  • Dave

    9th – You’re right about those stats being light, I should have specified, last night’s game not included.

    Murph had the most incredible 9-game streak in Mets history, and at a perfect time, but still just 9 games. By signing for (I think) 3 years $36M, he was betting that he would not duplicate that over an extended period, yet he has…he essentially lost the bet, if you consider $36M losing. And if he keeps it up, he’ll make up for some of it with his next contract.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Murph’s power stroke started a few weeks before the playoffs and there was a lot of talk about it, again pre-playoffs, as a result of his new approach at plate. He’s hit beyond what one might expect, given the Ruthian level, but 25 HRs and his usual .290 average were very much in the cards. Also, he would give team option at 3b (ouch) and 1B (could be longtime starter at either position starting next year, if not this year). Sandy called it wrong. But then again, he traded Wheeler and Flores for Carlos Gomez.

    Edited by moderator.

  • Curt

    I hate Daniel Murphy posts because I keep going back to wanting to see him standing at 1st base and Lucas Duda traded for whatever he’d bring. But two years is long enough to beat that not just dead but largely decomposed horse.

    • Call your representative and demand the Mets stop scheduling the Nationals. Otherwise, Daniel Murphy will likely make an occasional appearance in these pixels.

  • greensleeves

    I still unabashedly miss Murphy. His bat remains a marvel of consistency and after his 2015 heroics he earned and deserved to be a lifetime Met. It was an awful decision not to reward him with a bigger contract and then– yes, put him on first until his beard sprouted grey.