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Before E-4, I Draw a Blank

I heard myself stick up for Kenny Rogers [1] and Timo Perez [2] 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 [3], 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 [4]. Scherzer beat the Mets’ brains in on Friday night, dominating [5] them for eight innings en route to a most convincing 7-2 victory [6]. 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 [7] 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 [8] 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 [9].

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 [10] into the National League Championship Series. Stole us [11] 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 [12]-oriented podcast — and who doesn’t? — I have two for you: me and Pete McCarthy from WOR here [13]; me and Jay Goldberg from the Bergino Baseball Clubhouse here [14]. My thanks to each of them for having me over to their respective venues.