The story with Daniel Murphy goes when he was in Jacksonville University, he introduced himself as “I’m Daniel Murphy from Jacksonville, and I hit third.” That would perfectly describe Murphy’s Mets career to an extent. While he played some questionable defense, he will forever known for his offensive exploits.
Murphy’s story with the Mets began in 2008. The team was fighting with the Phillies for the National League East crown in August, and due to a number of injuries, they rushed Murphy up from the minors and stuck him in left field despite his being primarily a third baseman in his career.
Murphy was a revelation for the Mets that year hitting .313/.397/.473 with nine doubles, three triples, two homers, and 17 RBI in 49 games. He’d also notably hold his own him left field. Thus began the odyssey of Murphy with the Mets where he played mostly out of position, hit, and was clutch.
In 2009, he was severely miscast as the Opening Day left fielder in Citi Field. The ballpark was far too spacious, and he was not really an outfielder. Due to a number of injuries, he would find himself at first base in place of Carlos Delgado. In that season, he would not only lead the team in homers, but he would also have the first homer at Citi Field which came as a result of replay review.
After an injury plagued 2010 season which he began in the minors because new GM had more faith in Brad Emaus and others, Murphy returned to the Majors in 2011, and he eventually won the everyday second base job. It was a breakout season for him where he had his second highest OPS+ in his Mets career.
From there, while trade rumors would constantly follow him, he emerged as one of the teams best and most reliable players. One of the most interesting things which happened was Murphy became an extremely effective stolen base threat despite not having overwhelming or even good speed. From 2013 – 2014, he would steal 27 consecutive bases. That’s the second longest streak in Mets history trailing only Kevin McReynolds.
In that 2013, he would actually lead the league in stolen base percentage. He would also finish second in the league in hits. The 2014 season would be a special one for Murphy. First and foremost, he became a dad, and he would attend the birth to much consternation. Later that year, he would make his first All-Star team and his only one with the Mets. As great as that year was, 2015 would be Murphy’s best in a Mets uniform.
Working with new hitting coach Kevin Long, Murphy worked on improving his plate discipline, launch angle, and pulling the ball. We would see all of that come to fruition with Murphy having one of the greatest postseasons we have ever seen becoming the first ever player to hit a homer in six consecutive postseason games.
There’s no understating how great a postseason that was. In that postseason, he homered off of Clayton Kershaw (twice), Zack Greinke, Jon Lester, and others. Kershaw is an all-time great pitcher, Greinke is a likely future Hall of Famer, and Lester is a great postseason pitcher. Murphy beat them all, and he did something only Lou Gehrig had ever done by having a hit, run, and RBI in seven consecutive postseason games.
To put it succinctly, it was Murphtober.
He didn’t just beat teams with his bat. He had a great diving play to end Game 1 of the NLDS, and he would also steal a key base. On that note, in Game 5 of the NLDS, Murphy had such a great game, it should be known as the Murphy Game.
In that game, he was 3-for-4 with two runs, a double, homer, two RBI, and a stolen base. He gave the Mets a first inning lead with a double scoring Curtis Granderson. In the fourth, with the Mets trailing 2-1, he caught the Dodgers asleep with the defensive shift going from first to third on a Lucas Duda walk. This enabled him to score on a Travis d’Arnaud sacrifice fly. Later, in the sixth, he hit the go-ahead homer.
In the Mets 3-2 victory, Murphy played a key role in all three runs. It makes it fair to say in a tightly contested series and game, the Mets lose without him. Without Murphy, there is no NLCS or pennant. On that note, he would break Mike Piazza‘s team record for postseason homers and become just the second Mets player to ever win the NLCS MVP. Like Ray Knight, he would find himself playing for another team in 2016. That would prove to be a giant mistake.
Overall, Murphy had a very good and somewhat underrated Mets career. His .288 batting average is the seventh best in team history. His 228 doubles are the third most. His 13.6 WAR is second only to Edgardo Alfonzo among Mets second baseman. Only Ron Hunt, Alfonzo, and Murphy have been All Stars at second base.
Overall, he is arguably the Mets best ever postseason hitter, and he is their second base second baseman of all-time. He is one of the most clutch players to ever wear a Mets uniform, and he is the best Mets player to ever wear the number 28.
3. Curtis Granderson
4. Lenny Dykstra
5. David Wright
6. Wally Backman
7. Jose Reyes
8. Gary Carter
9. Todd Hundley
10. Rey Ordonez
11. Wayne Garrett
12. John Stearns
13. Edgardo Alfonzo
14. Gil Hodges
15. Carlos Beltran
16. Dwight Gooden
17. Keith Hernandez
18. Darryl Strawberry
19. Bob Ojeda
20. Howard Johnson
21. Cleon Jones
22. Al Leiter
23. Bernard Gilkey
24. Art Shamsky
25. Pedro Feliciano
26. Terry Leach
27. Jeurys Familia
The first real playoff team Terry Collins managed with the Mets was in his first season with the team. It is hard to believe now, but that team was full of players that are now members, if not significant contributors, to teams that reached the postseason this year:
- Josh Thole – Toronto Blue Jays (not on the ALDS roster)
- Daniel Murphy – Washington Nationals
- Justin Turner – Los Angeles Dodgers
- David Wright – New York Mets (injured; not on the Wild Card Game roster)
- Jose Reyes – New York Mets
- Angel Pagan – San Francisco Giants
- Carlos Beltran – Texas Rangers
- Lucas Duda – New York Mets (injured; not on the Wild Card Game roster)
- R.A. Dickey – Toronto Blue Jays (not on the ALDS roster)
- Jon Niese – New York Mets (injured; not on the Wild Card Game roster)
Reading the names on that list, the two that immediately jump off the page are Murphy and Turner. They jump off the page for a myriad of reasons. The first reason is the two players are currently facing off against one another in the NLDS between the Dodgers and the Nationals. The series is tied at 1-1 in large part because Turner and Murphy have continued to be terrific postseason player.
Last year, Turner hit .526/.550/.842 with six doubles and four RBI against the Mets in the NLDS last year. Overall, in Turner’s postseason career, he is a .500/.538/.875 hitter with six doubles, one homer, and six RBI.
Murphy was the bat that helped carried the Mets to the World Series last year. In consecutive games, he hit homers off of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, and Kyle Hendricks. He would also homer off Fernando Rodney in what was a stretch of six straight games with a home run. In addtion to the homers, Murphy’s going from first to third on a walk in Game Five of the NLDS helped changed the complexion of that game. Additionally, up until the World Series, he had played exceptional defense (which admittedly is a rarity for him). So far in the NLDS, Murphy is 4-6 with a walk and two RBI. The first of the two RBI was the go-ahead RBI in Game 2 of the NLDS.
Between Turner and Murphy, the Mets had at one time two second baseman who have established themselves to be extraordinarily clutch and terrific postseason players. They were also two players the Mets were eager to replace.
Turner was surprisingly non-tendered a contract after a 2013 season where he seemed to solidify himself as a utility or platoon player (at a minimum). Instead, the Mets let him go with rumors circulating that he was a me-first player that didn’t hustle. He was also characterized as a player that wasn’t progressing because he liked the night scene a little too much. He would go to Los Angeles and blossom as a player. The Mets internal replacement? Eric Campbell.
When Murphy became a free agent, the Mets first aggressively pursued Ben Zobrist. After failing to land him, the Mets quickly moved to trade for Neil Walker. At no time did the Mets even make Murphy an offer. Unlike Turner, Walker was an actual replacement with Walker having a great year for the Mets before needing season ending back surgery. However, despite how good Walker’s year was, he still wasn’t anywhere near was good as Murphy was for the Nationals.
It should never have come as a surprise that both of these players were gone because the Mets, under Sandy Alderson’s reign as General Manager, never really wanted either player. If you go back to that 2011 season, the Opening Day second baseman was Rule 5 Draft pick, Brad Emaus. After a couple of weeks of him struggling, the Mets moved on and finally went to Murphy and Turner at second base. Murphy would get the bulk of the playing time there until Ike Davis‘ ankle injury that allowed them to play side-by-side. With Davis’ healing up and being ready for the 2012 season, the Mets proceeded with Murphy as the second baseman and Turner as the utility player. As we know, that lasted just two year.
Ultimately, the Mets made the postseason this year without either player. And yes, both players got their first chance with the Mets. Quite possibly, neither player would be in the position they are in now without the Mets giving them a chance to prove they are major league players. However, the Mets also made clear they didn’t want either player starting all the way back in 2011 when they anointed Emaus the everyday second baseman. Eventually, the Mets would get their chance to move on, and they took advantage of that opportunity.
With that, Murphy and Turner are in the NLDS after the Mets lost the Wild Card Game with T.J. Rivera starting at second base. One of those two will be in the NLCS with a chance to go to the World Series, a position the Mets thought they were going to be in as the season started. With all that in mind, it begs the question: how much differently would the Mets season have gone if they had kept either Turner or Murphy?
Before starting this post, I feel the need to re-state how much: (1) Daniel Murphy is one of my favorite all time Mets; (2) I think the Mets are better off re-signing him; and (3) I’ve defended him against unfair and untrue statements. If you don’t believe me, I’ve taught my son he’s the Mets second baseman.
However, with Murphy now all but gone, I wonder if the Mets made the right decision keeping him over Justin Turner. To be fair, it wasn’t an either/or decision back in 2012 when the Mets non-tendered him. Furthermore, the Mets decided they would rather have Murphy as their everyday second baseman over Turner the prior year.
Now, Murphy and Turner are the same age. It appeared as if Murphy was the better everyday player while Turner was able to admirably be a utility player. There was no room for either at third with David Wright. Also, back then it appeared as if Ike Davis would be the first baseman for years to come. We knew it wasn’t the right move to get rid of Turner. However, the question really is, should Turner have been playing over Murphy?
In 2011, Turner and Murphy basically played everyday due to injuries and the ineffectiveness of other options (see Brad Emaus). In 117 games, Turner hit .260/.334/.356. In 109 games, Murphy hit .320/.362/.448. Based upon those numbers, of course Murphy should’ve been the player the Mets wanted at second base. So yes, the Mets made the right decision there.
In 2012 and 2013, the Mets had a chance to reassess. Murphy hit .291/.332/.403 and .286/.319/.415 respectively while playing every day. In part time duty. Turner would hit .269/.319/.392 and .280/.319/.385. Again, it appears the Mets made the right decision.
So why now is there a question? First, there is a service time issue. Murphy is now a free agent, who may well be priced out of the Mets market (if they were interested). Second, after waving the Mets, Turner has been better than Murphy.
In Turner’s two years in Los Angeles, he’s hit .340/.404/.493 and .294/.370/.491. His WAR has been 4.2 and 3.9. Conversely, Murphy has hit .289/.332/.493 and .281/.322/.449. His WAR has been 1.9 and 1.4 respectively. By either measure, Turner has been a better player. To make matters worse, Murphy is a free agent and Turner will not be one until 2017.
The lesson here isn’t that the Mets let the better player walk. The lesson here is that the Mets did a poor job with player analysis. That lead to them cutting Turner loose. The Mets could’ve used him in 2015 with all of the injuries. He could’ve been a viable Murphy alternative for 2016.
Instead, he’s in Los Angeles, and we don’t know where Murphy will play next year. If Murphy isn’t re-signed, it may very well be another example of how the Mets don’t scout well internally and/or value their own players enough.
The Mets better hope Murphy doesn’t make them look as bad as Turner has. I think Murphy will.
Sandy Alderson became the Mets GM prior to the 2011 season. He knew a change at second base was needed. He jettisoned Mets fans Public Enemy No. 1, Luis Castillo, and used a Rule 5 pick on Brad Emaus, who would be named the Opening Day starting second baseman.
Emaus was not good. He only hit .162/.262/.162 in 14 games. To Alderson’s credit, he cut bait when Emaus showed he couldn’t hack it. The other players that got playing time at secon that year was Justin Turner and Chin-lung Hu. That year Daniel Murphy was not part of the second base rotation. He did play 109 games that year, mostly at first, due to a season ending ankle injury to Ike Davis.
The next season, despite a decent year from Turner, the Mets went with Murphy as the starting second baseman. They have ever since. Despite a multitude of trade rumors (can be fully searched here), the Mets never traded Murphy. Despite not being an “Alderson player,” the Mets have kept him. Seemingly, they’ve grown to appreciate what he can provide to a team.
The Mets struck out on their top second base choice, and they have stuck by Murphy. He’s rewarded them with this offseason. In the end, it’s funny to think none of this would’ve been possible if Brad Emaus played better.
Sometimes it’s better to go with your second option.