Have you ever wondered what it must be like to feel the pressure to perform that most hitters endure everytime they walk to the plate?
It’s so easy for fans to say this guy needs to draw more walks or that guy needs to hit in the clutch… We spend hours upon hours debating with each other about always wanting more from our players, without ever thinking about it from their point of view. That’s why I loved this interview that Andy Martino conducted with one of my favorite current players, Daniel Murphy.
“This entire game is about anxiety,” Murphy says. “The whole thing. It’s about anxiety from the time you wake up in the morning. You’re just funneling to seven o’clock. It’s all building to there. The least amount of anxiety we have all day is after the game, when we go to sleep. That’s when we just decompress.”
This is the human side of trying to be a selective hitter, writes Martino. Even the most talented ballplayers in the world, those who can hold down a job with a major league team, get jumpy, insecure — and these feelings build during an at-bat, as the count deepens.
“It’s two different things that I have to be aware of,” Murphy says. “There is the anxiety of hitting with two strikes, and then there is the anxiety of getting to two strikes.”
Murphy lives with knowledge that even though he led all National League second basemen in hits, doubles, runs and stolen bases, the only thing many in the front office look at is his .319 on-base percentage. it stands as evidence that he isn’t totally on board with the team’s philosophy.
“It’s really hard to do. It’s hard. It is hard.”
“I struggle with thinking that a walk is a win,” Murphy concedes. “I struggle with that, because I look at a walk as, I didn’t get a hit. And so what I’m trying to really, really learn is that 0-for-2 with two walks, that is a win. But I don’t always view it like that.”
Murphy tells Martino that he understands the philosophy and even agrees with it, but executing it is not as easy as it appears.
“If I don’t walk, I have to get two hits a night,” Murphy says. “Do you know how hard that is to do at this level? It’s terrible. You’re talking about 2-for-5, 2-for-4. They’re not just passing out knocks out there. Just be disciplined to take that walk, it gets me on base that much more.”
That, at least, is what Murphy’s brain is telling him to do, Martino underscores. But the head is one thing, and the churning, anxious gut is another.
“I want to buy in,” he says. “I don’t want to swing at marginal pitches… It’s just hard.”
Nice job by Andy Martino…
I feel bad for Murphy… Fifteen or twenty years ago, the numbers Murphy posted in 2013 would have been talked about all Winter long. Kids would have been hoarding his baseball cards. He would have been appreciated a heck of a lot more and any talk of trading him would have been scoffed at or met with ridicule. But that was another era. Baseball is and will continue to be an evolving game. Nobody knows this better than Daniel Murphy. I hope he has a great year in 2014…
(Photos: Brad Barr, USATSI)