Before I begin, let me preface this by saying that if you’re not a Daniel Murphy supporter, then in all likelihood you will not be a fan of this post. (And for the record, the title of this piece was suggested by my Gal For All Seasons, so I’m not alone in my appreciation for the Mets’ second baseman.)
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s look back at the great second baseman in Mets history. There’s Edgardo Alfonzo and there’s … uh … well … there’s not much else. Sure, there were some second basemen who had good years, like two-time All-Star and Rookie of the Year runner-up Ron Hunt, but he was mostly a singles hitters who made as much contact with the ball using his bat (.282 lifetime average as a Met) as he did with his body (41 HBP in four seasons in New York).
In addition to Hunt, the Mets have employed other fine second sackers such as Felix Millan (who made Ron Hunt look like an extra-base hit machine), Doug Flynn (ditto) and Wally Backman (double ditto). Ken Boswell had some pop, if you want to call a career-high nine home runs in 1972 “some pop”.
Basically, after Alfonzo, the next-best second baseman in club annals might have been Jeff Kent, who had some solid years in Flushing when he wasn’t thinking about being on his ranch in Texas. And Kent probably couldn’t concentrate much on that ranch with all those boos from the Shea Faithful permeating the daydream sensors in his brain.
But that No. 2 spot behind Fonzie on the unofficial list of greatest second basemen in Mets history might have a new resident taking off the vacancy sign very soon. And that resident’s name is Daniel Murphy.
Daniel Murphy had one of the greatest seasons ever recorded by a Mets second baseman in 2013. He finished the year with a .286 batting average, 38 doubles, 13 homers, 78 RBI, 92 runs scored and 23 stolen bases. Prior to Murphy, the only second basemen in franchise history to reach double digits in both home runs and RBI in the same season were Gregg Jefferies and Roberto Alomar. But neither player matched Murphy’s totals in batting average, runs scored, runs batted in and stolen bases. In fact, the only two players in team history who had better numbers than Murphy in all six offensive categories (batting average, doubles, home runs, RBI, runs scored, stolen bases), regardless of their defensive position, were Howard Johnson in 1989 (.287 average, 41 doubles, 36 HR, 101 RBI, 104 runs scored, 41 SB) and David Wright in 2007 (.325 average, 42 doubles, 30 HR, 107 RBI, 113 runs scored, 34 SB).
Murphy’s 2013 campaign saw him finish among the National League leaders in a number of offensive categories. Murphy was in the top ten in games played (161; 2nd in the NL), hits (188; 2nd), singles (133; 2nd), doubles (38; T-7th), total bases (273; 8th), runs scored (92; 8th) and stolen bases (23; T-7th). The only other player in the National League to finish in the top ten in all of those categories was MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen. (Oh, and did I mention that Murphy finished first in the league in stolen base percentage, as he was caught stealing only three times in 26 attempts? Andrew McCutchen, on the other hand, was caught stealing ten times, making him one of only nine players in the National League to reach double digits in that category.)
Offensively, there are few second basemen in the league who can match Daniel Murphy’s overall production. However, there have been some questions posed about Murphy’s ability to handle the defensive side of the position. It’s true that Murphy had an unfavorable defensive WAR (-1.5) and made 16 errors at second base. But that doesn’t mean he was a complete wash at the position.
Murphy finished second in the league in putouts to three-time Gold Glove winner Brandon Phillips. In addition, Murphy finished third in the NL in assists (behind Phillips and Neil Walker) and third in double plays turned (behind Walker and MVP candidate Matt Carpenter).
Now let’s look at the 16 errors committed by Murphy, a total that was surpassed in the Senior Circuit only by Chase Utley, who made one more miscue. Murphy played 150 games at second base in 2013 (his other 11 games were at first base and pinch-hitter). The three second basemen who finished directly behind Murphy in errors committed were Dan Uggla, Marco Scutaro and Rickie Weeks, who made 14, 13 and 10 errors, respectively. But Uggla, Scutaro and Weeks all spent time on the disabled list, combining to miss 119 games this past season with each player missing at least 26 games. Had they all remained on the field, perhaps one or more of them could have committed more gaffes at second base than Murphy.
For his career, Daniel Murphy has been known as a doubles machine. He has the only 40-double campaign for a left-handed hitter in team history. Murphy is also one of only two Mets (David Wright is the other) with three or more seasons of 35+ doubles. And with 73 more doubles (about two average Daniel Murphy seasons), Murphy will pass Ed Kranepool to become the second-most prolific doubles hitter in franchise history. But Murphy is more than just a producer of two-base hits. He proved that (and then some) in 2013.
In my opinion, Daniel Murphy has not been appreciated enough by Mets fans. Just like Carlos Beltran (who continues to be remembered more for keeping the bat on his shoulders as a Lord Charles curveball danced on by than for the complete player that he was), Daniel Murphy will always have detractors who will complain that he doesn’t take enough walks or that he’s a horrible defensive player.
To those detractors, I have one thing to say. Be careful what you wish for. Many players have been run out of town only to come back and haunt the Mets. Don’t let Daniel Murphy become another one of those players. Take time to appreciate what Daniel Murphy has done for the team and what he hopefully will continue to do for the team as its second baseman. The Mets have not had many productive second basemen like Daniel Murphy in their 52-year history.
Not everyone can be Edgardo Alfonzo at second base. It’s a good thing Daniel Murphy doesn’t try to be.