“Murphy is not the Irish-American Joe Morgan.”
This was on odd sentence to read in The New York Times this week, especially given the kind of week the “Irish American” in question had.
We speak here of New York Mets second basemen Daniel Murphy, who is such a wizard with the baseball bat he is known in some circles as “The Irish hammer.” If Murphy is “no Joe Morgan” it is only because there are almost no second basemen in the history of the game who were quite as good as Morgan, who won two Most Valuable Player awards with the Cincinnati Reds and is a Hall of Famer.
Still, can’t Murphy get a break here? After all, all he’s challenging cosmic forces.
Even non-baseball fans know the Mets are -- to state it plainly -- a jinxed organization. Or at least they have been going back to 1986 when they last won a World Series championship.
Full disclosure: I’m a Yankees fan, so I despised that team and the fuss the whole damn city made over their victory. But even when I was a wee one, I had to admit that those Mets -- Strawberry, Gooden, Dykstra, Hernandez -- were not only good but an awful lot of fun to watch.
Can Murphy -- who was 18 months old when the Mets won it all in 1986 -- end this hex?
He’s certainly trying. Which is why it was so funny to read that disparaging line about Murphy in the Times.
All he did in the first round of the playoffs against the Los Angeles Dodgers was hit two home runs off of Clayton Kershaw, the best pitcher on the planet, while also stealing a critical base, leading to a key run, when all four of the Dodgers infielders decided to stop paying attention to the game for a spell.
Murphy then went on to club home runs in the first two games of the next round against the Chicago Cubs.
This is where things get interesting. Because if the Mets are cursed, the Cubs are cursed five times over.
And they, too, have an important Murphy in team lore. A goat (yes, a goat) named Murphy who (according to legend) was turned away from a Cubs World Series game when its owner tried to bring his four-legged pal into Wrigley Field. Denied entrance, the goat’s owner slapped a hey on the Cubbies.
The team lost the 1945 World Series. They haven’t been back since. Given the prominence of a goat in team history, they probably don’t deserve to win anything ever again.
So, in this epic battle between two cursed organizations, who will win out?
Murphy is doing his best to end the Mets’ bad fortunes, though he himself sometimes tempts the gods. The Times, in writing about Murphy, admitted he is “scrappy” and “intense” but also “has more than a few holes in the pants of his game.”
He’s not a good defender. And despite his key stolen base against the Dodgers, he himself sometimes gets caught snoozing while running the bases.
And yet, he hits. And hits. And hits.
And when you do that (and your team wins), those flaws suddenly become kind of charming. He may well be, as the Times noted, “the beating mutt-heart of the Mets.”
Setting his fielding and base-running mistakes aside for the moment, Murphy. a born again Christian, can also be taken to task for once saying he would not accept a gay teammate. Then there is the (arguably) bigger gaffe of the Irish music he has chosen to play in Citi Field before he hits. It’s a song by Celtic punk-rockers Dropkick Murphys. Cute.
It reflects his heritage and even shares his name. But the song is “Shipping Off to Boston!” As in…Boston!
But maybe that’s not traitorous for a New York player. Maybe it’s genius.
Not too long ago, there was another baseball team that was the most cursed of all. A little team they call the Red Sox. Hadn’t won a World Series since 1918. They’ve won three since 2004.
Is this all painful for a Yankees fan? Yes. Will it be painful if the Irish Hammer leads the New York Mets to the promised land? A little bit.
I would add the Yankees have won five World Series titles in the last 20 years.
And what team did they beat in 2000?
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