Former Mets postseason hero will face ex-teammates next month
By Terence Moore
It didn't take long for Daniel Murphy to establish himself as a certified member of the Nationals after he went 2-for-3 with two RBIs, two walks and a run scored during their 4-3 victory in 10 innings on the road over the Braves on Opening Day.
Still, every millisecond now, Murphy thinks about those six times next month when the Nationals will face his old team.
Oh, I'm sorry. Murphy doesn't have New York on his mind?
"Nah, I got over that stuff in Spring Training," said Murphy, the former Mets second baseman, who is so entrenched with his new team that he suggested during our chat this week that he already is more into red (as in the Nationals) than blue (as in the Mets).
"The easiest way to look at it is to say that this is the opportunity that God blessed my family with, so this is where we're supposed to be," said Murphy. "I'm very excited about the group of men in here, and they've welcomed me with open arms. So the transition has been fairly seamless."
I hear you, Daniel, but I'm just saying: How awkward is this? Prior to joining the Nationals before this season, Murphy was drafted and developed by the Mets, who also produced homegrown players such as David Wright, Lucas Duda and their numerous gifted pitchers. Murphy spent his first decade in professional baseball with those guys, including last season, when he nearly singlehandedly swung the Mets to a National League pennant with his smoking bat.
Now, courtesy of leaving the Mets as a free agent after a World Series appearance that he helped create, Murphy is another star for a loaded Nationals team that likely will be the Mets' primary challengers this season in the NL East. All of this makes you wonder if Murphy already is trying to control his nostalgic feelings for his trip back to Citi Field for three games from May 17-19, and again when the Mets travel to Washington the following week for a three-game series at Nationals Park.
Then again, Murphy's Nationals faced the Mets several times in Spring Training during the Grapefruit League.
"It was different," said Murphy, who evolved into a Mets folk hero last year by becoming the first person in baseball history to slam a home run in six consecutive postseason games. "In talking to guys who have changed teams before, they said it would be a little different early, but you should be able to settle in quickly, and that seems to be the case."
Just so you know, Murphy won't be alone this year when it comes to those switching from one rival to the other during the offseason. Outfielder Jason Heyward and pitcher John Lackey have gone from the Cardinals to the Cubs. Now let that sink in. Even beyond the fact that those two teams should join the Pirates in a fierce battle in the NL Central, fans of the Cardinals and the Cubs haven't exactly been chummy through the decades.
We're talking long before the Cubs traded future Hall of Famer Lou Brock to the Cardinals in 1964 for Ernie Broglio.
Unlike Brock, who spent three seasons in obscurity with the Cubs, Jackie Robinson was a lifetime Dodgers star whose 10 years in the organization featured personal and team highlights for the ages. So after the Dodgers traded Robinson following the 1956 season to the crosstown-rival Giants when both teams were in New York, he opted to retire.
Such wasn't the case for all of those Red Sox players through the years who ignored their team's iconic battles with the Yankees to don pinstripes through trades or free agency.
Babe Ruth comes to mind. You've also had Red Sox standouts turned celebrated Yankees such as Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens and Jacoby Ellsbury. Among the most famous (or infamous, if you're part of the Red Sox Nation) along these lines was Johnny Damon. First, he spent the 2004 playoffs helping the Red Sox conquer the Curse of the Bambino with a couple of homers against the Yankees in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series. Then he slammed another homer during a four-game sweep of the Cardinals to push the Red Sox toward their first World Series championship since their Ruth-generated one in 1918.
Two years after Damon's heroics with the Red Sox, he was starting for the Yankees.
These things happen. I'm just wondering how you can go from hating a team so much for years to playing for that team with a shrug.
"I'm going for not hating anybody. That's sort of my goal to start the year," said Murphy, a devout Christian. "I think we can go out there and compete against each other and compete hard. I built a lot of relationships over there [with the Mets], that I think will go beyond baseball. But at this point now, I'm more focused on what we're doing in this clubhouse than what 29 other teams are doing."
That even involves the team that plays in Flushing and wears blue, once one of Murphy's favorite uniform colors.
Terence Moore columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.