This past week, Mets fans were introduced to one of the few remaining young stars from their minor league system, Dan Murphy.
Unlike more well-known names such as Niese and F-Mart, Murphy didn’t arrive here with fanfare or hype — just one of the smoothest swings seen at Shea since Olerud and his tiny helmet patrolled the right side.
Since his arrival, Murph’s hitting a modest .478, with a homer, 5 RBIs and most importantly, has earned the admiration of the tough Shea fans. Now, we all know Murph isn’t going to hit .500. Nor is he going to knock balls out of the park at an unbelievable rate. But he might just turn out to be a solid, reliable player on a field that so desperately needs it.
His no nonsense, bare-bones approach to playing the game is refreshing in a time when we are subjected to the Man-Rams of the world every time Sportscenter comes on. Murphy doesn’t boast, doesn’t make many jokes, is respectful of the media, and gets to work before everyone short of the grounds crew.
Hmmm, sweet stroke…plays the whole field…quiet and reserved…Is anyone else reminded of a certain other late season surprise?
What, you don’t remember? In ‘88, the Mets called up Gregg Jefferies to help close out the Mets’ eventual 100-60 season. If the team hadn’t already been so loaded with talent, Gregg likely would have been a starter from Opening Day. But the Mets didn’t really know where to play him, as the veteran squad was full at the spots he was capable of manning.
When he finally did arrive, Jefferies responded by hitting .321 with good power over the last 29 games of the 1988 season, not unlike what Murphy is doing now. His subsequent play in the NLCS versus the Dodgers only made the Mets’ faithful even more intent on believing he was the future of the ballclub, so the Mets front office made it their mission to open up a roster spot for the budding superstar.
Despite showing nothing but promise, this would be the eventual death knell for Jefferies in NYC.
After a few bad seasons, and the trades of several popular players to accommodate him, the romance ended. Gregg, who was suffering from a bad rep, and was tired of clubhouse pressure to be “one of the guys” by going out to bars, decided to circumvent direct communication with his teammates, and instead wrote a letter to the media.
In this inexplicable piece of prose, Jefferies wrote:
“When a pitcher is having trouble getting players out, when a hitter is having trouble hitting, or when a player makes an error, I try to support them in whatever way I can. I don’t run to the media to belittle them or to draw more attention to their difficult times. I can only hope that one day those teammates who have found it convenient to criticize me will realize that we are all in this together. If only we can concentrate more on the games than complaining and bickering and pointing fingers, we would all be better off.”
The crying routine did little more than annoy his teammates further while burying himself with team’s fanbase, who put the 22 year old in the chateau bow wow, never to be freed again. The team finally traded him to the Royals for former pitcher Bret Saberhagen and utility man Bill Pecota, ending his miserable stay in Flushing and forever labeling him a disappointment in the Big Apple. In addition to ending a foul stretch of recruiting failure for the Mets, this move also began a dark era of Mets baseball. But we don’t need to go down this road again.
So, how is this relevant to the Mets’ new star?
It’s simple. Dan Murphy, in order to stay in our good graces, and not fall down the bottomless social and professional well that Mr. Jefferies did, all you have to do is continue playing hard and being a good teammate. Smile when you need to. Yell when it’s appropriate. Keep team business in the clubhouse. And appreciate the people who paid to see you play.
The rest is elementary.
But, not for anything — as much as we like your quiet, well-behaved demeanor so far, it’s okay to be one of the guys. If your teammates invite you out for a beer, just go, even if you don’t want to. Yes, you could be studying swings and pitching patterns, but you could also be gaining a rep you don’t want. Besides, bars serve Cokes too, you know.
If only someone had mentioned that to Gregg Jefferies…