Daniel Murphy made his return to Citi Field on Tuesday night as a member of the Washington Nationals.
Murphy was a lifetime Met, who came up through the organization and made his Major League debut in 2007.
Along with David Wright, Murphy led the Mets through one of the toughest periods in their history.
When the Mets were on the cusp of contending in 2015, it was Muprhy who turned it on in the second half to lead the Mets to the division title and a trip to the playoffs.
In the postseason, he put on a performance for the ages, as he homered in a record six straight games through the Division Series and the National League Championship Series.
Murphy received his National League Championship ring in a ceremony on Tuesday afternoon, and Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson said they couldn’t have won that pennant without Murphy’s contributions.
Murphy said of the championship ring at a press conference held before the game, “Well, it’s big, and it is really nice. I don’t know how much I’ll be wearing it, but I’m going to keep it for sure and put it away. I think Sandy’s words are humbling, but there are a lot of guys who contributed, starting with the starting pitching last year here in the playoffs, you know Ces (Yoenis Cespedes) swung the bat really well, David (Wright) swung the bat well, (Michael) Conforto played well, it’s just too many guys to mention, so I was happy to be part of it.
“I thought what the Mets organization nailed the most is that everybody got a pendant for their wife. Smart boys, smart boys, because I don’t think we would have got that far without our women, smart boys,” said Murphy.
The Mets put together a video tribute that they ran on the screen before the game on Tuesday night, and Murphy took a break from his pre-game routine to watch it and he tipped his cap to the crowd as he received a nice ovation.
Murphy said of the video before the game, “Jay Horwitz called me last night, and I first and foremost thanked him because it’s not something the Mets had to do, to go out of their way to do, I believe it’s a video montage, I think he said maybe a minute, minute and a half. I thought that was really classy of Sandy (Alderson) and Jeff (Wilpon) and the organization to do that, knowing full well as I expect the Mets to do that, like once that ends and 7:10 starts, it’s prison rules out there, you know, a division opponent. For them to do that really speaks volumes about the organization itself and New York, and so, I’ll be out there stretching getting ready for the game, so I’ll take a look at it. I think it’s the least I could do since they went out of their way to put it up there.”
Mets Manager Terry Collins said before the game on what kind of reception Murphy would receive, “I think the Mets fans, our fans are baseball fans, and Dan Murphy, what he did here, and certainly what he did here at the end of last summer, will be rewarded because of it. You know, free agency’s part of the baseball business, but Dan Murphy will get, he should get a very, very warm reception tonight, and our fans are respectful of that.”
Murphy said of coming to Citi Field for the first time as a visitor, “it is different coming over on the visitors’ side, only been over there once. It was for a fantasy football draft that David (Wright) had a couple of years ago, but, man, a lot of great memories in here, a lot of great memories in this stadium with the Mets organization. I thought they treated me as fairly and as first-class as you possibly could. Excited for a division matchup. This should be a lot of fun, two teams that are at the top of the division right now, playing well, and should make for a lot of fun. There’s two pretty good pitchers (Washington’s Max Scherzer and the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard) going tonight, so offense might be at a premium.”
Murphy said of staying in touch with his old Mets teammates and the friendships he has, “I think a lot of them are forever. I think the questions that I ask are different. So, I texted Steven (Matz) today and just told him that I was excited that his elbow was okay. I did want to know whether or not he was going because I don’t feel that’s information I can ask. Talked to (Travis) d’Arnaud a few days ago, talked to Jake (deGrom), what a blessing that his son’s doing well and his wife is doing well. I think they’re here in New York, so I’m going to get a chance to see Jaxon tomorrow. I just think maybe the questions might change a little bit, but looking after and seeing how they’re doing and how their families are doing, I don’t think that’ll ever change.”
Murphy is off to a great start this season, as he leads Major League Baseball in batting average (.400), hits (56), and mutli-hit games (19). He also is among the leaders in the majors, as he is fourth in OPS at 1.062, sixth in slugging percentage at .629, tied for seventh in doubles with 13, and seventh in on-base percentage at .433.
Collins said of seeing Murphy’s great start in Washington this season, “Well, you know, first of all, I respect Dan Murphy so much. You know, again, my first time here, when I was a field coordinator, he had just gotten hurt and I spent a lot of time with Dan Murphy finding out what a baseball guy, what a baseball junkie he really is. I watched this guy out there every day in extended spring (training) watching those kids play, and every night at the Gulf Coast League watching the St. Lucie Mets play, just watching baseball.
“And then what he did last year. you know, in the second half, he and Kevin (Long), and they changed his swing a little bit, they made some adjustments, made some tweaks, and it worked, and he had a tremendous playoffs, and it’s continued to this day. You have to respect guys for that. This guy is the kind of a guy that every week he’s going to tweak something if he’s not comfortable. He’s a baseball player who, when he shows up, you know exactly what you’re getting, and you’ve got to be happy for him. Now, he’s an opponent, you have to figure out how to get him out. You’ve got to respect those kinds of players. They have a lot of guys on that team that I respect immensely, so we know I have our work cut out for them, but now we’ve got to get Dan Murphy out. He’s no longer a teammate, he’s an opponent, we’ve got to be able to get success against him.”
Murphy said of how different he feels swinging the bat this season, “I’ve said this before, there’s ebbs and flows every season. We’re six weeks into the year, and I’ve definitely had some good fortune on some balls that have fallen in and kind of gotten through that maybe shouldn’t have, and I’m not tweaking too much right now. I thought that Kevin Long and Pat Roessler and myself last year made some good adjustments and it’s worked over to Rick Schu and Jacque Jones with the Nationals, and so right now I’m just looking for a pitch in my zone, I’m trying to hit it as hard as humanly possible, that’s about it.”
On how much of what he has been able to accomplish so far this season is just a carry-over from last season, “I thought some of the, I would say, I don’t know if recommendations is the right word, but just some of the things that Kevin and Pat worked together and then came to me with, some of the adjustments were spot on for what was going on and where I was at in my career. I was really struggling on pitches away, so they thought moving up on the plate would be wise, and then I think they pulled up some numbers and said, ‘when you put the ball in the air, you’re much more dangerous than if you try to shoot it to left field.’ Those were the two big adjustments that we made.”
Murphy said of the transition to fully becoming a National and the last vestiges of being a Met wore out, “It’s been almost a decade in the Mets organization, so I don’t know if that’s something I’ll completely wash off. The first time we played the Mets in spring training and I saw the orange and blue on the other side, and I was wearing the (Nationals) red, it kind of put aside what had happened in New York, but that’s not going to wash off easily. I’ve said this before, the relationships that my wife and my family were able to build within this organization will go far beyond baseball, so but the red gets more comfortable every day.”