McDonald: The Difference Between The Mets and Nats This Year Is Daniel Murphy

Last season, the Mets handled the Nationals pretty well. Going 11-8 against Washington, the Amazin’s ability to put their chief rival to bed – particularly down the stretch – was a key factor in New York’s National League East Title.

But 2016 is a different year and thus far with a 9-4 record against New York, the Nationals handling the Mets is the reason there’s a six game gap between the two clubs.

Although there are a few changes within the two clubs, there’s one reason why the Nationals are claiming ownership in the National League East.

Daniel Murphy.

The Murph has been a one man wrecking crew against his former club.  He’s hitting .423 with three doubles, seven homers and 21 RBIs in 13 games.  Today, he hit a two-run homer in the first, which was the difference in the game.

Yes, the Murph has been that good and yes, the Murph can do no wrong.

Heck, the way he’s going, he might solve Congressional gridlock before the end of the season.

And because he’s wearing a red ‘S’ under his Nationals’ uniform, he’s causing a Batman like angst for his old club, no matter who’s on the mound and what the pitchers do, they just can’t get him out.

“Dan Murphy will have a game plan each and every at bat,” said manager Terry Collins.  You got to pitch him in, but you have to pitch him away too. You got to throw him soft and you have to throw him hard. You can’t go to Dan Murphy just one way.”

You can’t really feel sorry for the Mets here. They created this monster and released him on the countryside. Last season, Mets hitting coach Kevin Long worked with Murphy to move him closer to the plate and drop his hands a bit in his stance.

“Just looking for a pitch in my zone, try to hit it as hard as I can,” Murphy said. “That’s basically K-Long, was his approach over there. I’m sure it’s what it is now. It’s very simple. Get a pitch in your zone, get your basic swing off, that’s all you can control. After that, it’s up to somebody else.”

“Dan Murphy is a student of hitting,” Collins said. “He studies it. He loves it. He works at it. What he did in the postseason last year with some of the changes he made, he obviously said, ‘This works. And I’m sticking with it.’ And he’s probably even refined it a little bit more — the fact that he’s on the plate, the fact that he’s pulling a little bit more.

“We always knew he had some power. But he was one of those kind of guys that would be happy to take a hit to left field, which he still will in certain situations. But when you get him in certain counts where he’s looking to pull, he’s now dangerous, because he can hit a homer.”

We saw what happened during the playoffs and World Series. But “Murphtober” didn’t carry over when the Mets decided not to re-sign their second baseman, instead opting to first go for Ben Zobrist and then traded for Neil Walker.

Murphy instead was left as a man without a team and even the Nationals didn’t come running. They first flirted with Zobrist and then tried to trade for the Reds Brandon Phillips.

When that last trade fell through, the Murph went to Washington and is seemingly enjoying making the Mets pay for their mistake over and over again.

“He has a lot of friends over there and former teammates and probably still friends,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. “. . .­ Anybody that’s been traded or played on a roster and their team didn’t sign them or whatever it was, it definitely means more when you’re playing your old team.”

And even the rude treatment from the fans makes you wonder what Murphy did to Mets nation before this season? He’s getting the Chase Utley treatment from the crowd, but he never hurt anyone and he hit the team to a pennant last year. It’s not his fault that the Mets didn’t want him. What did you want him to do? Bag groceries?

But this is what happens when a former player comes back and claims ownership on his former club.

It’s a problem the Mets will have to solve in the second half if they plan on playing in October again, because Murphy is the reason why the Mets are six games back.

About the Author

Joe McDonald

Joe McDonald is the founder and former publisher of NY Sports Day. After selling to i15Media in 2020, he serves as the Editor-in-Chief and responsible for the editorial side of the publication. In the past, Joe was the managing editor of NY Sportscene magazine and assistant editor of Mets Inside Pitch. He has covered the Mets since 2004.

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