Daniel Murphy is far from an excellent defender at first base, and he may never hit enough to make up for that deficiency as a full-time cornerman.
But he does have at least one trait that is commonly seen in players on winning teams: the willingness to take responsibility for his actions.
From David Lennon’s column on Newsday, in regard to last night’s ballgame:
“I’ve got to make that play,” Murphy said. “I make that play 100 times, but tonight I booted it and we lost the ballgame. It’s tough. I left a small village on the basepaths tonight, then booted the ball that lost the game. It was a pretty awful game on my part.”
The truth is, Murphy didn’t lose the ballgame. The METS lost the ballgame. They lose as a team and win as a team. Murphy can be identified as a scapegoat for the loss, but he had help. The fact that he’s willing to shoulder the blame, however, suggests that he thinks about his actions in a larger context beyond himself — he understands that what he does, good or bad, can affect the outcome for everyone.
In contrast, there is this quote from his “teammate” — and I use the term loosely — Francisco Rodriguez:
“It looked like a foul ball all the way,” K-Rod said. “But regardless, you’ve got to stop the ball, somehow, some way. After that the game fell apart.”
Some have explained away this comment as “frustration”, due to the hard loss and the even harder season — both for the closer and the Mets. However, rather than a result, I believe it is a central reason — a symptom, if you will — for the Mets’ inability to win this year.
Daniel Murphy made a physical error. He’s someone whose strength has never been defense, and has been placed in a position where has very little experience. He’s trying very hard, and working hard, to be adequate. This is not a case where you have a guy who was too lazy to bend over for a ball, or who takes his roster spot for granted. A Major League first baseman might have made the play on the grounder that went for a double. But Murphy is NOT a Major League first baseman (yet).
For Frankie Rodriguez to say what he said — to pin the blame of the loss on Murphy — may have come out because Frankie was frustrated. But it was also exposing his own character flaw of selfishness. It’s bad enough that K-Rod’s feelings were blurted out after a game, but the more alarming issue is that THE THOUGHT WAS IN HIS HEAD. Winning teams do not think in terms of placing blame; they don’t find ways to escape responsibility. Rather, they find ways to rise above adversity — to pick up their teammates who have faltered. Mistakes happen — as evidenced by K-Rod’s hitting the next hitter to put the winning run on base. Do you think Daniel Murphy was muttering to himself, “it’s Frankie’s fault now, he just put the winning run on base” ? Not likely … he was probably thinking, “OK, he made a mistake, let’s pick him up”.
As it turned out, Murphy did the opposite of “picking up” his teammate, but that’s not the point. The point is how one approaches the situation. It happened, it’s done, now let’s see how we, AS A TEAM, can overcome it.
K-Rod’s comment last night, coupled with Johan Santana’s similarly selfish finger-pointing back in April (ironically, also of Murphy), and several comments through the year by Carlos Beltran are hints of an ineffectual, potentially harmful ethos evolving in the Mets’ clubhouse — one which has been supported by Jerry Manuel (who has been blaming the Mets’ poor record on injuries since May), and is not the kind of attitude that leads to winning. Instead, it is the language and habit of losers.
Beltran, Santana, and Rodriguez are all exceptionally gifted athletes and outstanding players, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they know how to conduct themselves as winners. All three have played on teams that went to the postseason, but unfortunately, none seem to really “get” the concepts that drove them there. This isn’t tennis — it’s baseball, which again, is a team sport. Absolutely nothing positive can be gained by pointing out the mistake of a teammate; he already knows when he’s screwed up. Negativity never breeds success.
There may be some people who feel that these “leaders” are expressing themselves as a means of telling the front office that they have made a grave mistake in forcing Daniel Murphy into the lineup and on the field. If that’s true, it’s something that needs to be discussed behind closed doors — not in this passive-aggressive style of using the media as a conduit. Still, it’s not how true leaders, or winners, conduct themselves. Winners find solutions, while losers look for excuses.
(BTW, I’ve written a similar post on LockerBlogger, a new social networking site for connecting fans, athletes, and coaches.)
About the Author
Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers.