“It’s great to be young and a Giant.” – “Laughing” Larry Doyle, New York second-baseman, 1911
In the history of baseball, certain archetypes have arisen to define positions on the field. Much like you can divine the attributes of the students who live in a particular house in a Harry Potter novel – Ravenclaw for the warrior, Hufflepuff for the clownish, Slitherin for the underhanded and Gryffindor for the virtuous – the seasoned baseball-watcher can tell the type of player by the position. Centerfield is the purview of the graceful: Mays, DiMaggio, Larry Walker, etc. Catcher generally belongs to the fireplugs: Lombardi, Cochrane, Hartnett, Munson. Many pitchers are given over to lank: Mathewson, Tommy John and Randy Johnson come to mind.
Perhaps the sharpest-defined archetypes are found around the keystone: second and short. It’s about as old as Muggsy McGraw, himself. Middle infielders come a few ways, “scrappy” being the first word that usually springs to mind. These are what would be called “grinders” in hockey. These are the guys who are usually smaller in stature than the Olympians in the outfield, on the hill or at first: the very nature of the position demands a player lower to the ground. They’re the battlers: Billy Martin, Eddie Stanky, Leo Durocher and Wally Backman are the gritty kids. It’s no wonder a decent number of these characters go on to manage – “brainy” is another term brandished about second-basemen through history. It’s also a spot where traditionally weak bats have been hidden, Joe Morgan notwithstanding. Fielding is generally the order of the day, with any offense gravy.
Daniel Murphy fits the mold. And he doesn’t. It’s been well-noted that Murph is a man without a position. He hits enough to play either corner infield spot and third base is his “natural” position. The problem is that there are glamourpusses already there: David Wright and Ike Davis. He’s been tried in the outfield, with some famously disastrous results. So the Mets, lacking a true second-baseman and Murphy, lacking a position entered into an arranged marriage. The learning curve has been steep, but Murphy is the number 3 cog behind the starting pitching and Wright in the Mets’ 4-0 start to 2012. He’s blazed out of the gate sporting a .977 OPS. Not really a surprise there, as noted. It’s the defense that’s the eye-opener: on a Met team that’s committed two errors in four games, Murphy has neither of them. And his sparkler of a dive in the ninth inning last night (4/9) against the Nationals kept the game nailed 3-3. His vocal leadership in the dugout has been described as surprising, seeing as he has basically one full MLB season under his belt and is still only 27. Put all that together and of course it was Murph delivering the winning base hit in the bottom half. Described as a “work-in-progress,” at second base, he can become at least decent. He’s young. And a Met.
What is it about New York second-sackers with Irish surnames?
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