WASHINGTON – The Mets’ clubhouse was ripe for hyperbole after Wednesday’s emotionally charged victory, with talk of statement wins and pride-fueled comebacks.
In the middle of it all stood Daniel Murphy, who is not usually one for exaggeration. The second baseman refused to attach any special significance, other than to say how it helped the Mets in their quest for this season.
“It’s a good win, but they’re all good,” Murphy said.
OK, check. That’s one cliché down. And then Murphy continued.
“We’re trying to get 100,” he added, “and we’re a step closer.”
Hold up. Did he really say 100 wins? For a team that was 5-13 only a week earlier? The Mets failed to break 80 the past two seasons and hadn’t cracked 90 since 2006, when they reached the 97-win plateau.
But 100? That hasn’t happened for the Mets since 1988, when they did it twice in three years. There was a World Series title in there, too.
Just to double-check, Murphy was asked again by Newsday if he really meant to say 100 wins late Wednesday night. Why not a more modest goal like 95? Or maybe 90?
“Because 100 gets you into the playoffs,” Murphy said, matter-of-factly. “Anything else and you could fall short. With 100, that gets you in.”
Hard to argue with that, and the Mets have to like his ambition. When told of the number Murphy had in mind, manager Terry Collins smiled and shrugged, as if to say, “That’s Murphy.” The question also was posed to David Wright, who was on that 97-win team, and hasn’t been back to the postseason since.
“My goal is not 100 wins,” Wright said. “My goal is to get to the playoffs, regardless of how many wins it takes – as long as it’s enough. Obviously I don’t think anybody in baseball would say they don’t want to win 100 games. It’s a good goal, because even if you come up a little short, there’s a good chance you’re still going to get to the playoffs.”
Wright played along, but also understood that the Mets’ six straight wins – the longest active streak in the majors – was no time to be printing playoff tickets. The Mets have certainly found their stride, buoyed by the return of Jason Bay, and the enthusiasm shown by Murphy is not surprising.
Even if they had just lost six in a row, chances are Murphy would be predicting the next winning streak. Maybe that’s why Collins likes him so much – they seem to have that positive energy in common.
“I call him a baseball junkie,” Collins said.
The key is getting rid of some of the junk, which pops up occasionally with Murphy. There’s no doubting his offensive ability. Heading into Thursday, Murphy was batting .500 (5-for-10) with runners in scoring position and two outs, driving in six runs. Overall in those situations, Murphy is hitting .553 (8-for-15), which is fifth best in the majors.
The problems that creep up usually occur when Murphy leaves the batter’s box. He earned a dugout scolding from Collins in Atlanta earlier this month for trying to steal third – and failing – in a poor decision that killed a potential late-inning rally. Defensively, Murphy has the occasional blunder, and he admitted Wednesday to getting “caught watching” Jason Bay’s sliding attempt on a fly ball rather than covering second base like he should have.
“I think I’ve done better,” Murphy said. “Or I’ve learned to do a better job separating my defense from my offense.”
Said Collins: “He’s learning a new position at the major league level which is not easy. It’s a very difficult task. He’s going to be out of position at times. He’s going to make mistakes. You hate to have it happen at this level, but that’s the scenario we’re in.”