VERO BEACH, FLORIDA – Murphy’s Law (If anything can go wrong, it will) plagued the Washington Nationals throughout the entire 2015 campaign.
Injuries, slumps, clubhouse turmoil, dugout fights. You name it.
Whatever bad things could have taken place, did. And those events ended up sabotaging the high hopes the then-defending National League East champion Nats carried into last season.
Washington finished a distant second in its division and the Nationals were never even in contention for an NL wild card playoff slot.
Damn that Murphy.
So what did the Nats do as a result? They went out and hired Murphy!
No, not THAT Murphy (U.S. Air Force Captain Edward Murphy, a research engineer who in 1949 coined the popular phrase now used when things go wrong all over the place.) MAS is talking about DANIEL Murphy, the former New York Mets second sacker, a free agent the Nats inked this past winter.
You know, the guy who last postseason set a playoff record by smacking a home run in six consecutive games, propelling the Mets to a berth in the ’15 World Series.
And now, this season, coincidence or not, everything in D.C. is all hunky-dory once more.
Washington may no longer be first in war and first in peace, as the old saying goes, but at least ol’ D.C. is again atop the NL East standings.
Daniel Murphy, may not have invented any slang but he HAS brought his big bat to Washington and already put it to good use in the Nationals’ early season turnaround.
Cut to the Nats clubhouse where Murphy is entertaining MAS.
Daniel sits astride a bench, spooning from a bowl of piping hot vegetable soup. He gently blows on each spoonful before carefully sipping it down.
That soup is a perfect metaphor for Murphy’s performance this campaign.
A month and a half into the season, he is hitting a phenomenal .400, best in the big leagues by a bunch.
Murphy explained his torrid start: “It’s all about getting a pitch in your zone and putting an ‘A’ swing on it.”
He seemed impervious to possible unrealistic expectations stemming from his 2015 postseason home run heroics and new big bucks contract ($37.5 million over three years).
“I just want to play the game the right way,” stated Murphy.
“Offensively, have some good at-bats,” he reasoned. “And on defense make the plays you’re supposed to.”
“That’s all you can control,” Daniel offered with a shrug.
Murphy’s impeccably timed 2015 postseason not only earned him mucho free agency money, it also made his a household name where baseball was followed.
To say all the notoriety and attention accorded him internationally has left Daniel unfazed is an understatement.
When MAS asked him if his life has changed dramatically since his playoff heroics, Daniel, without blinking, said: “We had our second child in December; so that was a big change.”
But then, you’d expect Murphy would keep things in proper perspective.
After all, in 2014 Daniel withstood the slings and arrows from some in the media and public for taking the first two games of the season off to be with his wife for the birth of their first child.
Murphy likes his new team’s chances of sustaining success this campaign.
“It’s a good ballclub,” he stated. “I think 162 games doesn’t lie. This team could put itself in a position to be there in September and that’s all you can ask for.”
As for the internal problems that hurt the ballclub a year ago possibly lingering this campaign, Murphy said: “I think our chemistry is good.”
Regarding last year’s dysfunction-at-the-junction D.C. crew, new Nats utility infielder Stephen Drew enlightened MAS thusly: “Screwy seasons just happen sometime. It’s all part of the game.”
“It’s unfortunate for these guys,” Drew continued. “I played against them last season (as a New York Yankee) in interleague play and it seemed like they had a talented team.”
Last campaign’s implosion was especially unfortunate for second-year manager Matt Williams. He lost his job as a result of all the ’15 chaos.
Talk about going from the MLB penthouse to its outhouse.
In 2014, Williams was named NL Manager of the Year. After last campaign he was pounding pavement.
“Matt’s a great guy,” slugging first sacker Ryan Zimmerman told MAS. “Last season was our fault, not his.”
“But it’s easier to fire one guy than 25. I guess we make too much (guaranteed) money to be fired,” Ryan said with a chuckle, before apologizing for his gallows humor at Williams’ expense.
Enter veteran skipper Dusty Baker in ’16 to right the D.C. ship.
“We don’t have anyone you have to worry about,” revealed Zimmerman. “Everyone enjoys being around each other and that makes it easier. “
With last year’s internal rifts as well as its troublesome injuries now healed, it’s full speed ahead for Washington.
In addition, to Murphy, Nats star Bryce Harper is also off to a hot start (11 HRs, tied for third in the NL — including six in a seven-game span — and 29 RBIs, tied for fourth in the senior loop).
Those stats are even more impressive when you consider that opponents routinely pitch around him.
Harper is so feared, he leads MLB in walks (41). In one recent series, he walked nine times in 10 plate appearances, including five in one game.
Many pundits are now calling Harper, at 23 the eighth- youngest in MLB history to reach 100 HRs, the best player in baseball, surpassing even Los Angeles Angels wunderkind Mike Trout.
Harper and closer Jonathan Papelbon, who were the primary dugout scufflers late last season, seem properly contrite regarding that embarrassing incident.
Yes, all now seems tranquil in the U.S. capitol.
The only law of Murphy at work is Daniel’s “Put an ‘A’ Swing on a Good Pitch to Hit” rule of thumb.
Contact Man About Sports at: davwigg@ gmail.com