I like to think I am able to pinpoint memorable moments in my life with fair accuracy, such as my first home run (July 2002), first Chipotle burrito (June 2004), or the first time I got drunk (October 2006). All three of those events were happy moments. Moments I look back on, remember well (the last one a little less well), and bring a smile to my face when I think back to them. Unfortunately, not all memories are happy ones. Case in point, I remember the exact moment I realized I hated Daniel Murphy.
The date was October 20th, 2015 and Daniel Murphy had just hit a home run in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series for the New York Mets. When Murphy connected on his third home run of the series in the top of third inning, I, along with everyone other fan in Sluggers (Keanu Reeves go-to date spot in the 2001 drama Hardball), lost it. When he hit a home run in Game 1, I was of course upset, but players hit home runs all the time. Cubs rookie and heartthrob Kyle Schwarber was basically hitting a home run every time he stepped to the plate. One home run; cool, but not a reason to hate someone. After the home run in Game 2, some explicit language was said. This second baseman again? This guy was getting a bit lucky, but again, everyone gets lucky. Last name was Murphy. Probably Irish. Irish people are lucky. I am Irish. No problem. We would bounce back. I mean, Babe Schwarber was on our team.
However, the hate threshold was crossed after the Game 3 home run and there was no going back. Murphy was not a home run hitter. This power did not show up on the scouting report. We had not come this far to lose because some 30-year old second baseman woke up that week and decided he would start slugging home runs. He obviously found some of Sammy Sosa’s leftover steroids in the tunnels beneath Wrigley Field. Murphy was far from a home run hitter during the regular season (14 home runs) and had never shown any bit of power during his career. How could this average Joe single-handily close the door on our storybook season? How could someone hit 21% of his regular season home run total in one playoff series (Wrong. He was actually going to hit 29% of his regular season home runs in the series, as he connected on his 4th home run the following night during game 4, as the Mets completed their sweep at Wrigley). It didn’t make sense. Everything was lined up for the Cubs to get to their first World Series since 1945. Murphy ruined what the people wanted. The “Cubs Killer” was born. My hate for him was born.
I am not exaggerating with the word “hate”. I do not take for granted that hate is a strong and powerful word; my list of sports figures I hate is rather short and it takes a lot for me to put pen to paper. However, Murphy had been near the top since that cold fall night. As of Monday morning, that list read as follows:
1 LeBron James, the player (not the person. LeBron is a really good person)
2. The entire Green Bay Packers (forever and always)
3. Daniel Murphy (see reasons above)
4. Reggie Miller (most overrated NBA player of all time)
5. Former Bears Offensive Coordinator John Shoop (his idea of “play calling” ruined my childhood)
Jason Heyward (was on the list until he remembered how to play baseball this year)
Monday afternoon changed everything though. Just like I didn’t see those home runs coming in 2015, I didn’t see the Cubs trading for Murphy in August. Another starting pitcher is what we needed and if any trade was going to happen, I was sure it would involve an arm. A trade for any bat would’ve been a surprise in itself; a trade for a key member on my list was something else. The Cubs Killer joining the Cubs? Was that even legal? Can I get over his past? Can I learn to love?
Just focusing on facts (in this day and age, facts are important), there is a lot to love. Not only is he batting .340 since the all-star break, but he holds a .413 batting average at Wrigley Field. He will hopefully be able to instantly rejuvenate our offense, which has been slumping as of late, and his playoff experience will be vital this fall. I understand baseball and I can appreciate he will likely contribute in a big way down the stretch. Now I am not mature enough to fall in love with him (besides, I don’t want to start a love triangle between him, me, and Schwarber. It would just be bad business), but if Murphy can help us go deep into October, I am sure I can find a pen lying around to cross him off that list.