Way To Go Donnie!
I’ve spent a lot of this season lamenting what I thought was a subpar player taking at-bats or his turn on the mound (I’m still right about Michael Bowden). I started the year horrified that Luis Valbuena was going to take most of the at-bats at 3rd base. He’s turned in his best year in the majors. There was a period where I couldn’t believe that Ryan Sweeney was getting starts. He was having his best year in the majors until getting hurt. I had to change something on the backpage of the publication of The Ivy Drip because I thought Nate Schierholtz would just kind of be “there.” He may be the most consistent Cub. Of course I scoffed when Donnie Murphy was called up to take an everyday position. He has 76 homers now.
On the mound, Travis Wood is putting together his best year. Chris Rusin looks far improved over the punching bag he was last year. This came after two months of dominance from Scott Feldman, which was almost as inexplicable as that time no one could score of the teletubby Glendon Rusch for like a month there in 2005.
Last season, we saw a revitalized Paul Maholm before he was traded. Shawn Camp was able to provide competence before he was grounded into dust by Dale Sveum. Samardzija proved to actually be a starter, and not a bad one at that.
Oh sure, there have been plenty of misses. Chris Volstad, Joe Mather, the current version of Cody Ransom, I’m not sure what Brian Bogusevic does. Lendy Castillo and Hector Rondon have been Rule 5 pickups that haven’t exactly made us stop reaching for the Tums. Whatever that thing was that they picked up from the Nats and couldn’t find the strike zone with a GPS wired directly into his cortex.
And yet, the Cubs do seem to have a knack for picking up scrap and making it useful. They seem to unlock things in guys, even if it is only for them to just have a hotter month than they’ve ever had. Does it mean anything important? Probably not. After all, the two guys they really needed to unlock (Castro and Rizzo) this year have been utterly awful. But at least it shows that the coaches can do something. They’re not totally hopeless.
Oh sure, there’s needle in a haystack elements to this. Murphy was a shot in the dark who’s only come up trumps for two weeks. Some of these guys were just to fill out a roster because you have to have 25 guys. But most of them have found something, if only for a bit.
As for Murphy, it’s just kind of fun to watch. There are hundreds of guys who probably mutter “If only they got a chance” at their current middle management jobs, I’m sure. You usually see it in basketball, where militant coaches can stick to a plan and/or rotation and freeze guys out for less than logical reasons at all levels.
But baseball? Everyone gets their look. You come up to bat. You get your chances in the field, if only in the minors. You can’t be hidden. The only signs of this was a .318 average is 28 games with the Marlins in 2010. But he never came up for air after that. He showed a little pop in AAA last year in New Orleans.
Maybe it’s the threat of a last chance. In his fourth organization, maybe the final push is knowing it’s only the exit door after this. He was the one who was able to grab it, if only for a little bit. There are hundreds who couldn’t.
If nothing else, when we look back at how bad things were once the Cubs return to prominence behind Baez or Soler or Maples or Bryant or Edwards or whoever it is, we’ll say, “Hey remember when that Murphy guy homered every game in 2013 and that’s all we had to get excited about?” It’s better to be remembered in some way, right?