Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Joey's Soapbox: On Daniel Murphy And Brain Freeze

Brain freeze. It's what happens when a person ingests cold foods or drinks too quickly, causing a shooting pain in the head (or the brain, if you will). Occasionally, the sharp pain can cause a momentary lapse of judgment, as the brain recovers from the unexpected sensory overload.

As you can see in the photo to the left, I always prepare for the possibility of getting brain freeze by wearing the hood of my Mets hoodie. That way I can have my ice cream and eat it, too, without worrying that my brain will freeze up at the most inopportune moment.

Preparation is key to preventing lapses in judgment. Without it, a person can place himself and those around him in precarious situations. On that note, I have a question to ask you, my fellow Mets fans. Do you think Daniel Murphy has been eating too much ice cream without wearing his hoodie?

My name is Joey Beartran and I'm about to get on my soapbox.

Daniel Murphy has been a hitting machine this year. He's among the league leaders in batting average, hits and doubles. Unfortunately, at times that machine has left the dugout without being properly oiled. Consider the following instances, which occurred in each of the last two games.

On Sunday, the Mets were involved in a scoreless game when they loaded the bases against Nationals' pitcher Jordan Zimmermannnnnn. (I always forget how many "N"s there are in his name.) David Wright lifted a short fly ball to overpaid rightfielder Jayson Werth, who naturally threw home to prevent Jonathon Niese from tagging up at third base.

Daniel Murphy was the runner on first at the time. Instead of looking at the runners in front of him or picking up his coach (since that's what they're there for), Murphy ran towards second base with his head down all the way. Naturally, Werth's throw was intercepted by the cutoff man, who ran Murphy back towards first before throwing the ball to second baseman Danny Espinosa, who tagged Murphy out before he could retreat safely. The brain freeze ended the scoring threat and the inning in a game the Mets would eventually lose by one run.

The very next day, Murphy committed an more egregious error, given the circumstances and inning of the game. After the Mets rallied to tie the Marlins on a two-out, two-run homer by Lucas (Howdy) Duda in the bottom of the ninth, Florida put two men on base against Jason Isringhausen in the top of the tenth.

Dewayne Wise then collected the Marlins' third consecutive hit, stroking a single to right field. The lead runner was held at third base, but Wise decided he was going to run towards second, similar to the play Murphy botched the day before. By all rights, Wise should have been a dead duck between first and second. There was only one problem. Lucas Duda's throw was cut off by Daniel Murphy.

Daniel Murphy's Law:

"Anything that can go wrong, will be done by Daniel Murphy."

Murphy took the cutoff throw from Duda, then ran with the ball in his hand towards Wise. For a split second, he took his eyes off Wise to check if the runner on third was breaking for home. In that split second, Wise dashed back to first, beating the tag by second baseman Justin Turner, as Murphy tossed a soft backhanded throw in a failed attempt to get Wise.

The next batter, Mike Stanton, crushed a grand slam, sending the fans to the exits and the Mets to their third consecutive defeat. Had Murphy been able to retire Wise, as 99% of cutoff men in that situation would, there would have been two outs, first base would have been open, and perhaps the Mets would have intentionally walked Stanton. Instead, Murphy's brain freeze cost the Mets another tight ballgame.

It's great that Daniel Murphy is hitting the tar off the ball. His bat has kept the Mets in games that he hasn't managed to blow with his baserunning and defense. However, a major league baseball player should excel not only in the physical part of the game, but in the mental aspect as well.

Daniel Murphy, as physically talented as he is, needs to use his brain in situations that don't require his bat. Brain freeze might be acceptable when a person is eating ice cream, but is unacceptable what that person is standing between the foul lines. A hot bat will never make up for a cold brain.

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