When David Murphy was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 2003 Major League Baseball Draft out of Baylor University, he was considered a fine catch at the time. As he developed his skills in the Sox farm system, management was delighted with his progress and saw good things coming for the future outfielder.
At the trade deadline during the 2007 season, the Sox had an opportunity to grab former closer Eric Gagne from the Texas Rangers. However, the Rangers were insistent that Murphy was included in the deal. The Sox relented, and while Gagne’s career in Boston was a whitewash, Murphy has shined during his 3 1/2 seasons in Texas, and quickly became a fan favorite.
When Murphy was introduced as a pinch hitter during the bottom of the eighth inning in yesterday’s Opening Day game between the Sox and Rangers, he was greeted to a thunderous ovation from the sellout crowd at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Stepping in against Sox setup man Daniel Bard, with two runners on and the scored tied at 5-5, Murphy laced a line drive down the left field that hit the chalk and rolled all the way to the wall, scoring two runs in what proved to be the game-winning hit.
Murphy had pinch-hit for Julio Borbon, and now the controversy will begin in Texas as to why Borbon is even in the starting lineup. Rangers manager Ron Washington has stated that he wanted Borbon in center and reigning AL MVP Josh Hamilton in left, in order to save Hamilton wear and tear on his knees.
While the Rangers’ media will no doubt be arguing the merits of Washington’s decision, the facts do bear themselves out. Borbon is by far the best defensive option in center field for the Rangers. His UZR of 8.9 is far better than Murphy’s -3.7, and Hamilton is much better served playing left field.
What Murphy gives Washington is the ability to play all three outfield positions, a steady bat whenever called for, and a very desirable option in different matchups. Murphy will get close to 400 at-bats throughout the season based on his flexibility alone.
But for yesterday, all that Red Sox fans cared about was that one of their own came back to bite them in the end.
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