Though the Chicago Cubs own the best record in the National League (71-53 through Tuesday), they are struggling. They’ve lost three in a row and scored only one run in the past five games. Their offense needed a boost.
And they acquired that Tuesday in trading for Daniel Murphy, the 10th-year second baseman who came into the majors with the New York Mets and spent the past three years in Washington. The 33-year-old three-time All-Star is just what Cubs manager Joe Maddon thinks his team needs.
“Put him near the top of the order, and let him set an example for the rest of the hitters. That’s what we need. [Ben] Zobrist has done a great job of setting an example. Now we have another guy. We have two of the best professional hitters in the game right now,” Maddon said.
Zobrist was surprised to get such a quality player so late in the year.
“I think everyone was, to get that great of an offensive player at this point in the season,” he said. “We’ll find a way to make him fit in the lineup. It will be fun playing alongside of him.”
Murphy wasn’t expecting the move either.
“I think I was a bit surprised. I’m going to be honest with you: I didn’t think I was going to get claimed (on waivers, making a trade possible). I thought I would slide right through. But yeah, it was a surprise to me. And my thoughts are, it was really bittersweet,” he said.
A career .299 hitter, Murphy is hitting .340 since the All-Star break. According to ESPN, Murphy is hitting .366 with runners in scoring position over the past three seasons (minimum 500 plate appearances).
And Cubs fans know him well. According to ESPN, Murphy has a .413 career average at Wrigley Field, the highest in the stadium’s long history (minimum 100 at-bats). Some of that damage came when he was with the Mets and hit .529 with four home runs in a four-game sweep of Chicago in the 2015 NLCS, of which Murphy was named MVP. His six consecutive playoff games with home runs that year set an MLB record.
“The more notoriety I got, I tried to push in closer to Jesus,” Murphy told FCA about that hot streak. “I didn’t want to take that glory for myself. It was a really, really sweet time in our lives.”
What followed in the World Series against Kansas City, however, was one of Murphy’s lowest moments. He went cold at the plate — 3-for-20 in five games, .150 batting average, seven strikeouts. And he made a couple costly errors in the field.
“Being on top of the mountain and then being at the bottom of the barrel … just felt like a perfect picture of God’s grace and love in our lives,” Murphy told FCA. “Jesus didn’t love me any less when I made those errors in the World Series than He did when I was hitting those home runs in the NLCS.
“If anything, He loved me more. He’s like, ‘I think you can handle this; and on My strength, we’re going to grow from this, we’re going to be stronger, and I’m going to refine your heart.’ I’ve been able to use that three-week period as a testimony.”
The Cubs are hoping for more of the highs from that three-week period as they look to claim their second World Series in three years.
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