Shea Bridge Report: Murphy, Pedroia, When We Were Young

Two second basemen retire, which leads to a contemplation of how quickly things change.

While they’re happening, baseball teams and baseball seasons seem permanent. Who would have thought that the 2015 Mets would go their separate ways, and that six years later, the current team would look almost nothing like it did then? But two retirements this week prove that time is coming for all of us.

Murphy

Daniel Murphy, who last played for the Mets in 2015 and has since played for the Nationals, Cubs, and Rockies, announced his retirement on Friday. Before last season, Murphy, spending time with his family, finally realized all that he had to gain from retiring, according to SNY. By the end of the 2020 season, during which he’d batted .236, he knew he was done.

Most everyone knows the story of Murphy’s Mets career: over six games in October 2015, he went from consistent-hitting, spotty-fielding second baseman to unrivaled Mets legend. I mean that literally. When you think of Mets postseason performances, there’s probably not a single one as impressive as Murphy’s 2015. He hit home runs in six straight games, from game four of the NLDS through game four of the NLCS, and also managed to go from first to third on a walk, setting up a crucial run in the deciding game of the NLDS against the Dodgers. 

Now Murphy has retired. Combined with Steven Matz’s trade to the Blue Jays last week, that leaves five members of the 2021 Mets who also played for the 2015 team: Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Jeurys Familia, Jerry Blevins, and Michael Conforto. Of those five, only one — deGrom — both A) played a full season with the 2015 team, and B) hasn’t left the Mets since. The team starred such luminaries as Darrell Ceciliani, Johnny Monell, Danny Muno, and Akeel Morris.

It really doesn’t seem like it’s been that long since that 2015 team took the NL East by storm, but look at what’s happened in the interim. Since 2015, we’ve seen the entire, albeit brief, Walker/Cabrera era up the middle; the return of Jose Reyes and his brief reunion with David Wright; the decline and fall of Matt Harvey; the departure of Zack Wheeler; etc. The line from 2015 to 2021 is so easy to follow, but on Opening Day, the Mets’ starting lineup won’t share a single member in common with the starting lineup on Opening Day 2015. 

Lucas Duda became James Loney, who became Adrian Gonzalez, who became Wilmer Flores, who became Dom Smith, who became Pete Alonso, who might become Dom Smith again. Murph became Neil Walker, who became Gavin Cecchini and T.J. Rivera, who became Asdrubal Cabrera when Amed Rosario took over at shortstop, who became Jeff McNeil, who became Robinson Cano, who will likely become Jeff McNeil again. And yet, the team barely seems different. Which, in a way, it’s not. The players have changed, but the Mets are still the Mets.

Pedroia

Another rock-solid second baseman also announced his retirement: Dustin Pedroia, who hadn’t played since 2019, or regularly since 2017. Pedroia’s various injuries over the years have apparently become too much from which to recover. Unfortunately, he won’t even get one last game at home in Boston. His last appearance has come and gone, and those who were watching probably didn’t even notice.

Pedroia’s parallels with David Wright are obvious. Two franchise-defining players, similarly debilitated by injuries; their career WAR totals are within five percent of each other. Pedroia is a four-time all-star and a four-time gold glove winner; Wright is a seven-time all-star and won two gold gloves. Pedroia won a Rookie of the Year award and an MVP. Wright would have won a Rookie of the Year award if he’d played his first season in full rather than debuting in July, and should have won an MVP in 2007 (the same year Pedroia won). 

There’s already been some chatter around Pedroia’s Hall of Fame credentials. Well, it’s been more like indirect, second-order talk — chatter about what the eventual chatter will be like — but it’s a debate all the same. 

I’ve made my position on this clear: he’s a Hall of Famer. Wright is a Hall of Famer. Joe Mauer is a Hall of Famer. Jorge Posada is a Hall of Famer. Spending an entire career with one team while being consistently excellent and becoming a team leader and a veteran mentor is just as impressive as putting up Hall of Fame numbers. They become role models, favorite players, heroes whose numbers kids wear as they imitate them on the little league field. They’re exactly the players who belong in the Hall of Fame. 

Now Pedroia will appear on the Hall of Fame ballot the year after Wright does. Hopefully, the two will at least spur some discussion about what the Hall of Fame means, and who it’s really for.