Wednesday, November 10, 2010
The bouncer at the front door of the "I'm Badass and You're Not" Club has been rather picky lately about who gets admitted.
So I thought I'd throw a player at him who is without a doubt deserving of entry. He had no choice but to let in Eddie Murray.
Murray is badass for a variety of reasons. The first is his ability. Anyone who has 3,000 hits, 500 home runs AND a World Series ring is operating in territory previously visited only by Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. Plus, he was a switch-hitter. In fact, I think Murray is underrated. I know he's in the Hall of Fame and his number is retired, but I think he needs to be mentioned with the greatest hitters of all-time.
The second badass qualification is the mutton-chops he featured through much of the 1980s. You can't get more bad-ass then that. This is one of the first cards in which those chops were in full bloom. I wonder how much time was spent taking care of those?
I think this might be the best example:
The third factor is the public persona presented by Murray. Like a lot of fans who viewed Murray from a distance, I perceived him to be an angry loner. He didn't talk to the media, and I was always suspicious of players who did that. Then, I became a member of the media and I really didn't like it.
Murray also had a falling out with the Orioles in the late '80s. It was rather ugly. The owner at the time called him out, and that's never good. Fans heckled him. Murray asked out of Baltimore. The Orioles traded him to the Dodgers for Juan Bell, Brian Holton and Ken Howell.
So now the "angry loner" was part of my team.
Heh. Suddenly, he didn't seem so angry.
Because he was a member of the Dodgers, I became interested in the "why" of him not talking to the media. It apparently stemmed from an article by the brilliant-but-abrasive Dick Young, who wrote an article about Murray during the 1979 postseason. Young mentioned Murray's family (he is one of 12 children), and Murray took exception to the article, believing it was too intrusive and unkind.
He didn't have much time for the media after that.
But there's more to it. Murray was an introvert. I understand that completely. Sometimes it's painful to talk to people, especially about yourself. Also, Murray had a job to do and he couldn't do it with distractions. The media was a distraction. I understand that, too. When I'm working, I hate it when people talk to me all the time. I lose focus. So a lot of times I just shut them out. That can be considered rude.
However, I think Murray went a tad too far. The media is a necessary evil for ballplayers. Fans want to know about the players, and if you don't let them get to know you, then you're going to be branded for life. A little give-and-take is part of any job.
I understand that he didn't have time for the media "nonsense," and he viewed the potential for being misquoted or mischaracterized as dangerous to his profession (I think the Brandon Phillips incident is confirmation of Murray's fears). But I also think he could've taken 10 minutes after each game to answer a few questions. It's not much to ask.
Instead, Murray put himself into a situation in which he was constantly defended by teammates. "He's not a BAD guy," they would say. "He's a GREAT teammate." They had to counter a reputation that wasn't necessarily created by Murray, but was helped along by his silence.
But back to his ability. Murray never put up huge numbers, but he was tremendously clutch, and above all, consistent. That's why he was "Steady Eddie." His numbers may not have been as big as Aaron's, but I think of Aaron when I think of Murray because they continued to produce consistently, year after year, without the monster season that drew everyone's attention.
In short, Murray was misunderstood AND underrated. And that combination is pure badass.
Some more examples of badass-ness:
1. As a kid, Murray and his brothers would play ball in the streets of L.A. But they didn't limit themselves to hitting balls. They'd hit whatever they could find, including lids off of Crisco cans.
2. Murray hit two home runs in the Game 5 clincher of the 1983 World Series.
3. Up through the late 1990s, he was placed on the disabled list one time during his career.
4. He hit .330 for the Dodgers in 1990, but missed out on the batting title because Willie McGee, who had been traded from the Cardinals to the A's late in the season, had enough at-bats to win the National League batting title. Yet, Murray did not whine about it.
5. In the Sporting News, Wade Boggs said of Murray, "Eddie has always just been one of those 'lay in the weeds' guys. He comes out just long enough to hurt you, then goes back into hiding again." Bad. Ass.
6. Murray was Rookie of the Year, a Gold Glove first baseman, AND an All-Star for the American League and National League.
7. Lastly, a member of the media, a person who normally has an issue with athletes who don't talk, is putting Murray in the "I'm Badass and You're Not" Club. That is definitely badass.
And so is this card.