Even David Murphy admits that it’s a little bit wrong to be wearing a Los Angeles Angels uniform after all those years of sports-hating them while with the Texas Rangers.
“It’s weird, isn’t it?” he said. “Getting traded to the Angels is not the weird part for me. Being a part of the Angels and playing against the Rangers, it’s different.”
Yeah, it is, but it wasn’t his doing. Murphy wasn’t offered much of a chance to stay with the Rangers after hitting free agency after the 2013 season, so he went to Cleveland on a two-year deal and was shipped to Anaheim as the Indians cut their losses.
Murphy, in other words, didn’t join the dark side voluntarily, unlike, ahem, Josh Hamilton and C.J. Wilson. It also won’t be Murphy’s doing if the Angels keep him around for 2016 by exercising the $7 million club option on his contract, and many have started to believe that will happen.
It makes sense. Murphy is capable defensively and a .279 career hitter against right-handers with a .456 slugging percentage. While he believes that he’s not just a platoon player, he knows that this will be the first full season of his career in which he doesn’t reach 400 at-bats.
“I’m at the point in my career that I don’t know how much longer I’m going to play,” Murphy said. “Everyone dreams of a long 10- to 15-year career, but nothing is guaranteed. More important than worrying about how long I’m going to play, I’m just trying to enjoy today and where I am and have fun playing the game.”
As the Angels have blindly stabbed for a solution to their woes in left field, woes created when owner Arte Moreno purposefully and with spite discarded Hamilton, Murphy has been their best player there.
Can they do better? Sure, depending on how much Moreno decides he wants to spend this off-season and if he again decides to circumvent his general manager by making the signing himself.
Of course, the Angels should be doing better this season than being just third-best in the American League West.
The rotation remains capable enough despite the loss of Wilson to elbow surgery and the loss of Jered Weaver’s velocity. The bullpen has endured the usual ups and downs, but closer Huston Street remains effective enough as the closer.
The Angels have the best player on the planet in Mike Trout, even though it looks like he’ll cede the MVP award this season to Josh Donaldson in Toronto and even though Bryce Harper is having a wonderful year in Washington.
Albert Pujols has shown that he can be a power threat again, though his big and aging body continues to get slowed on occasion by various nagging leg injuries. Then there’s Kole Calhoun, who has cleared 20 homers this season but isn’t a leadoff man.
But that’s about it offensively, and offense is what has bitten the Angels. They entered Friday with the worst batting average in the American League, a frigid .244. Their on-base percentage was 13th of 15 team at .306, and despite having Trout and Pujols, their slugging percentage was 14th at .388.
The biggest sinkhole was in left field, where the cast of characters had combined to bat .210 with a baseball-low seven homers. Hamilton, despite his wounds, hit six homers and batted .257 in 40 games.
Murphy has done his part, with three homers and a .270 average since joining the Angels. Two of the homers came with him as the left fielder.
“The results haven’t been great since I’ve been here, but I know that we’re a better team than this,” Murphy said. “That’s the way the game goes sometimes. We have the talent in here to get it done.”
Maybe, with no great team in the AL West this season. The Angels have some off-season work to do, beginning with hiring a general manager after Jerry Dipoto quit midseason amid a long-standing squabble with manager Mike Scioscia and the can’t-win scenario he faced with Scioscia backed by Moreno in disputes.
That could affect Murphy, like the new athletic director who fires the football coach. Murphy knows he’ll have a job somewhere next year, and he’ll be glad to be back with the Angels even if it’s still a little weird.
The dysfunctional, disappointing Angels could do a lot worse than Murphy.
Cardinals: Only so-so in recent run vs. Central rivals
Pirates: Deserve better than another wild card
Royals: Bit of a bumpy patch the past two weeks
Blue Jays: Could bury the Yankees this weekend
Dodgers: Have asserted themselves in the NL West
Phillies: As bad as Atlanta’s been, still worse
Braves: Worst team in majors in the second half
Reds: Tryouts for 2016 not going very well
Marlins: Owner Loria not sure who to fire next
Rockies: Two premiere players, 38 also-rans