Drayer: Mariners’ Murphy knows clock is ticking for players in his position

Apr 28, 2020, 1:31 PM

Since baseball shut down, most players have talked about being in “December training mode,” maintaining that balance of just getting ready to ramp up for spring training. That feeling has evolved into something entirely different for Mariners catcher Tom Murphy.

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“It almost feels like the start of a lousy retirement in a way,” he explained on a conference call with reporters Tuesday.

Make no mistake, Murphy has been doing everything he can to make the most of the current situation and stay ready. He is in a comfortable place enjoying family time and the challenges of homeschooling his 9 year old. He’s taken advantage of the acreage he has in upstate New York just miles from the Canadian border. He is as devoted as ever to his workouts and has the equipment to be able to do what he needs to in order to maintain himself physically. All of this is good.

What he doesn’t have, however, is baseball. Like most Mariners, he hasn’t been able to hit. In an effort to make up for what he has not been able to do on the skills side of the game, two weeks ago he said he had resorted to watching and studying old World Series games.

“I am trying to put myself into those games,” he said in a Skype interview last week (video above). “Put myself into those situations. Be an observational learner. Get as much out of those games as I can because that’s the pinnacle, that’s the height of the game that we all want to get to. To be able to watch it and almost put yourself, and feel that emotion is a special feeling and it puts you closer to the game.”

The words of a man who misses being on the field and what comes before he takes the field.

“Not really having a strict schedule, I am missing the routine, the practice, getting better,” he said. “The ability to immerse myself in the game. Having the daily goal to get better and having the resources and time to do that.”

Should the opportunity arise for him to get back out on the field and play baseball, even if it is under extreme conditions as laid out in the possible Arizona “bubble” plan, would he be on board?

“No doubt,” he answered. “I think anything to be back playing baseball would be good for all of us right now. For me to think about having to put up with a few minor difficulties in my personal life to hopefully extend my career? It’s worth it in my opinion.”

Every player talked to agrees that if baseball comes back it has to be brought back in the right way with the priority on the health and safety for themselves and others. That is a given. But once given the all clear to set actual plans in place and make the decision to play or not to play? While there has been focus put on a number of big name veteran players, Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw in particular, not being on board with the Arizona plan – and to be clear, that plan is just one of many scenarios MLB is investigating – their situation is quite different than many of players represented by the MLBPA.

“There’s only so many guaranteed contracts where guys have pretty much got their rest of their lives set in stone and they are able to do whatever they want to do,” Murphy pointed out. “Whereas the rest of us are fighting for our opportunities in our career, there are only so many superstars in this game that are really solidified. I would say the majority of us are in that position and we are all looking forward to getting back to prove ourselves.”

It’s not just the contract that comes into play here. Age is a factor as well.

“I think about my career at 29, I’m not getting any younger and this game has not really been kind to older players,” he pointed out.

The clock is ticking for all athletes. There is no such thing as a true pause in their careers. Much can be lost in just one year. Plans that sound crazy to most outside of that reality look different to those who have a higher investment in a career that has a much shorter expiration date than most.

The answer to the question of if he would be onboard with an extreme plan to play came quickly for Murphy. It clearly is something he has weighed and thought out carefully. Murphy has shown to be one to not under-think anything. An example: Murphy has been preparing himself for what baseball might look like with no fans and the impact that could have on the field. For him, it could be extreme. No crowd noise will help the hitter know where he is set up behind the plate. It will be an obstacle that is difficult to overcome but Murphy has thought about it.

He’s also thought about what he will take from what he is experiencing today when he does get the opportunity to get behind the plate and catch one of his pitchers again.

“The appreciation and the gratitude of being an MLB player,” he said. “Anything in life when it is taken away from you and you realize how much you love it, how much it is painful to have taken away from you. I don’t want to leave this game without feeling I have given everything I had each day. This down time definitely amplifies that feeling.”

Follow Mariners insider Shannon Drayer on Twitter.

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