Daniel Murphy, owner of the highest batting average and second-highest OPS in Nationals history, announced his retirement Friday, bringing an end to a 12-year career that peaked just as he was about to come to Washington and thus made him a significant part of club lore.
“This is a beautiful game, and I really just feel humbled and blessed that it let me jump on the ride for a little bit,” Murphy told SNY in announcing his decision to retire. “It’s beautiful. It can teach you about so many things. And all I can say is, thank you.”
The 35-year-old infielder hadn’t been the same player since undergoing knee surgery following the 2017 season while still with the Nationals and struggled in 40 games with the Rockies last season, batting .236 with three homers, 16 RBIs and career-worst .608 OPS.
It wasn’t that long ago, however, that Murphy was among the absolute best offensive players in baseball, having perfected the art of hitting like few in recent history.
A good, but not great, hitter through most of his seven years with the Mets, Murphy took his game to an entirely different level late in the 2015 season. At the tutelage of hitting coaches Kevin Long and Pat Roessler (both now with the Nats), he began crowding the plate, shortening his swing and looking to hit the ball in the air to right or right-center field all the time.
The results were staggering. Over his final 44 regular season games in 2015, Murphy hit .303 with 19 doubles, eight homers and an .871 OPS. He then went on one of the greatest postseason runs of all-time, homering in a record six consecutive games during which he batted .520 (13-for-25) and produced a 1.858 OPS, earning National League Championship Series MVP honors.
Unconvinced the stunning surge was sustainable, the Mets made no serious effort to re-sign Murphy that winter. The Nationals jumped at the opportunity and signed one of their toughest division rivals to a three-year, $37.5 million contract that immediately paid huge dividends for them (and came back to haunt New York).
Murphy’s performance in 2016 rivals any single-season output in club history. He hit .347 with 25 homers and 104 RBIs and led the league in doubles (47), slugging percentage (.595) and OPS (.985). He earned the first of his back-to-back Silver Slugger Awards and finished runner-up to the Cubs’ Kris Bryant for NL MVP.
With a seemingly simple approach - “Get traffic on the bases and put together an ‘A’ swing,” he’d frequently explain - Murphy followed that up with another All-Star performance in 2017, hitting .322 with 23 homers, 93 RBIs, 43 doubles, a .543 slugging percentage and .928 OPS.
And though the knee surgery delayed the start of his 2018 season and sapped much of his power, Murphy nonetheless ended his two and a half seasons in Washington with remarkable numbers: a .329 batting average, .380 on-base percentage, .550 slugging percentage and .930 OPS. He owns the highest batting average in Nationals history (minimum 500 plate appearances), and only Juan Soto (.972) owns a higher OPS.
With the team falling out of the race and Murphy approaching free agency, the Nats traded the second baseman to the Cubs in August 2018 for minor leaguer Andruw Monasterio and cash. Murphy then signed a two-year deal with the Rockies that winter and finished his career in Colorado.