The Chicago Cubs found their third baseman of the future last year (if by the future, you meant the remainder of 2013) when they called up minor league free agent Donnie Murphy from Iowa. Donnie went on to hit 11 home runs in 46 games, bringing some moments of joy to an otherwise joyless season. You might think Donnie would be willing to rest of his laurels, but he’s itching to work hard and bring glory to himself and his team.
“Everything you read out there, we’re one of the worst teams in baseball,” Murphy said on Tuesday. “I think that’s a lot of motivation. Twenty-five of us don’t think we’re the worst team in baseball.
“We all look at [that critique] as a positive and it makes us even more hungry, and we want to prove people wrong,” he said. “I think guys will bounce back. Everybody knows [Starlin] Castro isn’t that kind of player, everybody knows [Darwin] Barney isn’t that kind of player, everybody knows [Anthony] Rizzo isn’t a .230 hitter.
“We have guys who can bounce back and put together good years, and you make a decent run, and hopefully get close and make the playoffs. We know what type of players we have in this clubhouse. We just have to put it together.”
Of course players can’t say they’re eager to wait for the good prospects to come up and make this a winning team. And maybe Donnie will be laughing at all of us when the Cubs make the playoffs and he was the first to predict it. But with Mike Olt and Luis Valbuena also vying for playing time at third base, where does that leave Donnie?
“Sometimes, I think it’s all about opportunity more than anything,” Murphy said, “and I think I did get a good opportunity the last two months of the season and put together a good run. I think it was really the first time in my career where I had a two-month span and got to play a lot. It’s funny how things work out like that.”
Give Donnie an opportunity, and he’ll run with it, all the way to the playoffs, right, Donnie?
“Everybody rebuilds,” Murphy said. “People just have to be patient. Rebuilds don’t take one year. I know Chicago, they haven’t had a championship for a while. The reward will be greater in the end if they’re patient.”
You’re sending mixed messages, Donnie.
How much should Donnie be worrying about Mike Olt breathing down his neck? We’ll find out for sure in Spring Training, but Jason McLeod thinks you should keep your eye on him.
“A year, a year-and-a-half ago, Mike Olt’s untouchable on the trade market,” said Jason McLeod, the vice president of scouting and player development. “(This) offseason he’s met with some specialists and tried some different things with eye drops and he feels really good.
“He’s an athletic, strong guy that can play defense, so all of that is still there. Of course, the big thing is going to be once he gets out on the field and starts facing guys in live BP. I think we’re going to see pretty early in camp just how the things that he’s done over the offseason have taken effect.”
But even if his eye issues are fixed, will he be able to mentally rebound from an awful 2013?
“Mentally, he’s doing well,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “In this business, if you try to buy guys at the high point of the market, you’re not going to have a lot of success. You need to always be looking for guys that maybe had a down year. Maybe there was a reason behind it and he can hopefully bounce back.
“We just hope that he looks back on a long, successful career and 2013 is the nadir. That’s the hope. That’s why you try to buy low on guys. Because he was a guy we tried to get in 2012 and we couldn’t. So hopefully his downturn was our benefit. We’ll find out.”
Maybe Mike Olt tanked because he always wanted to be a Chicago Cub.