In this final day of our modest blog as we know it (Hooray, rebranding!), I thought I'd reflect a bit on the man who birthed this site, the namesake, the red-headed everyman who currently lingers on the Oakland A's roster.
If you run a search for "Matt Murton" on YouTube, you get 64 results. I know this, because I just tried. Of those 64, maybe 10 are the flame-topped outfielder from Fort Lauderdale, FL. Several aren't even a Matt Murton, but some country type filmed on a shaky handicam. The rest are a realtor from Maryland with the same name, short tapes of him touring his sale and rental properties. There are more videos for "Grape Lady."
Simply put, Matt Murton isn't very important. The baseball player, I mean. He's a modest, hard-working guy like the rest of us, one who rarely makes highlight reels or SportsCenter. He shows up and does his job without flash, procession or pomp. Just like the rest of us.
There is one video of him playing baseball; the only problem is, it's someone who taped a play that videogame Murton made in MLB 2K8.
Since moving midseason, we've barely heard a peep from him, mainly because Oakland uses him the same way the Cubs did: sparingly. He played just 9 games the rest of the season, and spent his work days probably like many of us did in the summer, just goofing around with friends and pitching in where necessary.
His trajectory through the majors is a lot like our trajectory through this blog to date: we're a bit player in the vast world of the internet, a small voice amid all the noise. We put in our time, we worked hard, and we reaped the odd reward here and there. Murton is no different, and as we get set to close the doors on the Saloon named for the ginger scamp (not even the best red-head on the team, mind you, thanks to Ryan Dempster. Poor Matt couldn't even wrestle control of that small accolade!), it's time to reflect a little more than we did during his eulogies.
He was traded on my birthday, and given new life of sorts. Pomp Culture will do the same for us, I'm sure, as we're finally free to give in to the crushing weight of our lowbrow sensibilities away from the burden of baseball.
When Matt Murton plays baseball, sometimes you get the sense that it's a burden. It's not easy for him, but he doesn't stop trying, and maybe that's why we always related to him so well. Our obsession transcended novelty with Murton; at first, he was that scrappy guy on the team who really had no business being there, and we praised him for his tenacity and his long, winding journey through the ranks of baseball. Every time an outfielder ahead of him slumped, we clamored for change.
Murton for Left Field! Murton for Right Field! Can Murton play Center? Who Cares, Play Murton Anyway!
It had the weight and fervor of a political campaign.
Then, the Cubs would go out and buy every cast-off journeyman in the league to fill gaps in the outfield, and our hearts would sink once more. Murton became familiar with that stretch of road between Chicago and Des Moines, a road he thought he'd only ever have to travel once. Imagine that; a young lad called up from West Tennessee with his friend Adam, and then watching him get drilled in the head in his first major-league at-bat! That was it for Greenberg, but Murton went on to hit with force the rest of the season. He was playing well above potential; we could all tell.
From there, it was a slow slide back down into the pack, the mass of hungry nearly-theres who clawed and scratched to get a chance in the big leagues. You know the type; full of potential on paper yet never quite coming through. We've seen enough of them at Wrigley to know by now: Corey Patterson and Felix Pie, to name just two.
And now, freed from Hendry's gaze, he endures the same limbo, a young, promising outfielder (though getting older every day) stuck amid the static and white noise of several other younger, slightly more promising outfielders. He struggles to get seen and heard above the throng; every time we come into our offices and wonder just what the fuck we're doing, we have complete and total understanding. Passed up for promotion again? Matt Murton gets it, and you have empathy. (To emphasize the point, his Wikipedia page picture is him in a Cubs uniform. Amid the millions of daily edits from all around the world, no-one thought to update his picture.)
Just because his desk is a wide, curved strip of turf bordered by chalk-and-dust lines enclosed with stands that hold thousands doesn't mean we aren't the same. It doesn't mean we can't see eye-to-eye.
Someday we'll see Murton as an All-Star. We'll see him hit .315 for the entire season, leading the league in doubles and ranking in Top 10 across almost all major offensive categories. We'll see him win Gold Gloves in the outfield, becoming one of the most coveted corner outfielders and commanding big money on the free agent market. Scott Boras will make him rich beyond his wildest dreams, and he'll think back to those formative years, the ones he spent shuttled around the minors before landing in Chicago, and he'll laugh.
Until then, he'll just keep living the normal life, working hard and hoping to someday catch a break.
That is life for Matt Murton. That is life for all of us.