Pat Murphy’s ascension from premier NCAA coach, to fired in the wake of a scandal, to the minors and now the Padres, has been a whirlwind, to say the least.
This past weekend brought San Diego Padres interim manager Pat Murphy full circle.
Murphy found himself managing his Padres squad at Chase Field in downtown Phoenix, where right down the street just six years previous, Murphy was managing the college baseball powerhouse Arizona State University Sun Devils en route to an appearance in the College World Series.
When Murphy was sitting in the Sun Devils’ dugout back in Omaha in 2009, he would’ve never envisioned this. But things took a turn for the tumultuous for Murphy when he was fired by the university in November of that year after an internal investigation uncovered NCAA infractions. The NCAA would go on to sanction the program, but Murphy moved on.
He would be hired by the Padres in 2010 as a special assistant. Murphy then quickly made his way up through the Padres’ organization; he became manager of San Diego’s Single-A affiliate in Eugene in 2011, then their Triple-A affiliate in Tucson in 2013 and El Paso in 2014. In total, he has managed 440 regular season minor league contests, compiling a record of 241-199. And when Bud Black was fired by the Padres earlier this season, Murphy got the call to become the interim manager.
Almost a week into the job, Murphy is still trying to take it all in.
“You can say surreal, I don’t know how to define that,” said Murphy to The Arizona Republic when asked what the first days on the job have been like for him.
While Murphy has never been known to be short on thoughts, excuse him this time around if he doesn’t have much to say. He’s been thrown right into the fire, so to speak.
Through Sunday’s action, the Padres are 34-38 and sit in fourth place in the National League’s West division. One of his former ASU players, Eric Sogard, had a game-winning hit to give Murphy a loss in his Major League managerial debut, and this weekend his team dropped a critical three-game series to the Diamondbacks. Murphy’s Padres now sit a whole six games back of the Los Angeles Dodgers for first place, and the locals in San Diego are starting to become restless with this team after wholesale changes made in the offseason raised expectations and some were hopeful for a playoff appearance.
The problems that plague the Padres include their starting rotation, which has seen a major statistical drop-off after James Shields’ body of work this season. Now, the offense will now have to adjust to life without Wil Myers, who could be out for up to two months following wrist surgery.
Outfielder Will Venable, who up until last week has never had anyone for a Major League manager besides Bud Black, told The Arizona Republic that Murphy is trying to make the managerial transition as easy on the players as possible.
“Obviously for him getting settled in, he probably doesn’t want to come in to the first two days and start laying down the law and doing anything too crazy,” Venable said. “But I will say that he’s been excellent in his communication, positivity and just being supportive of not only us as players grinding through the season but especially as the guy who took over for a manager who just got fired.”
While his players try to scratch and claw to get back into the thick of the NL West race, Murphy is in the midst of a tryout himself, so to speak. If the team continues to slide down the standings, expect Padres management to go out and find another manager in the offseason. If he can steer this ship in the right direction, however, expect management to make him a longer-term answer.
But no matter what happens, Murphy knows that his stint in the Majors, what he thought was impossible just a decade ago, has put him in rarefied air in baseball.