Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy will return to Citi Field on Tuesday night for the first time since he left the Mets in free agency, a departure that followed seven seasons in New York capped by a historic playoff run of seven homers in 14 games.
How will New York fans respond when he returns?
"I'll have a better idea about that after I get it," Murphy said.
The truth is, nobody knows. Manager Dusty Baker hopes Murphy gets cheered, of course.
"New York’s always fun to go there. You know the people in New York, probably some will jeer him but I think most will cheer him. Because if the Mets had wanted to keep him, they had plenty of chances to keep him. It wasn’t as if Murph left. It was kind of like Murph wasn’t invited to stay," Baker said.
Murphy has always been a good hitter, but this season is off to the best start of his career. He leads the majors with a .400 batting average and also has five homers, 23 RBI and 13 doubles. Murphy has been the Nationals' best player and is already looking like one of the best additions any team made this past offseason.
The Mets, to be fair, found an adequate replacement at second base. They brought in Neil Walker over the winter and he's second on the team with 10 homers and currently has the best OPS at .829 of his career.
One Mets columnist - Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News - argues that fans at Citi Field should cheer Murphy on Tuesday night. Murphy is expected to be honored with a video montage.
"Everyone at Citi Field Tuesday night ought to stand and cheer, loudly, for Daniel Murphy when his Nationals arrive to face the Mets in a juicy early-season series between what appear to be two very good teams. Hey, the Mets themselves are lauding him with some sort of video tribute," McCarron writes.
The Nationals had a similar situation just last week when Jordan Zimmermann returned to Nationals Park. He received a standing ovation in the middle of the game before his first at-bat. The one difference there, though, is that Zimmermann did not sign with a division rival. The Tigers only play the Nationals every three years due to the interleague schedule. Murphy, on the other hand, will likely have a direct effect on the Mets and their chances in the NL East.
The Nats' infielder did not go into specifics of how he will feel when he goes back, instead referring to the Mets numerous times as a "division opponent." But his teammate, Max Scherzer, shared what he thinks will be going through Murphy's mind in New York.
"When you face your old team, it's emotional," Scherzer explained. "You want to beat those guys. You've got friends and you get a little extra juiced up for that. That's what's great for him, going into New York. He's going to be playing with an extra bounce in his step. We're humans. We have emotions like that. You've just gotta find a way to use those emotions to your advantage."