Murphy has earned his manager's endearment by batting .412 in September, by batting .455 as a pinch-hitter and by batting .359 overall. And given Manuel's propensity to play Murphy whenever possible, those sample sizes have grown to significant levels.
Even more impressive, in Manuel's eyes, has been what Murphy has done to ensure that the league won't catch up to him. Constantly studying video, Murphy has begun memorizing pitch sequences that big league pitchers have used against him. He's also adopted Carlos Delgado's habit of recording at-bats in a personal journal of sorts.
"If Delgado's keeping a book and he's going to the Hall of Fame," Murphy said, "then I'm going to try and do that."
Bursting onto the Major League scene with 14 hits in his first 30 at-bats, Murphy -- never considered more than a middling prospect until this season -- then endured a slump, made adjustments and rebounded from it. And Manuel believes he's better for it. Murphy's 1-for-17 stretch toward the end of August turned into a 9-for-17 run to begin September, and he hasn't slowed since.
Which is why Manuel is now comparing him to Marquis Grissom, Larry Walker, Moises Alou and other so-called "naturals" that he watched succeed from a young age. Simply put, Murphy has produced.
Although Manuel had established a productive left-field platoon between Murphy and fellow rookie Nick Evans, he briefly considered ignoring it Friday to give Murphy more playing time. But he used Murphy as a pinch-hitter instead, and the rookie delivered a game-winning two-run double.
Afterward, Murphy discussed how long he had spent preparing for that specific Braves reliever, Julian Tavarez.
"He's understanding that there are scouting reports on him," Manuel said. "He has access to stuff like the technology, like the stuff they have today, to learn what people are trying to do with him. He has a game plan, and he's disciplined in that. He's got a sense of what you're trying to accomplish against him, and he battles against that."
Murphy should play again Sunday against Braves right-hander James Parr, and possibly in each of next week's first four games against the Cubs. And if he remains hot, the Mets could potentially ride him to a playoff-clinching victory at some point next week.