Ben Zobrist is a step ahead of Daniel Murphy on the 2016 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot.
Both second basemen reached the World Series last October, but it was Zobrist -- then with the Royals -- who emerged with a championship ring, not Murphy and the Mets. Zobrist then got first dibs on free-agent openings in December, even though he's the older player.
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Zobrist, 35, signed with the Cubs after turning down the Nationals, who eventually signed Murphy. Both teams love the guy they got, who are part of the upswing in offensive-minded second basemen.
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Both Murphy and Zobrist seem headed to San Diego for the 2016 All-Star Game presented by MasterCard, but who should have the honor of serving as the starter?
Zobrist has the inside track for now, as he rides the wave of Cubs love. He's claimed a comfortable lead in the balloting, and he may even be part of an all-Cubs infield if double-play partner Addison Russell can hold off the Rockies' Trevor Story. But it's the summer-of-the-Cubs storyline that has me leaning toward the other second-base candidate, Murphy.
Video: CHC@SF: Zobrist, Soler hit back-to-back jacks
Both Murphy, 31, and Zobrist are having terrific seasons at the plate. Zobrist's on-base skills are at the top of the game, but Murphy has hit for more power (12-9 in homers). Murphy's OPS is significantly better than Zobrist's (.965-.862).
Zobrist has been better in the field than Murphy, who might have been moved to first base if he stayed with the Mets.
Zobrist probably won't win a Gold Glove Award this year, but he has been more reliable than Murphy. He's a better all-around player (and is having a better all-around season) than Murphy. But here's why I think Murphy is just a tick more deserving than Zobrist.
He's been huge for the Nationals, supporting a thin lineup all season to help Dusty Baker's team take control of the National League East. Zobrist has been a piece in a deep lineup loaded with hitters having good seasons. He's had it easier than Murphy. While Zobrist is performing in an especially deep cast, Murphy has been the Nats' MVP.
Bryce Harper is among those praising Murphy.
"He's carrying our team," Harper said a few weeks back. "He's doing everything possible in our lineup to keep us going. It's something fun to watch. It's definitely special."
Murphy leads Harper, the reigning NL Most Valuable Player Award winner, and every other Washington teammate with a WAR of 2.3. Zobrist's 2.3 WAR ranks behind Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Dexter Fowler for the Cubs.
Video: WSH@MIL: Murphy rips a double to the wall, plates two
Murphy did great work with Mets hitting coach Kevin Long before and during the 2015 season, turning into the monster the Mets unleashed against the Dodgers and Cubs last postseason. He hasn't let up any since signing a three-year, $37.5 million contract.
"He has concentration and discipline," Baker said recently. "He studies probably as much as anybody. He has a pretty good idea, and his confidence is at an all-time high. He always thought he could hit. Now, he really knows he can hit."
Nothing against Zobrist. He can really hit, too. But Murphy has meant more to the Nationals than Zobrist has to the Cubs, and context always matters.
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com.