Rob Murphy was one of baseball’s better left-handed middle relievers in the late 1980’s. After brilliant high school and collegiate baseball careers, this native of Miami, Florida was the first round pick of the Cincinnati Reds in the secondary phase of the 1981 amateur draft. During his rookie season with the Reds in 1986, he appeared in 34 games, won all six of his decisions and his 0.72 ERA that year remains a National League record for pitchers throwing a minimum of 50 innings in a season. In 1987, he appeared in a career high 87 games and struck out 99 batters in 100 innings of work. The following year he led the NL in appearances with 76.
Then two weeks before Christmas in 1988, the Reds and Red Sox made a deal in which they exchanged first basemen and relief pitchers. Boston got Murphy and Nick Esasky and sent the switch-hitting Todd Benzinger and right-hander Jeff Sellers to Cincinnati. At the time, Esasky was entering the final year of his contract, but even so, on paper this deal looked like it leaned heavily in Boston’s favor and in 1989, that’s exactly how it played out.
Esasky had a career year for Boston with career highs in homers with 30 and RBIs with 108. Murphy meanwhile led the Red Sox bullpen in appearances with 74, pitching in front of closer Lee Smith. Though he lost seven of twelve decisions that year, he did pick up a career high nine saves and posted an impressive ERA of just 2.74.
Murphy then faltered in 1990. Though he picked up another 7 saves, his ERA ballooned to well over six and he lost all six of his decisions. He followed that up with a bad outing in the only postseason performance of his career in that years ALCS versus Oakland. One week before the ’91 season was scheduled to open, Boston GM sent Murphy to Seattle for a starting pitcher named Mike Gardiner.
Murphy continued pitching in the big leagues till 1995 and then got into the thoroughbred horse breeding business.