Dale Murphy strolled into the Atlanta Braves' clubhouse in a neat blue suit and matching tie after attending church on a recent Sunday.
He walked to the makeshift breakfast bar and munched on some muffins and peanut butter, then prepared to dress for that day's game.The game was a washout - similar to the season endured by the perennial All-Star.
"Be with you in a second," the ever-smiling Murphy said as he slapped more peanut butter on his second helping of muffins. "This is my breakfast."
Murphy, now 32 and in his 11th full season with the Braves, is suffering through one of his worst seasons in the majors. But, as usual, he discussed his year-long slump pleasantly, shrugging his shoulders several times and offering no excuses.
After Monday night's game with Los Angeles, the two-time National League Most Valuable Player was hitting a meager .227 with 23 home runs and 68 runs batted in.
Excuses were offered that the 6-foot-4, 215-pound right fielder suffered a stiff shoulder throughout spring training, that the Braves lacked a supporting cast in the lineup for the cleanup hitter, and that Atlanta is the worst team in the majors. But Murphy would not bite.
"Yes, I'm not doing too well after a couple of good years, and yes, this is one of my most frustrating years. It sure is," he said.
As for the shoulder, Murphy - who had made the NL All-Star squad seven times, six in a row until 1988 - admitted, "It did bother me a bit in the spring.
"But I'm healthy now. I don't have any excuses. I don't even know what it was, I think it may have been tendenitis. I really feel good," said Murphy, who signed a $6 million, three-year contract during the winter with very little fanfare.
"I didn't have a very good year in 1981 - the strike year - and my first couple of years," said Murphy, who hit .247 in 1981 and .226 in his first full season in 1978. But in between, the right-handed hitter has had excellent seasons and had a .279 career average entering 1988.
Last season, Murphy hit .295 with a career-high 44 home runs and 105 RBI.
"My average could be a lot better and, obviously, if it were, the RBI's would be better," he said.
"My swing just hasn't been very consistent. But it's never really been there my whole career. I'm always working on it and have been a streak hitter all of my career. Only this year - more often than not - it has not been there," said Murphy.
As for the big salary, he said that has not added any pressure.
"Not really. I'm making a lot of money, but I've made a lot of money for a lot of years - I'm not saying that in a bragging way - but, I've never played any different when I was making the minimum in my first year or now.
"I've been able to handle the so-called pressure from my salary. The pressure is always there on the field to do well, no matter what you make. I always try to work hard, no matter what I'm making," he said. "You're supposed to do well whether you're making a lot or not."
Murphy, who is a member of numerous charitable organizations and one of the most popular sports figures in America, has not been booed often in his career, but on occasion he has heard the catcalls this season.
"They are different than the fans from Philadelphia, for instance. They're a little more easy going, but I have heard some boos. I don't really know what to say," he said with his boyish chuckle.
"The only thing I wish about the fans is that there were more here," Murphy said. "The answer is for us, and me, to play better. They can boo or yell, but overall they're very considerate."
As for his play, he said, "If we were in first place I wouldn't be concerned with what I'm doing. But we're last - far back - and it's not a good situation.
"I know I'm responsible partly for not doing my part and that makes it frustrating, but all I know to do is to keep working."