Max Muncy came out of seemingly nowhere for the Dodgers in the 2018 MLB season. After playing in just 96 career MLB games before coming to Los Angeles, and tallying five home runs and 17 RBIs with an OPS+ of 70, Muncy burst onto the scene in 2018, crushing 35 home runs and 79 RBIs, and sporting an impressive OPS+ of 161. His .973 OPS wasn’t too shabby, either.
Muncy then followed that year up with an even better 2019, hitting 35 home runs and 98 RBIs, and being named to the All-Star team for the first time in his career.
Muncy would go onto make another All-Star team in 2021, and play a key role in the Dodgers’ World Series victory in 2020. However, just a few years before all of that, his MLB career almost came to an end before it really even started.
Dodgers Nation had the chance to talk with Muncy about his time prior to joining the Dodgers.
“When I got released from Oakland, and I’m sitting on the couch, I was like, thank god it’s over…I think I’m probably done playing baseball. It’s just, I’m not having fun with it anymore.”
Muncy was released by the Oakland Athletics in 2017, and spent some time at home. But he started to miss the game, and soon thereafter joined the Dodgers on a minor league deal.
“I think, the biggest thing for me was, you got to learn to have fun. This game is so hard, mentally, physically. It’s the only sport where you fail the majority of the time. And it’s also the only sport where you can do everything 100% correct — you can have the perfect swing, make perfect contact, and guess what? There’s a guy standing right there. It’s such a frustrating sport that, to me, that was one of the things that happened was I lost the ability to have fun. I lost the ability to smile out on the field.”
The Dodgers were taking a chance on the 27-year-old, but he very quickly proved to be a good investment.
Muncy hit .309 with 12 home runs and 44 RBIs in 2017 with the Oklahoma City Dodgers, and earned himself a call-up early in 2018 with the Dodgers. Once he came up, he never looked back.
And while some of that had to do with the swing adjustments Muncy made, he said a lot of it actually had to do with the mental aspect of the game and changing his attitude and approach.
“If I want to give this another shot, I got to change my attitude about it. And so that was the biggest thing. Obviously, I made the swing adjustments, that’s all been very well-documented. But it’s just, I had to relearn how to have fun, how to make it a kid’s game, and how to just smile when you’re out there. And just enjoy being out in the dirt, out in the grass. You’re out there with your friends. You got the fans cheering for you, booing you at the same time. It’s great. It’s what baseball’s all about. It’s fun. So relearning how to have fun along with the Dodgers taking me in and giving me the support, you know I’d do anything for the Dodgers.”
Muncy has been able to do just that, on his way to becoming one of the most important Dodgers on this consistent National League contender. Muncy’s struggles last season were very apparent, as the Dodgers missed his All-Star bat in the lineup backing up the top of the order. Muncy’s elbow injury definitely played a big role in the Dodgers not winning in 2021, and his not being the same guy hurt them throughout the course of the 2022 regular season and postseason.
Now, however, Muncy is over a year removed from the injury, and he’s ready to put last season behind him, and play an even bigger role on a team that’s missing a lot of last season’s key contributors. Muncy is suddenly one of the longest-tenured Dodgers, so he should play a big role as a leader both on the field and in the clubhouse.
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