Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Importance Of Jeff Francoeur

  • An example for would-be Mets:

Alright, so I'm developing a man-crush on Jeff Francoeur.

Shut up and leave me alone.

In all seriousness, with the way Jason Bay and Bengie Molina are holding out for more money and years and/or really don't want to play for the Mets, anyone who is even a potential acquisition for the Mets should look at how Francoeur, the Mets organization and the fans developed a strange and heartwarming bond almost immediately after he arrived as a wounded and abused animal from the Braves.

Jeff Francoeur wanted to be a Met.

It was as simple as that. It took no time whatsoever for the connection to develop and it had little more to do with an enthusiastic smile and the attitude that he was proud to put on that uniform; happy to be playing in New York for a staggering and battered team ravaged by injuries.

Possibly it was because they were kindred spirits. Francoeur had gone from the would-be superstar; the hometown hero and Sports Illustrated cover boy, to ridiculed pariah and lightning rod for everything that had gone wrong with the Braves as their decade-and-a-half of National League dominance came to a close.

"Francoeur has no plate discipline."

"He's a disappointment."

"He needs to go back to the minors."

"Get him outta here."


All are examples of the things that Francoeur had to endure as his star fell in Atlanta. In addition to being cast out by the same fans and upper management that had anointed him as the next great superstar, he was doing it in front of friends and family every home game he played. Suggestions, entreaties and outright demands were placed on the shoulders of a 25-year-old former star athlete who'd been accorded privileges and accolades because of his abilities. It was only when he faltered that what he could do was secondary to what he couldn't. As his game was found wanting, members of the Braves organization soured on him. The scrutiny increased and the criticism from inside the club permeated to the media and fans and spread like an easily contracted virus.

It was a vicious circle. The more pressure that was placed on him, the worse he did; the worse he did, the more he was ripped by his bosses; the more his bosses unloaded on him to the media, the more negative stories appeared about that "swing at everything" strategy. The same strategy that was so charming at first and okayed with winks and nods of "Jeff being Jeff", was now a detriment; his penchant for speaking his mind went from the confidence of a brash rookie, to a youngster who didn't know his place; and the fans, expecting a homegrown, hometown MVP turned on him with stunning and brutal speed.

This onus showered down on an athlete who'd known nothing but success at every level must've made the pressure unbearable; and it's easily forgotten that he was still in his early 20s. Eventually, there was nothing left to do but dispatch him as the Braves stupidly did for a player without half of Francouer's abilities in Ryan Church, who notably was benched and then released by the Braves.

When he arrived in New York, it was as if the weight of the world had been removed from his shoulders and replaced by a dogged determination to shove it to his former club in every way possible. As the Mets and Braves were the two best teams in the National league in the late 90s, the animosity and rivalry was palpable. Such a trade----no matter how minuscule or of dual benefit----would've happened back then; but the circumstances were right in the summer of 2009. The Mets wanted to be rid of Church; the Braves of Francoeur and there was a fortunate match.

The attitude of "he's the Mets problem now" fits right into the emotional and self-immolating management style of Braves GM Frank Wren. The attitude got him fired as Orioles GM as he decided it was a good idea to take on Cal Ripken Jr in an organizational power struggle (smart move) and it's going to haunt him with Francoeur. In fact, it's Wren's lack of movement right now that's well on the way to sabotaging a Braves team that is one power bat away from being the favorites to win the pennant in the National League. Marlon Byrd won't cut it.

The Mets accepted Francoeur for what he is and didn't immediately start to change him into what they wanted him to be. He's never going to be Nick Johnson. He's never going to walk 100 times a year. But the style he brings onto the baseball field of running into walls; trash-talking; always ready to fight; and avidly grabbing the leadership role a bad thing? Francoeur is a football player playing baseball should not be discounted as useless or wrong.

The languid pace, patience and cerebral nature of baseball itself is hard to reconcile with the out-of-body recklessness that's required to be a good football player. Can Francoeur be trained to take more pitches and wait for something good to hit instead of hacking at everything that's anywhere within a 50 foot radius of home plate? Yes. Once it gets around the league that he's not swinging blindly, his walks will increase; he'll see more pitches to hit and his other numbers will improve naturally without forcefeeding him or smashing a round peg into a square hole destroying both the peg and the board.

When you hear some armchair expert/stat zombie ravaging a person who's always been a doer rather than a thinker, the opinions have to almost ignored entirely. It's not as simple as saying, "well he needs to take more pitches"; or "wait for a good pitch to hit". Such people have never even picked up a bat and let trends influence them into seeing themselves as re-inventors of the game. You can't re-train someone who's done something a certain way for his whole life overnight----especially if he's done it with the tacit approval of coaches and club personnel. You can understand the confusion and betrayal that Francoeur felt when the entire city of Atlanta turned on him even as he was doing the same things he'd always done; the same things that made him their golden boy.

It wasn't just the way he played on the field that endeared him to Mets fans. It was the simple act of pride in being a Met. Such an aura has been sorely lacking in recent years. That's the point and is applicable to the Mets current circumstances as they wait for answers from free agents to whom they've tendered offers.

If Jason Bay and Bengie Molina are looking for the biggest payday; if they're banking on the Mets' hysterics at keeping up with the Phillies and Braves by throwing rationality out the window and overpaying for players who apparently have nowhere else to go, then the Mets should tell them to take a hike; that they're not doing the club any favors by taking the multi-millions being offered them; that their services are not so desperately required that they're going to beg them to come.

Bottom line, if you don't want to be here, then we don't want you and we'll figure something else out despite the alternatives not being as good.

In years past, the Mets have overpaid for players who did not really want to be Mets----most notably Bobby Bonilla and Tom Glavine. Glavine was more productive and loyal as a Met than given credit for and much more so than Bonilla, but in both cases it seemed that they came to New York because the Mets offered the most money and for no other reason. Bonilla didn't want to leave Pittsburgh; and Glavine always had his eye on Atlanta.

Panic is a breeding ground for foolhardiness. And the Mets have been fools long enough signing players who should be more grateful for their opportunities.

Contrary to popular belief, the Mets situation isn't as bad as is portrayed. Simply by having their injured players from the current roster healthy in 2010, they're back at .500 without making one player move. If they bring in a solid starting pitcher; a power bat or two; and some bullpen help, they're right back in the thick of things with a similar turnaround experienced by the Rockies in 2009 possible. The Phillies are vulnerable and the Braves are run by a widely-despised GM for whom no one seems to want to play and upon whom the Hall of Fame manager, Bobby Cox, almost quit in the spring.

The National League is wide open.

If Jason Bay feels he wants to play elsewhere, then lotsa luck.

If Bengie Molina thinks someone is going to offer him a third guaranteed year, go with God.

The fact is that Bay has nowhere else to go; that Molina is set to make the same mistake he made in 2005 when he and Ramon Hernandez had identical deals on the table from the Mets, he vacillated so long that the Mets turned around and traded for Paul LoDuca and Molina was relegated to signing a 1-year contract with the Blue Jays off the bargain rack. The Mets have to be engaged in discussions with the Pirates about Ryan Doumit, who'd be a better option than Molina anyway. If Molina waits much longer, he's going to walk into the same trap.

Amid all the criticism he receives for the way he plays the game at 1000 miles an hour, Francouer can do no wrong with Mets fans because he wants to be a Met. Other players considering the Mets should take heed, as should the organization. For too long they've compromised for expediency. It's enough. The money and the city should be a lure to gain players with enthusiasm and excitement about the organization.

If they don't want to be Mets, then the Mets shouldn't want them for any reason or amount of money.

Go somewhere else.

Good riddance.

  • That was quick:

If Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik traded Brandon Morrow for Brandon League (as is rumored) and a minor leaguer, then the word "genius" has been yanked off of his forehead far faster than anyone could ever have anticipated. There's talk that the minor leaguer is the newly acquired prospect Brett Wallace; but so what? I'm concerned about the "Andy Marte-effect" of a top prospect that teams are all-too-willing to include in trades. If it indeed is Wallace, then this would be his fourth organization in the span of six months.

League has a power fastball of nearly 100-mph and I've always liked him, but it's about time for him to start to produce. He's had injury problems and is going to be 27 early next year. Depending on how the Blue Jays use Morrow, this trade could come back to haunt Zduriencik very, very soon.

I've been saying for months that Morrow needed to get out of Seattle because of the Tim Lincecum shadow that's following him around. Through no fault of his own, Morrow has become one of the symbols of the previous Mariners regime led by former GM Bill Bavasi. Morrow was drafted five slots ahead of Lincecum in the 2006 draft and has never heard the end of it as the Washington native Lincecum has developed into one of the top three pitchers in baseball and Morrow was relentlessly jerked around by the Mariners, shuttling from the bullpen to the rotation to the minors and back and had numerous injury problems.

With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, of course it looks ridiculous to even consider drafting Morrow ahead of Lincecum; but was it really so absurd? Morrow is 6'3" and 190 lbs with a prototype pitcher's build and clean mechanics; Lincecum is listed at 5'10", but is closer to 5'8" if that, and with his unique set of mechanics and training regimen, does anyone blame the Mariners for looking at Lincecum; the fact that he had a "stage-father" who was insisting that no one mess with his son's motion or techniques, and saying thanks but no thanks? In comparing the two in 2006, I would've taken Morrow as well.

While the press coverage devoted to the starter or reliever debate of Joba Chamberlain in New York still rages, Morrow has in fact been yanked around worse than Chamberlain; and the main difference is that Chamberlain should be a reliever while Morrow should be a starter.

If the Blue Jays place him in the starting rotation and leave him be, they've acquired a potential 18-game winner for little more than Brandon League and a minor leaguer. This could have a giant win and the first domino to fall in the shattering of the myth of the Zduriencik "genius" because he just screwed up. Badly. Morrow was worth more than League even if Wallace is coming along with him. He should've gotten much, much more.

  • You've been licking too many spikes, my friend:

Regardless of how non-credible the source, it still stuns me how writers search for ways to kneel in front of the faltering "genius" Billy Beane for still the specious reason of finding way to "exploit market deficiencies".

Here's the clip from Buster Olney's latest bit of reporting sleight of hand:

Coco Crisp is nearing a deal with the Oakland Athletics, according to late word from MLB Trade Rumors' Tim Dierkes. Presumably Crisp will slot into Oakland's center field and be flanked by Ryan Sweeney and Rajai Davis to make up a strong defensive outfield. This is yet another sign that teams that are most shaped by statistical analysis have determined that defense is the undervalued asset in the current marketplace.



The problem is that Crisp doesn't do much of anything to help a team like the A's no matter how many heat-seeking rockets he tracks down in left and right center.

The problem is that Crisp can't hit.

I had the A's pegged----in what's shaping up to be a bastard of a division----for last place with a 73-89 record before they got Crisp; and after the acquisition of Crisp, I have them pegged (pending other "brilliant" Beane maneuvers)...at 73-89.

Now, I'm no genius, but according to my admittedly rudimentary calculations (x+y divided by the square root of the hypotenuse, hmmmm)...it's the same thing!!!!

If Crisp were going to a team that actually had guys who could hit, then he'd be a speedy, defensive asset.

But the A's can't hit.

You can point to all the stats you want, but Crisp does nothing for the A's.

This is a move designed by Beane to "do something" since has rebuffed by Marco Scutaro (that's right----rebuffed by Marco Scutaro); made a giant gaffe by non-tendering Jack Cust two years after he should've traded him; and is under increasing scrutiny as the Moneyball farce and the label of "genius" is no longer enough to protect him from his litany of mistakes.

Spin it any way you want, but this is a nothing move. Nothing.

  • Viewer Mail 12.22.2009:

Jeff (Acting Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE Coco Crisp:

I think perhaps a better question might be "for what possible reason does anyone need Coco Crisp?" The answer to that may have something to do with the hilarity of his tweets, but that's about as far as I'd go.

Are his Tweets $5 million hilarious? I doubt it. But Beane's the genius, not me. Maybe the humor is of the droll, highbrow variety that amuses Beane as he's sipping brandy in his ascot and robe while pontificating in his well-appointed library with a pompous look of smug superiority on his face.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Coco Crisp in response to Jeff:

And then there's the hilarity of his name, Jeff. Never forget the value in that.

I think I am missing something in Crisp's inherent value. Oh, to be a genius for only one day and to have the championship rings adorning Beane's fingers...oh, wait.

  • Some funny stuff:

First, Beeeebzy, a Twitter friend whose only drawback is that she's a rabid Yankee fan, wrote the following song parody to the tune of "Santa Baby" (and sang it quite effectively!!) to Brian Cashman asking for some pitching help. Truth be told, I doubt the song's going to inspire any movement. Cashman's such an empty suit that her ample charms will go flying right past him, but it's worth a listen for pure creativity and entertainment:

Then there's the reference to Buster Olney "licking too many spikes" from above. It comes from the disturbing (to put it mildly) ESPN ad from a few months ago. I've posted it before and can't resist doing it again for the uninitiated. Save it for later if you've just eaten is my advice:

Then there's the old standby----my ode to Billy Beane----in a transference from The Kids in the Hall----that I literally can watch all day long. "Did I hurt your genius feelings?"


Jeff said...

Nice article on Francoeur. If he had Beane's "genius" and Brad Pitt swaggar and good looks, I'd make him an Hall of Famer right now. That IS how it works, right?

She-Fan said...

No chance in hell the Yankees get Vazquez. One of your best predictions ever!

Beeeebzy said...

Well, I think we can all agree on one thing: Frank Wren is a freakin' GENIUS! (I hope my sarcasm isn't wasted over the internet).

Joe said...

See, a commenting section. Isn't it nice? :) I updated my blog finally. Don't know how frequently I will do so, but there is a post up! I don't care about the Coco signing as much as you. Because Beane must have a plan. I can't see him spending money without some kind of plan. And Coco is going to track down plenty of balls in that outfield. $5.5 million isn't all that much...


Bravesbloggerinlawschool said...

There are a few points. First of all, this trade wasn't about Melky Cabrera at all. It was about getting rid of payroll, getting quality prospects and getting a guy who could either play for the Braves next year and provide insurance if Heyward isn't ready or be traded in the right package. On first blush, I hated this trade. But for now I'm just going to reserve judgment on it. Second of all, I think its hard to deny the fact that the prospects that Wren got back for Vazquez were greater than the prospects he gave up. So essentially he got a free year of Vazquez, plus upgrade Tyler Flowers (who was blocked at the MLB level by McCann) into a better prospect.

Paul, At the time you said that the Braves gave up too much for Vazquez. And now you're saying this trade is also a bad trade. But at the end of the day, the Braves got back more than they gave up between the two trades: better prospects + a year of Javy Vazquez. How do two negative trades turn into an overall positive? If you're saying that the yankees trade was bad, you have to admit that the White Sox trade was brilliant.

Finally, this will be an awful trade if the braves don't turn the cash and/or prospects into a big time bat. From what I can tell, the Braves now have about 14 mill to play with (they had about 5 mill before and are saving about 9 mill in this deal). Plus they have a few more trade pieces.

We'll see what this turns into. I've heard everything from AGonz to X. Nady. If it turns into X. Nady, bad move. If it allows this to turn Javy Vazquez into Adrian Gonzalez, without giving up Hanson or Heyward, f'ing amazing trade. On the FA side, its not going to buy bay or holliday, but most other FA bats are in play now.

But I guess my overall point is that this just can't be proof that Wren is a bad GM, since he's leaving Javy Vazquez after getting a career best year and getting back more than he gave up to get him.

It's kind of funny that you approved of the Lowe contract, hated the original JV trade, yet they turned out totally backwards.

If you're going to say Wren is an awful GM, you're basically saying that the D. Lowe contract outweighed all the other moves that worked out. And no, I refuse to believe that giving up Francouer for a bag of balls was a bad move until Francouer actually has a full season of being an above replacement level bat.

Anonymous said...

Amazing as always