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The Mets bench my longtime nemesis, Jeff Francoeur

Jul 12, 2010, 9:10 AM EDT

For years I moaned every time Jeff Francoeur’s name appeared in the Braves’ lineup (which was every single game between 2005 and 2009, really). The guy couldn’t hit. He was killing my team. I couldn’t complain too much, though, because for reasons known only to John Schuerholz, Frank Wren and God Almighty, the Braves never made an effort to go and get an outfielder who deserved Francoeur’s playing time more than Francoeur himself did.

With Carlos Beltran’s return the Mets aren’t in that situation, however, and now they’ve done what the Braves never would or never could allow themselves to do: they’ve sent Frency to the benchy:

Manager Jerry Manuel met with Francoeur for about 30 minutes Sunday
to discuss what Beltran’s activation would mean for his role on the
team. Both Manuel and Francoeur described the meeting as very positive.

Manuel told reporters before Sunday’s game against the Braves that he
planned to shift Angel Pagan to right field upon Beltran’s return,
displacing Francoeur, who Manuel said would start mostly against
left-handed pitchers.

To Francouer’s credit, he is saying all the right things. Pagan deserves to start. He’ll do his best as a pinch hitter and platoon bat (Frenchy ain’t fantastic against lefties, but he’s hitting them better than Pagan is this year). He’s not going to sit and sulk. In short, he’s being a pro.

This is quite a contrast to the last time Francoeur faced some professional adversity. The Braves sent him down to the minors a few years ago to try and get him to work on not swinging at every pitch he saw (which was quite a damning statement given that the Braves have never placed all that much emphasis on plate discipline). Francoeur’s response: full-blown temper tantrum.  The experiment was supposed to last for several weeks but ended up lasting three days thanks to Francoeur’s sulk-fest. Always tight with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, it was really no surprise to see the press rally to his side and to see the Braves’ front office cave in.  I had been souring on Frenchy for some time before that, but that incident turned me off him for good.

He’s off my team now and on he’s on my team’s rival so I have no need to really consider Francoeur all that deeply anymore. Yet like someone involved in a bad breakup, I still think about him a lot. Maybe it’s schadenfreude at him hurting the Mets. Maybe it’s just because he’s not causing me direct pain anymore. Whatever it is, I’m starting to soften on the guy.

Indeed, this benching incident — and his response — actually has me thinking nice things about him for the first time in a good four years. For the longest time my biggest beef against Francoeur wasn’t that he was bad per se, it was that he seemed completely unwilling to acknowledge that his game was flawed and that he had anything to learn.  In his response to being benched, however, it seems that he has at least begun to accept reality, and that’s something.

  1. Benny Blanco - Jul 12, 2010 at 9:31 AM

    He will be a solid bat off the bench and will still get plenty of playing time. I doubt Beltran will play 6 or 7 games a week and Bay will need a day off every now and then too.

  2. Simon DelMonte - Jul 12, 2010 at 9:51 AM

    I like him, in the same way as I like Jerry Manuel. Neither is great at what they do. But both bring a lot of fire to the game and both add something to the Mets. Both also subtract something at the same time, so their inevitable departures aren’t something I will cry over. But they have at times impressed me by how they handle themselves. Moreover, they seem like interesting people, the sort that might not be champions but might make good dinner companions.
    Also, Frenchy still has the best rifle arm of any Met I’ve ever seen. In that cavern of a park, on a team slowly remembering that Mets=pitching, he will continue to have a role for as long as he’s here.

  3. Chris Fiorentino - Jul 12, 2010 at 9:54 AM

    Once Beltran returns, the “triumvirate of choke” will be back together again…even the knowledge that their partner in choking was on his way back got them back into their losing state of mind. LOL.

  4. nps6724 - Jul 12, 2010 at 9:59 AM

    If by “solid bat off the bench” you mean the bat itself is indeed solid, then yes.

  5. john pileggi - Jul 12, 2010 at 11:01 AM

    Jeff is a solid young man (he is still really a kid) and has and will handle this well. There is not doubting that Pagan has won the job through performance. But, bear in mind that Beltran is still fragile and that Bay has had his struggles as well. It will take 4 outfielders to get the Mets through this season and so we will still see a great deal of Frenchy.

  6. Church of the Perpetually Outraged - Jul 12, 2010 at 11:29 AM

    Are you really going to call him a choker based on one at bat, considering how well he’s done in the so called “clutch” at bats?
    [courtesy of b-ref]
    Reg Season – .283/.360/.496
    Close and Late – .272/.353/.471
    RISP – .305/.388/.532
    Post Season – .366/.485/.817
    Yeah, he’s a choker all right.

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