The Church-for-Francoeur trade ignited a brief but powerful rage within me that resulted in a slew of snarky yet cathartic posts, here, here, and here. It was a perfect storm of failure. The Mets traded for the laughingstock of the saber-inclined blogosphere, a player who uttered possibly the dumbest baseball-related quote ever. Additionally, I witnessed grossly misinformed talking heads on SNY calling it a win for the Mets. This wasn't a big deal I suppose -- I can get over Chris Carlin loving this trade because I don't put any stock into his awful quips on Beer Money, much less his opinion about roster construction. I also saw many widely read Mets bloggers reacting positively to the deal. Even some of the best were refusing to call it a big win for the Braves. I've since come off my soapbox of fury, from which I reined fire and brimstone about the trade to anyone who would listen. Witnessing Francoeur's two hits and admittedly sweet-looking swing at Citi Field on Sunday helped a bit. It was at the game that I tried to come up with a non-cliché reason why we should have some hope for Frenchy.
Almost all of the reasons why we should supposedly be optimistic about Francoeur have been documented -- he's young, stays healthy, has upside, his game is suited for Citi Field, has a huge wingspan, etc. Most of these are silly and Sam covered them nicely. I also don't buy the "pride" argument. That is, Francoeur doesn't seem like a guy fazed by the shock of being traded. He seemingly has no shame. When sent down to the minors last season, after hitting .234/.287/.374 in 362 plate appearances for the Braves, his response was one of annoyance rather than embarrassment.
"I was upset [Thursday] night when I got home," Francoeur said. "[Friday] morning, when I woke up, it was anger that I was feeling."... "I'm disappointed with the decision and how the whole process went down."
You would think such an action might be a wake-up call, a sign that he needs to change his free-swinging, no-walking approach. No, the demotion was an affront to the cocksure Francoeur. He continued his awful strategy at the plate after being promoted back to the big club, apparently learning nothing from his trip to the farm. That leaves me with one last reason for hope that Francoeur will work to improve his anti-OBP mindset -- money.
The best way to explain this is through a story about a former co-worker who we will call Tim. Tim was a smart guy, attended a fine college, and was relatively competent at his job. Tim's biggest problem was that he wasn't a people person, to say the least. In fact, he was unpleasant to work with due to his horrible personality. When another co-worker asked Tim why he was such a jerk, he replied (paraphrasing), "when I'm paid to be nice to people, that's when I'll change." A few months pass, the economy goes into the tank, and corporate is looking to make some "targeted workforce reductions." Management discusses some downsizing candidates and, surprise, surprise, Tim gets the axe. At his poorly attended farewell happy hour, Tim says that he was told in his exit interview that his "poor workplace candor" was a major contributing factor to the decision. Turns out it would have paid to be nicer to people. Francoeur is Tim. If Frenchy does not stop his hacktastic approach in the 2nd half, and put up some numbers more appropriate for a corner outfielder, there is a strong chance he will be non-tendered at season's end. Non-tendered players generally do not command the big bucks. For a player who turned down a contract offer in the neighborhood of 6 years, ~$27 million prior to the 2007 season, it would be quite a fall from grace.
From his time as a schoolboy legend playing both baseball and football, Francoeur had his life mapped out. First round draft pick. Promoted to the majors at age 21. Sports Illustrated cover. Next comes the pretty wife, the millions of dollars, and the happily ever after. Except the millions of dollars part looks like a longshot right now, save what he's earned thus far. At this point, the problem isn't his beautiful swing -- it's that he doesn't realize it's a good thing to not swing once in awhile. In fact, it's a great thing. He looks destined to pop up with a new team every couple years, desperately hoping to finally translate his talent to on-field production. However, if he can raise his putrid 3.7% BB% and lower his absurd 58% swing %, it might lead to an arbitration offer or a contract from a team encouraged by progress.
Reasonable suggestions from coaches couldn't make him change his approach. A trip to the minors couldn't. Here's hoping the simple allure of cash will motivate to Francoeur re-evaluate his batter's box attitude in the 2nd half.