Jeff Francoeur is suddenly a Texas Ranger , in the leaderly company of Alex Cora. Rod Barajas is a happily homestanding Los Angeles Dodger. Jason Bay is a dizzy denizen of the Disabled List, perhaps wishing life worked as it does in the cartoons and that if he could just slam his face into another outfield fence, it would cure him of his concussion…or that maybe he would wake up, go back in time to when he was a free agent and choose another path for his once-thriving career.
In the meantime, no Bay, no Barajas, no Cora, now no Francoeur. No wonder the Mets aren’t playing well — all their clubhouse chemists have left the laboratory.
So what happened? What happened to the improved vibe from which we were going to benefit? How come David Wright, off whose shoulders the pressure of having to be dutiful team spokesman was going to be taken, doesn’t look any happier as we enter the final turn of 2010 than he did a year ago (save for his not being the dizzy one this time around)? Why aren’t the Mets more cheerful? Or, for that matter, appreciably better?
To paraphrase Prof. Francoeur himself , if clubhouse chemistry is so important, then why don’t they put it up on the scoreboard?
One hundred ninety-nine games spanning two seasons notwithstanding, it’s almost like Jeff Francoeur never happened…which I understand would suit a vocal faction of Mets fans just fine. Francoeur came here and was exactly what his past indicated he would be. A cottage industry sprang up for the sole purpose of robustly cataloguing his many offensive shortcomings. The harping and carping over Jeff Francoeur swinging and essentially missing was nearly as relentless the swinging and missing itself.
The drumbeat of griping didn’t necessarily wear well. But neither did Francoeur, whose departure (which brings us infielder Joaquin Arias and, presumably, playing time for callup Lucas Duda) makes 2010 the thirteenth consecutive season in which the Met to make the most starts in right field one year is not with the team at the conclusion of the following year . Jeff Francoeur is the entry on that dubious list for both 2009 and, barring some bizarre decision to bring him back this winter, 2010.
Consistent with the Mets’ past 14 months constituting one overlong holding action, Jeff’s entire Met tenure was kind of a zero-sum proposition — we were lousy when he got here, we were lousy with him, and I wouldn’t count on marked improvement just because he’s gone. But he did unleash some very nice throws. The pattern held right down to his last game which, in accordance with the general trend of this club lately, wound up the final loss in the Age of Frenchy . He nailed Martin Prado at the plate in the fifth. Great throw. The Braves scored three runs in the moments leading up to it and they would score four more in the moments leading out of it, but great throw.
Terrible approach at the plate. Terrible stubbornness when it came to learning to or maybe refusing to take pitches. Terrible presence in the middle of a rally. Terrible, brutal, endless slumps. But great throws and an All-Star smile. I don’t know if the attitude necessarily synched to the numbers — you’re batting .237, what the hell are you smiling about? — but every ballplayer, if he can manage to, should look like he knows he’s living the life.
Jeff Francoeur is making $5 million this season. On his way out of the visitors clubhouse at Turner Field, he said something about how he’s gonna miss “the guys” and how he’ll be “flying” someone to Chicago this weekend to sit in for him at the Mets’ fantasy football draft. Making $5 million for getting on base 29% of the time, he could really do that. The guys let their baseball season go south, but it sounds like they have a helluva football league brewing in the chemically correct clubhouse that Frenchy built.
You are living the life, Jeff. You don’t need a fantasy draft. Your life is a fantasy. And now the fantasy takes you from fourth place to first.
How could you not be smiling?
It appears Scott Jarzombek of the Poughkeepsie Journal smiled a little bit when he read Faith and Fear in Flushing: An Intense Personal History of the New York Mets. Read the review here  and check out what Scott calls “the definitive Mets fan book” here .