Jeff Francoeur Is Indeed A Keeper

As you may have heard, Bart Hubbuch of the NY Post reported that rightfielder Jeff Francoeur will return to the Mets and speculated that Minaya may even sign him to an extension, something that Minaya previously alluded to last month.

You can imagine the uproar all over the Mets blogosphere as they react to such devastating news. Luckily, the Mets don’t concern themselves with such mindless mutterings, and instead did exactly what they needed to do.

The speculation on sites like MLBTR that Francoeur was a non-tender candidate was very odd at best, especially coming from a site that prides itself on providing all the buzz. I guess they never tuned into the Mets buzz on Francoeur. If they had they would have known that all the signals included glowing comments from the players, to Jerry Manuel, to Omar Minaya, and to everyone in the front office. “When you mention Jeff Francoeur’s name”, one beat writer reported, “the Mets get all giddy”.

Even when they had to report the news that Francoeur would be tendered, observe how it was presented:

Cross Jeff Francoeur off the list of non-tender candidates – Minaya said Francoeur will be back and also mentioned that an extension is a possibility. Mets fans – do you believe Francoeur’s 308 plate appearances with the club represent a reformed hitter?

No doubt a loaded question that wreaks with bias. A reformed hitter? The guy is 25 years old! I don’t really have anything against MLBTR which is one of the best sources for hot stove news anywhere, but I wanted to illustrate the depth of the growing animosity toward Francoeur. When Hubbuch reported on the Mets tenders, it also included tendering Sean Green and his 4.54 ERA, 4 losses, 3 blown saves, and his 54/35 k/bb rate. However, nary a peep about that situation.

At first I thought this animosity was limited to a couple of great Mets sites that I happen to disagree with on this one matter, but it has grown exponentially since then and gone completely viral.

In fact, I can’t think of another hitter right now, who is a greater target of the advanced metrics crowd than Jeff Francoeur. While I embrace advanced metrics more and more each day, one of the turnoffs is how their most devoted disciples believe these metrics are the “end-all” when evaluating a player. Any human emotion, perception, or use of our God given senses is considered blasphemy.

Why is Francoeur not given any credit for what he did since coming to the Mets?

Why must his performance be simply whisked away simply because it went against the predictions of doom, gloom and failure by the sabermetric crowd?

Has it become so hard for Mets fans to root for their own?

We won a World Series with Ron Swoboda in rightfield, and yet we have someone infinitely better and most choose to despise his very presence on this team.

How many times have we said that we need role players on the Mets, and that we can’t afford to put a superstar at every position? Doesn’t Francoeur at the very least fill that role? Can’t he be the Mets version of a Pedro Feliz or Matt Diaz?

How many times have we wished for a clubhouse leader and for someone to finally show some fight and some heart?

I’ve been a big Francoeur supporter since day one, mostly because of the barrage of attacks on him that followed the trade. All of a sudden I saw him as an underdog with the deck clearly stacked against him. As a lifelong Mets fan it was only a natural instinct to embrace him and root for him to succeed.

Francoeur came here with no welcome mat or red carpet rolled out for him. He left Atlanta under the worst of circumstances and arrived in New York to a mob mentality of anger and resentment from the Mets blogosphere. Failcoeur T-Shirts were hot sellers and suddenly Mets fans and Braves fans were best the best of friends instead of rivals. Their disdain for Francoeur binded them in an uncanny way and it became a unifying force. (I wanted to throw up at the time.)

At 25 years old, Frenchy ignored the obvious railing against him and instead he focused on a new opportunity and a chance to consider his last few years and figure out what went wrong. From day one, Francoeur was thrilled to become a Met and he made sure everyone knew it too. And unlike the money motivated love for New York muttered by Sabathia and Burnett, Francoeur actually meant it.

Within weeks he quickly became a vital part of the team chemistry. His teammates and manager had all embraced him, and in the meantime he was wielding a hot bat that some mistook for a hot streak. As the Mets continued to sink in the standings, his influence in the clubhouse kept rising as he does and says the right things and encourages his teammates to keep playing hard and fighting. “If not for a pennant, than do it for pride in ourselves as baseball players, and for pride in the team name emblazoned across our chests.”

Then one day as fate would have it, Francoeur tears the ligaments in his thumb while making a diving catch. The next day an MRI confirmed the diagnosis and Francoeur missed his first game ever due to an injury. While the Mets considered their options which included season ending surgery, Francoeur ended any talk of a DL stint or surgery and said he would play with the injury and take care of it in the offseason. “Tape me up and do whatever it takes to get me into the game today.”

At the time Francoeur was hitting .308 with six home runs and 24 RBI in 39 games.

While playing with the injured thumb, Francoeur continued his torrid pace at the plate through the end of the season and ultimately led the Mets in homeruns, RBIs, slugging percentage, and total bases during that stretch.

All of the soothsayers who waited for him to flop, never got their chance to say, “I told you so.” You can imagine their frustration at the thought of someone beating their statistical prophecies. So now their new mantra is that 308 plate appearances is a small sample size. And yet a smaller sample size was good enough to proclaim Daniel Murphy the everyday leftfielder a year ago. Do you see what I’m getting at?

In 287 at-bats, Francoeur finished the season with a .311 batting average, a .498 slugging, and his .836 OPS was the highest since his rookie year when the former first round pick and BA’s top five pick, was the hottest prospect in baseball and even got his own cover on Sports Illustrated dubbed, “The Natural”.

Looking at the matter from a financial perspective, it makes sense to give Francoeur an extension and buy out his remaining years of arbitration and possibly one year of free agency. If by chance I’m right, and Francoeur continues doing what he has always done since donning the Mets uniform, he could makes as much as $10 million in 2011, and $14 million in 2012. As it stands now, if the Mets could get him to sign a three year deal for $15-$18 million dollars, wouldn’t that make perfect sense… and dollars and cents too? We’re always crying about not getting value and not using foresight to buy low in anticipation of a high level of performance, well here’s the chance to do it and yet because the name is Francoeur all of a sudden nobody wants to do the fiscally responsible thing.

I can go on and on and continue this rant which has already far exceeded the number of words I intended to write, but at least I was able to give you some of my pros on why tendering Francoeur was great idea, and why I applaud the Mets for it. You can go just about anywhere else if you want to read the cons. They won’t be too difficult to find.

About Joe D 7953 Articles
I'm a lifelong Mets fan who loves writing and talking about the Amazins' 24/7. From the Miracle in 1969 to the magic of 1986, and even the near misses in '73, '00 and '15, I've experienced it all - the highs and the lows. I started Mets Merized Online in 2005 to feed my addiction and interact with other passionate Met fans like you. Follow me on Twitter @metsmerized.