When the Mets traded Ryan Church for 25 year old left fielder Jeff Francoeur, the Braves as well as every saber-head in the universe said the Mets got hosed. Lately, they don’t chirp as loudly as they once did. I think they are lying in wait for one false move by Francoeur so they could jump out and proclaim, “You see! I told you so!”. I also believe they have a long wait ahead of them.
I never really understood why all that animosity that was hurled his way. At the time it was just a swap of two average players who needed a change of scenery, but the reaction was as if the Mets traded Fernando Martinez and Jenrry Mejia for Francoeur instead of Ryan Church, who incidentally was subsequently released by the Braves. Could you even imagine the Mets releasing Jeff Francoeur now?
The former first round pick immediately showed up and added a much needed offensive jolt to the lineup and a positive determination that had been missing for most of the 2009 season. In 75 games he batted .311 while collecting 32 extra-base hits and finishing with a .498 slugging percentage. It was enough to silence his detractors for the time being, but they still shrug their shoulders and say “small sample size” under their breaths.
Francoeur spent his offseason dedicated to improving as a hitter and becoming a more dominant run producer. He spent some time with Howard Johnson this winter where they focused mainly on pitch recognition and improving his patience at the plate.
All of that aside, Francoeur has been one of the most outspoken and vocal Mets this offseason. He believes in this Mets team… and he wants all of us to believe in them too.
Yesterday, Francoeur told reporters that he is “sick and tired of 2009” and he believes the Mets have as much of a chance of going to the post season as the New York Yankees.
“At this point, who cares what happened last year? Even though the Yankees, they won it, but it really doesn’t matter at this point. It’s a new season. Besides Carlos Beltran, you look at everyone is healthy that is supposed to be healthy, and that is huge. We have no excuses now. We’ve got everybody we need here. We’ve got one more guy to get back hopefully in May, and if we can’t win with that, then it’s our fault.”
We need more of that kind of attitude around here. We need that kind of swagger.
Francoeur has had a positive effect on David Wright who suddenly ditched his choir boy image and now looks and talks a lot like his old friend Paul LoDuca (without the crazy eyes). There are other good reasons to be encouraged this season.
- Jason Bay was lauded by former Met Dave Magadan as a huge presence in the Red Sox clubhouse who motivated everyone on the team.
- Johan Santana seems determined to make both Oliver Perez and Jose Reyes stand up and deliver the best performances of their careers this season.
- Mike Pelfrey is leaner and oh is he ever so meaner too. Pelf is a man on a mission.
- I believe Barajas and Blanco will get the most out of our pitching staff after enduring a season where Omir and Schneider got the worst out of them.
Sometimes all you need is one guy to stand up and deliver a solid performance and back it up with a confident swagger. According to all the experts, Francoeur was a zero and someone who would make the Mets worse and not better. They were all wrong. Jeff Francoeur almost immediately began changing the culture of the Mets clubhouse from the day he first got there. He still is.
I’m sure people thought that Ron Swoboda in ’69 and Tug McGraw in ’73 were crazy too. But that’s the thing about swagger… It’s the confidence to believe in yourself even when nobody else does. Soon your teammates start believing in you too, and before you know it they start to believe in themselves as well. We’ve seen it before Mets fans.
Aren’t you sick and tired of 2009 too? Aren’t you sick and tired of hearing and reading how bad we are? Or how terrible out prospects are? Or what a terrible offseason we had?
I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to start believing again.