Jeff Francoeur is selfish and deluded

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Every year someone pencils Jeff Francoeur in as their starting right fielder. Every year someone — or many someones — writes the “this is the year Francoeur finally lives up to his potential!” story. Every year he comes out and puts up a substandard performance that, if baseball was truly a meritocracy, would render him a platoon player at best.

And of course, every year when someone like me points this out, the response comes back that Francoeur is a team player who’s great in the clubhouse and everyone should just leave him alone.

But you know what? He’s not a team player. He’s not great in the clubhouse. I know this because someone who is a team player and great clubhouse guy would not have his agent campaigning in the media about how her client needs to start or be traded:

Mets outfielder Jeff Francoeur has told the club through his
representatives that he is interested in being traded to a team that
would play him more, both sides confirmed yesterday.

“We want to
play every day,” Francoeur’s agent Molly Fletcher said yesterday. “We
prefer to play in New York. But if we’re not going to play every day in
New York, we absolutely welcome the opportunity to play every day
somewhere else . . . Talk to me is just that: It’s talk. What matters is
what happens and is he in right field every day. And that’s what we’re
watching.”

Media campaigns designed to undermine team decision making are nothing new for Francoeur. In 2008 the Braves sent him down to the minors to try and figure out why he, you know, can’t hit. The stint was supposed to last weeks. As soon as he went down, however, stories began to appear in the Atlanta papers about how unhappy he was and his trip to the minors ended up lasting three games.

If any other player acted like this he’d be called out as a prima donna. Not Francoeur!  No, he gets damn nigh delusional profiles written about him in national publications about how sad it is that he’s not getting more playing time. And you should really read that link, by the way. It suggests that David Wright and Carlos Beltran would be benched if only there were people who could take their place, but Francoeur — who, sadly, doesn’t have a media horde following him as he approaches his 100th career home run! — deserves to be playing because he’s “the team’s hottest hitter.” With that designation being based on five games. Never mind that just before that stretch he was 0 for his previous 15. And you won’t be surprised to find his agent being quoted in that piece as well.

The selfish P.R. onslaught comes as the Mets are sinking in the standings and their team offensive numbers have plummeted to Cubs/Nats level. If any other player pulled this garbage they’d be excoriated in the press and on talk radio, but I can bet you good money that won’t happen to Francoeur. His alleged misuse will still be cited by those seeking Jerry Manuel’s head (never mind that trying to bench Francoeur is one of the few smart things he’s done this year). He’ll still have his supporters calling in to WFAN arguing that he just needs to be given a chance, notwithstanding the fact that he’s had 3300+ plate appearances which conclusively prove that he is, regrettably, what he is.

And what he is, at best, is a fourth outfielder. A platoon guy. A player who has no business starting for a team with pretensions of contention, and may not even be worthy of a starting slot on a rebuilder. His agent wants him to go someplace where he’ll play everyday? Tell me which team would be wise to hand him their starting job. Because, really, I can’t see one who should.

And that’s especially true if he continues to make the story all about him and his own interests as opposed to what’s best for his team.

Reds prospect Juan Duran suspended 80 games

Banned
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Juan Duran, a minor-league outfielder in the Reds’ farm system, has been suspended 80 games following positive tests for the performance-enhancing drugs Drostanolone, Stanozolol, and Nandrolone.

Duran is 6-foot-7 with big-time power, averaging 23 homers per 150 games since 2011, but he also strikes out a ton and struggles to control the strike zone. He spent last season at Double-A, missing a lot of time with injuries and hitting .256 with six homers and a .728 OPS in 59 games as a 23-year-old.

Duran is on the 40-man roster and is considered a quasi-prospect, but he’ll be ineligible to play until July and figures to head back to Double-A once reinstated.

The Blue Jays will talk long term deals with Jose Bautistia and Edwin Encarnacion

Jose Bautista Blue Jays
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Ever since Alex Anthopoulos resigned as Blue Jays’ GM and Mark Shapiro took over as team president, a distinct air of frugality has set in over Rogers Centre. The go-for-broke attitude that fueled Toronto’s fantastic second half last year was repudiated and long-term, sustainable building has seemed to be the order of the day.

But the Jays aren’t going to go crazy with that: ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports that the Blue Jays plan to have long-term extension talks with the agents of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion during spring training. This, combined with the still-remaining possibility that they can avoid arbitration with MVP Josh Donaldson and hammer out a long-term deal could mean some serious spending by the Jays before Opening Day.

Or this could just be talk from the front office designed to buoy the spirits of fans. Locking up all three of them to long-term deals may be hella expensive and may not be possible. It’s also the case that, given their ages — Bautista is 35 and Encarnacion is 33 — it may not be advisable to lock the both up. As always, it depends on the terms and how generous Rogers Communications plans on being with the Jays’ budget.

But the chatter is now out there and expectations are poised to be set.

The Rays are REALLY ready to get to work on that new ballpark

rays logo
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Last month St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay Rays reached an agreement that would allow the Rays to seek a new ballpark outside of the St. Pete city limits, anywhere in the Bay Area. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports¬†today that the Rays have submitted a required report to that end which “describes how they plan to evaluate potential ballpark sites across the Tampa Bay area” and serves as a rough outline of the sort of facility they’re looking to build.

They submitted it 39 days before deadline. Ya think they’re eager to get moving?

As for the specifics, it sounds like they’re shooting for a Braves or Cardinals style destination place with surrounding entertainment, retail and the like. The Braves are achieving that by basically building the park at a mall and plan to surround it with other mall/entertainment district-type development. The Cardinals built a downtown park, but have developed Ballpark Village after the fact. This is to be contrasted with downtown parks which either counted on existing city businesses or spurred separate development.

All of which makes sense given that there isn’t one dominant location in Tampa which all but demands development there. Tampa has a few different areas that might make sense and the place is generally more spread out than older cities. It also makes sense for the Rays’ owners who are likely well aware that being in the real estate business is just as good for them as being in the baseball business.

Will anyone EVER break that record that was broken nine years ago?

Hank Aaron
Associated Press
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In 2007, Barry Bonds hit his 756th home run. He would go on to hit six more, finishing his career with 762. That was nine years ago and, at present, the active home run leader is nearly 80 homers behind him and no sure bet to come close. The next closest guy is over 200 homers back and clearly entering a period of decline.

All of which raises the question: will anyone EVER pass the home run total of Hank Aaron, who is in second place on that list?

Maybe you think that’s not really a pertinent question. We tend not to ask whether people who do not, by any objective measure, hold a record will have their records surpassed. But you’d be wrong. Why, just today, on Hank Aaron’s 82nd birthday, at least two journalists speculated whether anyone would ever become the all-time second place home run king:

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 2.01.17 PM

That’s from Cliff Corcoran at Sports Illustrated. As always, it’s excellent work from Cliff. Right up there with his seminal “will anyone ever catch Lou Brock in stolen bases?” and “who can catch Trevor Hoffman in career saves?” pieces.

Then there’s Dave O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, who approves of the question posed and has his own response:

You can imagine how those tweets were received by those parts of Twitter who are all about PED apologia, math, objective standards, noting that Aaron admitted that he took a PED that would have him banned today too and stuff like that. As always, these things get ugly.

Not that they have to be. It’s almost as if, if one were to try, one could celebrate the amazing inner-circle Hall of Fame career of Hank Aaron, full as it is with nearly unsurpassed accomplishment, without applying a revisionist gloss to the one accomplishment that, according to all objective measures and the accounting of Major League Baseball, has been surpassed. That one could talk about Aaron without slagging on Bonds.