A Requiem for Jeff Francoeur

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Joe Posnanski looks back at the illustrious career of the recently-DFA’d Jeff Francoeur and pretty much groks the essence:

Jeff Francoeur is one of the greatest guys in baseball. Everybody thinks so. He’s always smiling. He’s always friendly. On the field, he always tries. Lord, he tries. Runs out those grounders. Throws home with gusto. Off the field he’s always doing something cool like signing an autograph or chatting up a kid or appearing at a charity event or helping a teammate or talking to a young reporter who was nervously looking for someone to talk with. When you’re a kid, you might imagine how you would act as a big league ballplayer — and you would probably be imagining the life of Jeff Francoeur.

Well, you probably would imagine yourself a better hitter — which is the real life part of the story.

There’s a part of the Francoeur mythos that goes “the media loved him so they talked him up big all the time and overlooked his weaknesses.” And there is a lot of truth to that. But the media didn’t sign him to contracts, trade for him or give him far more plate appearances than he deserved over the years. That was on the Braves, Mets, Rangers and Royals. Certainly professional teams aren’t dazzled by a great personality and thus fooled into poor baseball decisions, are they?

I don’t think so. Rather, I think teams are victims of a different kind of delusion. The delusion of a breakout performance like Francoeur had as soon as he was called up in 2005.

Francoeur has stunk far more than he’s prospered, and the reason he’s been allowed to do so is because — at least in my opinion — good first impressions outweigh the bulk of one’s performance as far as baseball evaluators are concerned. Some of them — at least the ones who pulled the trigger on Francoeur — are prejudiced to assume that only great players can break out big, so Francoeur must be a great player struggling rather than a poor hitter who just lucked into some occasional greatness.

If a player with Francoeur’s same skills, such as they are, stumbled poorly for about 3,500 plate appearances to start his career he’d never get a chance to shine in those 1,000 plate appearances in which Francoeur did. Heck, he’d not even get the 3,500. But ooh, that chance of promise! It’s like plunking money into a slot machine you just saw pay off. That’s basically what GMs and managers have done with Francoeur since 2005.

But, contrary to my headline, I doubt it’s actually time for a requiem. Someone is gonna, once again, look back at how he did for a brief spell eight years ago and the half-season blips he’s had on occasion, assume that that — as opposed to the huge number of plate appearances in which he has been terrible — is the “real Jeff Francoeur” and sign or trade for him within the next week. You just know it.

Mike Trout has a torn thumb ligament, could require surgery

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Yesterday Mike Trout left the Marlins-Angels game after hurting his thumb while sliding head first into second base. After the game the Angels talked about it as if it were just a sprain. Trout had an MRI today, however, and the diagnosis is far worse: he has a torn thumb ligament.

While a treatment option has not yet been chosen, surgery is a possibility. A certainty is that he’ll miss, at the very least, several weeks of play. He has been placed on the disabled list for the first time in his career.

Trout, the reigning AL MVP and, without question, the best player in baseball, is batting .337/.461/.742 with 16 home runs, 36 RBI, 36 runs scored, and 10 stolen bases in 206 plate appearances this season. Even with the one of the weaker supporting casts in baseball, Trout had the Angels near .500 and in at least arguable contention in the AL West.

Without him, they are likely sunk. Without him, baseball is worse off.

Basebrawl! Harper, Strickland punch away, Nats-Giants fight

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SAN FRANCISCO — Nationals slugger Bryce Harper and San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland both landed punches to the head during a wild brawl that erupted Monday after a hit by pitch.

Harper was hit in the right hip by Strickland’s 98 mph fastball in the eighth inning with Washington ahead 2-0.

Harper pointed the bat toward Strickland, charged the mound and fired his batting helmet wide of the pitcher. They started to swing away and they each connected as the benches and bullpens emptied.

At least two Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the brawl all the way into the dugout. Harper and Strickland were both ejected.

In the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland. After the star’s second shot, in Game 4, he stared at Strickland as he rounded the bases.