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
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.