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.

Gaylord Perry, two-time Cy Young winner, dies at 84

Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
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GAFFNEY, S.C. — Baseball Hall of Famer and two-time Cy Young Award winner Gaylord Perry, a master of the spitball and telling stories about the pitch, died at 84.

Perry died at his home in Gaffney, Cherokee County Coroner Dennis Fowler said. He did not provide additional details. A statement from the Perry family said he “passed away peacefully at his home after a short illness.”

The native of Williamston, North Carolina, made history as the first player to win the Cy Young in both leagues, with Cleveland in 1972 after a 24-16 season and with San Diego in 1978 – going 21-6 for his fifth and final 20-win season just after turning 40.

“Before I won my second Cy Young, I thought I was too old – I didn’t think the writers would vote for me,” Perry said in an article on the National Baseball Hall of Fame website. “But they voted on my performance, so I won it.”

“Gaylord Perry was a consistent workhorse and a memorable figure in his Hall of Fame career,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement, adding, “he will be remembered among the most accomplished San Francisco Giants ever … and remained a popular teammate and friend throughout his life.”

Perry was drafted by the San Francisco Giants and spent 10 seasons among legendary teammates like Hall of Famer Willie Mays, who said Thursday that Perry “was a good man, a good ballplayer and my good friend. So long old Pal.”

Juan Marichal remembered Perry as “smart, funny, and kind to everyone in the clubhouse. When he talked, you listened.”

“During our 10 seasons together in the San Francisco Giants rotation, we combined to record 369 complete games, more than any pair of teammates in the Major Leagues,” Marichal said. “I will always remember Gaylord for his love and devotion to the game of baseball, his family, and his farm.”

Perry, who pitched for eight major-league teams from 1962 until 1983, was a five-time All-Star who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1991. He had a career record of 314-255, finished with 3,554 strikeouts and used a pitching style where he doctored baseballs or made batters believe he was doctoring them.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame said in a statement that Perry was “one of the greatest pitchers of his generation.” The Texas Rangers, whom Perry played for twice, said in a statement that the pitcher was “a fierce competitor every time he took the ball and more often than not gave the Rangers an opportunity to win the game.”

“The Rangers express their sincere condolences to Gaylord’s family at this difficult time,” the team’s statement said. “This baseball great will be missed.”

Perry’s 1974 autobiography was titled “Me and the Spitter,” and he wrote it in that when he started in 1962 he was the “11th man on an 11-man pitching staff” for the Giants. He needed an edge and learned the spitball from San Francisco teammate Bob Shaw.

Perry said he first threw it in May 1964 against the New York Mets, pitched 10 innings without giving up a run and soon after entered the Giants’ starting rotation.

He also wrote in the book that he chewed slippery elm bark to build up his saliva, and eventually stopped throwing the pitch in 1968 after MLB ruled pitchers could no longer touch their fingers to their mouths before touching the baseball.

According to his book, he looked for other substances, like petroleum jelly, to doctor the baseball. He used various motions and routines to touch different parts of his jersey and body to get hitters thinking he was applying a foreign substance.

Giants teammate Orlando Cepeda said Perry had “a great sense of humor … a great personality and was my baseball brother.”

“In all my years in baseball, I never saw a right-handed hurler have such a presence on the field and in the clubhouse,” Cepeda added.

Seattle Mariners Chairman John Stanton said in a release that he spoke with Perry during his last visit to Seattle, saying Perry was, “delightful and still passionate in his opinions on the game, and especially on pitching.

Perry was ejected from a game just once for doctoring a baseball – when he was with Seattle in August 1982. In his final season with Kansas City, Perry and teammate Leon Roberts tried to hide George Brett’s infamous pine-tar bat in the clubhouse but was stopped by a guard. Perry was ejected for his role in that game, too.

After his career, Perry founded the baseball program at Limestone College in Gaffney and was its coach for the first three years.

Perry is survived by wife Deborah, and three of his four children in Allison, Amy and Beth. Perry’s son Jack had previously died.

Deborah Perry said in a statement to The AP that Gaylord Perry was “an esteemed public figure who inspired millions of fans and was a devoted husband, father, friend and mentor who changed the lives of countless people with his grace, patience and spirit.”

The Hall of Fame’s statement noted that Perry often returned for induction weekend “to be with his friends and fans.”

“We extend our deepest sympathy to his wife, Deborah, and the entire Perry family,” Baseball Hall of Fame chairman Jane Forbes Clark said.