Tuesday, August 03, 2010

A Prospect, Redemption, and Reality

Imagine with me, if you will, a young hotshot baseball prospect.

He came up with his hometown organization, a bright prospect with a bright future. A hero among the locals. He scorched his way into the baseball consciousness by hitting .359 with 10 home runs and an OPS of 1049 in his first month and a half.

Then, he struggled to finish that year. The next year, he did okay, but worse - in fact, he was below average. The next year, he struggled again. His fourth year in the majors, he seemed to have hit rock bottom - he posted a 653 OPS and an abysmal .294 OBP. His power was gone. He made no strides in his plate discipline. He did nothing to capitalize on his promise.

Were there questions about his work ethic? No. Were there complaints about his effusive personality despite his struggles? No. Was there any concern that he had bad influences on him playing in the city he was born in? No. Was he criticized for being over-hyped or failing to capitalize on his obvious physical talent? No.

The next year, after struggling terribly again, he was then shipped out of town in a trade. Four years of abject failure from a once-hyped prospect was enough. And lo and behold! With his new team he seemed to flourish. He batted .311 and hit 10 home runs in only 75 games. His positive personality was lauded as a benefit to the clubhouse. The change of scenery may have worked, chirped the media.

Unfortunately, things turned for the worse again. He struggled mightily again. He posted a 656 OPS and failed to show any improvement in his plate discipline. He was benched, and began to gripe about his playing time. He may even have demanded a trade.

And to make things even MORE obvious? His former team has gotten BETTER since he left, and now leads their division, while his current team flounders around the .500 mark.

The player, of course, is Jeff Francoeur. Francoeur, by all objective measures, always has been terrible, currently is terrible, and always will be terrible. Over five seasons in the major leagues, he has not made the slightest smidgen of progress in improving any aspect of his game.[1] The only times he has ever shown any signs of life as a hitter has been when a) he was called to the majors, b) when he was traded to the Mets, and c) when his playing time was challenged. Doesn't that strike you as lazy?

But tomorrow morning (or today, depending on when you read) you will see the newspapers full of article about Jeff Francoeur's redemption. About his plucky attitude. About how he worked a walk. About how ... well, golly ... is there a chance the Mets are better with Francoeur in the lineup than Bay? Weren't the Mets 11 games over .500 when Francoeur played every day?[2] Didn't the collapse begin when Francoeur lost at-bats to Beltran?

Do your duty as an intelligent Mets fan. Tell your friends that Francoeur sucks. Tell them to look at his stats - they have been horrible for years. If they say his defense is good, ask them if they remember how Francoeur misplayed Melky Cabrera's hit tonight. If they say his clubhouse presence is good, tell them to look at the standings, or ask them if they remember how good of a presence he was when he was benched.

If they don't listen to any of that, be firm with them and say HEY. STOP IT.


[1] I'll include this as a footnote, because this is not what the post is about -- but is there ANY DOUBT AT ALL that if Jeff Francoeur was black or Hispanic, that he would not already be out of baseball? A player who shows no willingness to improve, his teams get better after he leaves, who appears to have fun and play around on the field, and who flat out sucks? I think you'd be lying if you didn't expect that young minority player to be heavily scrutinized.

[2] Marc Malusis literally said this on Loudmouths tonight, or whatever SNY show that was after SportsNite.

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