over the past 24 hours, i’ve been thinking about just how much i’ve grown up in the past 13 months. it’s not always easy to comb your past and identify specific days that changed you, that set you on a new path, but in this case, i can give you that day. july 10, 2009. a day i swore would come back to haunt that team which i hold dearest, a day i swore omar minaya would regret, a day i swore marked the absolute and final end of my tolerance of jerry life’s-a-comedy-club manuel, a day i know i scared my boyfriend because i would not stop swearing these three things (or swearing in general).
frenchy the met
july 10, 2009. the new york mets trade rf ryan church to the atlanta braves for rf jeff francoeur. the transaction that sent me into a tailspin. i was in the car on my way down to long beach island with my boyfriend, and, as he can attest (unless he’s blocked that car ride out of his mind), i flipped. fired off like eight different texts reading only “noooooooooooooooo.” cursed up a storm. called my brother to curse up a storm. cranked up the radio so i could yell at the broadcasters on wfan. turned off the radio ’cause i couldn’t take it. texted other people who may or may not have cared about this, or indeed about anything related to baseball at all. cursed some more.
explanation: churchie was one of my favorites, and he got a bum deal with the mets. the team egregiously mishandled the concussion he suffered sliding aggressively into second base trying to bust up the double play that ended a game we were going to lose anyway, back in may 2008. i’ll spare the details. then, when ryan finally returned to health last season, esteemed manager jerry manuel made his distaste for churchie abundantly clear, insinuating that he was a “soft” player, forgetting how ryan sustained the injury and ignoring the fact that he played with more grit than 90% of the team. i am gritting my teeth just remembering this, but again, i’ll spare the details.
i wanted jerry to get put in his place, to see he was wrong about my beloved right fielder. instead, they shipped churchie to atlanta for the former golden boy of the braves?! i hated jeff francoeur on principle for years. the dude was the face of my enemy, and i’d have to root for him? the guy’s numbers were terrible, and omar eloquently tried to explain francoeur’s value: “the thing we like about francoeur is the amount of games he plays.” &%#*$.
but over the next few weeks and months, my cold heart softened. and not only because frenchy started hitting really well, though that certainly helped. the guy was a breath of fresh air for a clubhouse of doom – he visibly lightened the mood of the players, he looked like he actually enjoyed the game, and all in spite of the fact that he had been traded from a pennant race to the titanic.
he made the mets watchable, i learned how to spell francoeur. and in spite of myself, i found that the guy whose name i cursed so loudly on july 10 (and 11 and 12 …) had become my favorite met.
now, in light of everything i’ve just said, i don’t mean to be melodramatic. but my blue-and-orange heart is broken. and i will never let myself fall in love with an under-performing right fielder again.
if only we saw this kind of swing more often
i knew frenchy was not long for this team, that 2/3 of the mets’ future outfield was set by virtue of very large contracts, and that angel pagan deserves every inch of that other 1/3. but i thought i had another month to say goodbye. yesterday, when i went to espn to see how bad the mets had lost, i was met with a blog post saying that clubhouse attendants had just cleaned out frenchy’s locker, and that his trade to the rangers (for a utility infielder who had been dropped from texas’ major-league team, natch) was all but complete.
i didn’t flip out like i thought i would. at first i thought it was a sign of maturity, but i think it’s more of a sign of resignation. it’s like the mets require that certain misery standards be met. how ironic that i’d come to love the guy i hated, only to lose him. it’s only right.
we dispense with the logical part first. frenchy’s 2010 line includes a .237 batting average and a .293 on-base percentage. i’m sure all the texas ranger fans (are there ranger fans?) are as baffled today as i was last july 10. well, they probably didn’t throw a huge tantrum and refuse to speak in words that wouldn’t need to be bleeped out for a two-hour car ride. but you get the point. his offensive numbers are atrocious.
and i’ve been worried about those numbers all season. after starting off with absolutely monster numbers over the season’s first 10 games or so, his numbers took a nosedive. at first, i chalked it up to the curse of vic’s fantasy teams, in which any mets player i pick up has either the worst start of his career or bats .000 until i drop him. (lest anyone think me a sentimental fantasy player, i must state that frenchy was not even on my radar screen on draft day, but after two weeks of .440 hitting, you wonder if there’s something there.) i have two fantasy rules, which i try my best to adhere to:
- no mets, since every one i touch immediately loses it, and every mets starter i pass on has the most magnificent start of his life on the day i actively choose not to pick him up. (my exception to the starter rule is johan, because he is already the most unlucky pitcher in baseball, and i know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he will get exactly zero runs of support regardless of whether my fantasy team employs him. i broke my rule for jon niese yesterday, and a meltdown and a 9-run onslaught later, here we are.)
- no phillies, since they are all dirty dirtbags and i would rather have my fantasy team lose every single matchup than look at a philthie player’s line and hope he did anything other than strike out and otherwise embarrass himself in every at-bat. (i have stated my feelings very, very mildly. there is a time for bashing philthies, but this is not it.)
but back to frenchy. i started getting very nervous for him, especially as he started to abandon the (relatively) patient approach he adopted after the trade last year.
if i were in the mood to gamble four times a night, i would bet my life savings that frenchy would swing at the first pitch of his at-bat, regardless of the location. you could tell me that the pitcher was going to throw the ball behind francoeur’s head, and i’d still make the bet. about a week ago, my brother and i were discussing frenchy’s tenuous position with the mets at the end of the season. wanting to come up with a solution that would help jeff get back on track so the mets would consider keeping him, i wondered for the umpteenth time why hojo wasn’t living up to his responsibilities as a hitting coach with him, or why jerry was doing nothing about this – on one hand, jerry was probably too busy scripting his stand-up monologue for his post-game press conference, but on the other, he loves calling out his players in the media.
we'll definitely miss your defense
no, i don’t realistically want to blame anyone other than francoeur himself for the hack hack hack approach. he’s the one with the bat in his hands. but i threw this idea out to my brother, and i really don’t see why no one would come up with something like this: fine him. fine him every time he swings at the first pitch. give him the take sign, and fine him if he ignores it. make him buy the whole team dinner. make him wear a dress on travel day. bench him immediately after the at-bat.
i just kept hoping that he would rise above his inability to keep the bat on his shoulder so that he could start to put up the numbers on the field that would make the mets resign him this off-season. but in the end, frenchy couldn’t fight his nature. and while i am a big believer in team chemistry, and anyone can see what he brings to it, you just can’t keep a guy around whose average is approaching the mendoza line. unless it’s carlos beltran.
and there’s where my argument lies. beltran is batting a robust .214, cannot move anymore and literally fell down in the outfield last night. angel pagan clearly is the one who should be patrolling center field, but it seems the mets haven’t even mentioned the idea of shifting beltran over, according to carlos. on one hand, that can’t be true. beltran will be a met next year because no one will take on his $17.5 million contract, but he just can’t play center anymore. on the other hand, this is the mets. they pander too much to aging stars, and i could very easily see them chickening out on a conversation that clearly needs to happen. beltran has never shown a propensity to rally his teammates, and going forward, he’ll either be a drain on our outfield defense or miserable. fantastic. it’s further proof that the mets make their lineup decisions by the numbers following a dollar sign, not the numbers on the back of a baseball card.
while francoeur’s baseball-card numbers won’t be pretty, the team was certainly clicking better with he and pagan in right and center than it has been since beltran trotted back to the outfield. i don’t know if that’s chemistry or better defense or better morale or the mets’ inevitable august decline or what, but it’s undeniable.
my stomped-on, shredded blue-and-orange heart is broken. i’ll miss you frenchy.