>I know it’s only been four games, and every kind of excessively small sample size warning applies. And I also know that for a year-and-a-half, Jeff Francoeur was the worst player in baseball, and maybe even the worst player in the history of the Boston/Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves. I know, even though he looked so good, his BABIP as a member of the Mets last year was the result of a level of luck and a line drive rate that are probably both unsustainable, and that he’s probably going to turn right back into an out machine. I know he’s teased everyone like this before, and he is now generally despised in Atlanta because he was such a tease. I know he’s probably just setting me up to break my heart in the end, because he shows these flashes of brilliance yet can still be so easily undone by first pitch sliders. I know he was the Natural, and then he was Failcoeur, and now he’s a Met.
This video might really sum up how I feel about Jeff Francoeur better than words can.
There he is, swinging and missing and laughing, being talented and terrible and likeable at all once.
And for all those reasons, all those things I know, I don’t want to get attached to Jeff Francoeur. He’s going to build me up just to tear me down. I know he is. He’s fun but he’s bad for you, like candy and booze and fast women and gambling and Jean Claude Van Damme and The Jersey Shore.
But I also saw Jeff Francoeur pick up a brightly-colored beach ball which had wandered into the outfield on a windy Opening Day, and attempt to throw it to the ball boy. Actually throw it ninety feet to the ball boy. Full windup and everything, uncorking a powerful throw that would have flown to the backstop had it been a baseball – only it was a beach ball. So, instead, it flailed like a dying quail and went all of thirty feet – still, much farther than you or I could have thrown a beach ball. It was the most impressive throw of a beach ball I’ve ever seen. It made me smile.
And then, yesterday, even though the pitch was called a strike – there was Jeff Francoeur, working the count, excitedly throwing his bat away, apparently trying to walk.
Let me repeat that, in caps lock for the exciting part, so you can pretend I’m shouting or at least typing emphatically. There was Jeff Francoeur, working the count, excitedly throwing his bat away – TRYING TO WALK.
And then, tonight, there was Jeff Francoeur hitting two home runs, yanking a couple of off-speed pitches over the Wall that kills Wright.
He’s drawing me in. I know it. There’s nothing I can do about it.
I know the wind probably helped the flight of the home runs. I know the walks could just be my mind finding patterns where they don’t exist, the baseball equivalent of playing Dark Side of the Moon and watching the Wizard of Oz at the same time, or seeing Jesus in a piece of toast. Oh look, two walks in the first two games! He’s changed! There’s tiny amounts of weak evidence! I know Jeff Francoeur has always been a likable goofball that would throw a beach ball, and that’s all part of his allure. I know many, many people have been wrong about him before.
But sometimes I just wish the sabermetric side of my brain would shut the hell up and let me think this is for real. Even though I know it’s a bad idea, even though Francoeur is, in all likelihood, just setting everyone up again. Christmas is more fun when you believe in Santa Claus. I want to believe in Jeff Francoeur. I really do.
Because maybe – maybe – he really has changed. Or, at the very least, now there almost a slight reason to hope that he really has changed. A glimmer of a glimmer of hope. Maybe he’s going to be more selective. Maybe he finally figured out that every pitcher throws him first pitch sliders, even the ones that don’t throw sliders, and maybe he should stop swinging at them. Maybe he’s not so stubborn anymore, and he’s dropped the LOOKBASEBALLSWINGNOW mentality at the plate.
It’s inherently moronic to think so, really. I have no idea if people change – I tend to lean towards thinking that they don’t. Francoeur is charming and fun one week, and then he goes right back to striking out on three straight breaking pitches the next. He says he’s going to try to walk more every season, and then he never does. But it would be nice to see that he actually changed, because if Jeff Francoeur can change – he of the stubborn football mentality – maybe it means we can change too.
I don’t want to believe in Jeff Francoeur. It’s such a bad idea. I’m setting myself up to be horribly disappointed. I don’t want to. I don’t.
But, heaven and sabermetrics help me, I’m starting to believe anyway.