I've often thought about how I'm going to make my mark on this world. Should I write a book? Build a better mouse trap? Develop a seed that makes broccoli taste like cinnamon, thus combining health with great taste? Then, President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize:
"I will accept this award as a call to action -- a call for all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st century."The President, with that speech, has inspired me to create a path towards my own Nobel Peace Prize ... and this is how I'm going to do it:
I'm going to bring the sabermetric guys and the scout types together.
If that's not a common challenge of the 21st century, I don't know what is.
And I'm not just talking about locking Theo Epstein and Omar Minaya in a room until they sing Kumbaya together (or until their eyes bleed, one or the other). I'm living on a grander scale. I want to bring everyone together, and make the baseball landscape one big Coca-Cola commercial. It's not going to happen in one post, it's going to take time. But it's going to be my life's mission. Because I want that Nobel Prize, dammit (can you win a Nobel Peace Prize if you say "dammit" all the time?)
It seems like y'all are for one or the other. And I think we can have both. If we had been so resistant to progress back in the fifties, we'd never have created the heaven we know today as Reeses Peanut Butter Cups because combining chocolate and peanut butter would have been akin to raising the dead with pagan rituals. And it's going to take the next genius GM to figure out what the right balance is between the batting eyes and the free swingers. Billy Beane brought us OPS. Then the landscape was changed with UZR. The next stat isn't going to be a stat at all ... it's going to be the one who figures out how to integrate everything including OPS, UZR, flat speed, straight slugging, and yes ... grit and heart (don't worry, I'll never become so blinded in my quest to win a Nobel Prize by ever suggesting this team signs David Eckstein), to build a better baseball team. The balance may not be 50/50 between the stats and the scouts. In fact it'll probably be closer to 78/22 or something. But the right balance will dominate for years.
What does this have to do with Jeff Francoeur? Everything. The three polarizing figures of the stats vs. scouts war are Francoeur, Adam Dunn, and Juan Pierre. Dunn and Pierre are probably the polar opposites in terms of how they're valued, yet the ironic thing is that both players can be of help to the Mets in different capacities. The Mets might need somebody like Pierre to cover the massive amount of ground at Citi Cave, but he doesn't walk. Dunn is a power hitter who walks a ton. But he also strikes out a ton and has as much range as a statue. Too bad you can't call in Dr. Alphonse Mephisto to splice their genes and make one super player that has defensive range and walks a lot ... although with the Mets medical luck, they'd hire a cheaper doctor to create a player who can't move, strikes out 215 times a year and has the batting eye of Mr. Magoo. (Think Dave Kingman ... 1982.)
So what have we learned about Frenchy, the third polarizing player? First off, I can't discount the fact that he's taken to New York quite well, and threw everything he had a smile on his face. On the 2009 Mets, a year where he's hit into a game ending triple play, and a game ending lucky stab by Mike McDougal, that's no small feat. When the trade was made, I thought Francoeur would be miserable going to a big city, going to a rival, and away from his hometown. It was the opposite. No doubt in my mind that put him in the right frame of mind to pick up his game. Amazing what you can accomplish when you're happy. Remember the Robby Alomar years, when he was clearly not happy as a Met? Didn't work out so well, did it?
And I was dead wrong about him in that I thought '09 would be dreadful, and '10 would bring us the new improved Jeff Francoeur. Instead, his '09 as a Met was as good as it could have been. If that was the sugar rush of a new team, much like the last part of '08 was attributed to that new manager smell, is it all downhill from here? If we have indeed seen the best of Frenchy, the saber guys will be all over him ... and rightly so, because that means that barbecue and batting cage time with Howard Johnson will have been a fruitless endeavor where Frenchy learns nothing. And what a waste of BBQ sauce that would be.
Here's where we bring the world together ... ready? Upon further review Francoeur, in the right situation, can be the right fit. Let's say he dips a little bit from the .311/.338/.498 line he put up wtih the Mets last season. If he's batting sixth in a lineup that has some serious juice up top, say, a healthy Reyes, Castillo or an improved version at second, an improved David Wright, a healthy Carlos Beltran, and a shiny new part like Jason Bay or Matt Holliday or Derrek Lee or whoever, Frenchy can be that guy crushing pitches down the middle with the bases loaded, instead of the Mets loading the bases with nobody out and having Anderson Hernandez up, followed by a 4-6-3 D.P. by Fernando Tatis.
Now, if you're going to depend on Francoeur to be your cleanup hitter, you might have problems. Because unless Hojo is part evolutionary psychologist, Frenchy is going to be who he is. It's up to the powers to put a team around him and continue to bring the best out in Francoeur where, walks or not, he can be somebody that everyone can love.