09/19/09 6:29 PM ET
Francoeur stays hot in Mets win vs. Nats
Outfielder's two doubles, two runs drive New York's offense
By Marty Noble / MLB.com
By the time next year arrives, Francoeur will have undergone surgery on the thumb to repair the torn ligaments he suffered last month and no longer will need the added protection. But the cushion is likely to be what the best-dressed right fielders in Queens are wearing. And, by then, he hopes, he will have signed a contract with the Mets that will add a degree of likelihood to an extended tour with the Mets.
The Mets believe Francoeur will look sharp in their 2010 uni, so much so that they are inclined to approach him about signing him to a three-year contract that would allow him to become a big league Beau Brummel, if he so chose. They like what they have seen of him in and out of uniform -- from his spirited demeanor to his nuclear arm to the two doubles he produced Saturday afternoon in their victory against the Nationals.
The doubles led to all their runs in the 3-2 victory that ended their longest losing streak this season at six games. Francoeur scored in the second inning and drove in one run and scored the other in the seventh. The Mets ought to sign him soon before his value increases.
He is aware of their intent, if not specifically, at least in general terms. It makes him as happy as a Monday Night Football doubleheader.
Francoeur's hitting, another effective start by Tim Redding and a clean ninth inning by Frankie Rodriguez, made the Mets' 64th victory as sweet as it was short -- two hours, 18 minutes -- and moved them to the brink of a modest accomplishment. Another victory against the last-place Nationals on Sunday afternoon or two more victories against any team will eliminate the scant chance of the Mets finishing in last place in the National League East. It's not a lot, but in the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man in king.
Consider that accomplishment -- stopping the fall before impact -- the first step in the restoration process. A longer, more significant step would be to connect Francoeur to the Mets contractually for the next few seasons and thereby stabilize two-thirds of the outfield and five-eighths of the starting lineup for next season. He favors the idea. In the 71 days since Francoeur was acquired from the Braves for Ryan Church, he has found comfort in the big city and the Big Citi.
And what's not to like from the Mets' perspective? Francoeur now has driven in 34 runs in his 255 plate appearances with the Mets, more than any Mets player in the same period -- Daniel Murphy is second with 31 -- and one less than he had driven in 324 plate appearances with the Braves. Moreover, he has batted .314, scored 30 runs, reduced his rate of strikeouts, played right field well, continued to intimidate third-base coaches and baserunners, played hurt and and hit into an unassisted triple play.
It was that game-ending line drive against the Phillies on Aug. 23 and, not to be forgotten, the hard comebacker by Francoeur that was the final play of the Mets' loss to the Nationals on Friday night and his reaction to each that made him even more appealing to the club. He was exasperated by each, angry enough to box with a dugout cooler and raise his blood pressure.
What the Mets like so much is that Francoeur, as much as any player on their roster since Paul Lo Duca, raises the composite blood pressure, too. He not only cares, he shows that he does and his manner rubs off.
"I think I can bring something here," he said Saturday. "I'm not David Wright or Carlos Beltran, but what I can do is play hard and, I think, have some positive effect on the guys around me."
"If you were to talk intangibles," Jerry Manuel said, "he'd rate way off the charts."
Francoeur could see what the Mets of recent vintage lacked even though he hadn't set foot in their clubhouse. He discussed it with Tom Glavine last season after Glavine ended his Mets tenure and returned to the Braves.
"Every team, no matter how much talent there is, needs someone to keep it loose and happy," he says. "That's what I try to do, keep everything upbeat."
So Francoeur brings a smile, a damaged thumb and, these days, a football to the clubhouse and he goes about his business as if it's Opening Day and the opponent wears pads and is from the ACC.
Church and Schneider are close friends, and the trade pulled them apart.
"But getting this guy has been great," Schneider says. "He's so positive. He tears up his thumb and never considers not playing."
Indeed, he tears up his thumb and his production increases. Francouer is persuaded that the cushioning that reduces the pain in his thumb has benefited his swing. The longer he goes, the more productive he becomes. He has batted .475 in 40 at-bats in his 10 most recent games. Consequently, he may retain the cushion next season after the surgery has eliminated the physical need for it.
"You can tell," rookie Nick Evans says, "he wants to be on the field even when he's hurting. You're going to have respect for a guy who wants to be on the field every day -- hurt or healthy. He helps us in more than one way."
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.