I'm not much of a bandwagon type, for example; I didn't feed into the Murphy hype and I want to see a veteran catcher next year with Santos as the back-up instead of a Santos/Thole platoon.
I know Jeff Francoeur has his flaws, he averages 120 K's per year and Braves fans were fed up with his lack of clutch hits; last year with RISP he hit .192, RISP w/two outs .175 and bases loaded .182.
Since coming to the Mets, Francoeur has been impressive, he's a decent fielder with a great arm and loves to use it, all the while hitting .315 ( 60 gms) with 33 RBIs and 7 HRs.
But whats been more important is the intangibles that he's brought to the table, he seemed to immediately become a main clubhouse figure and team leader.
He brings a hard nosed, passion to the team that has been missing for years. Playing through a thumb injury in meaningless games because he wants to.
I know there's a large debate in baseball as a whole, as to whether passion ( gritty/fiery) has any impact what-so-ever on a team, I mean the bottom line is you have to pitch, catch and hit or your not going to win games and usually the more talented teams win, not the teams who want to win more.
But with that said, two teams of equal or relatively equal talent, generally; over the course of a season the team with the better intangibles end up having the better head-to-head records. In 2007-2008 the Mets were an immensely talented team that somehow couldn't find a way to win just one more game, while Hadley Ramirez single handily willed his team to win the last game of the season two years in a row to knock us out of the playoffs.
Watching Jeff Francoeur beat-up a water cooler after making the last out of another meaningless loss reminded me of another fiery player, Paul O'Neill. Many Bronx fans call O'Neill the "Heart and Soul" of the great Yankees run of the 90s and their owner nicknamed him "Warrior".
Francoeur has not come close to O'Neill's accomplishments but aside from their penchant to take out their frustration on the water cooler, there are other similarities.
Despite being a solid member of the 1990 World Series Reds with an All-star appearance and MVP votes ( #19 in 1990) to his credit, O'Neill had began to struggle, all while wearing out his welcome in Cincy. In 1992 he hit a career worst .246 in 148 games, while getting under the skin of his then manager Lou Pinella. Upon being traded to the Yankees he would go from a .270 hitter to a .300 hitter with four All-star appearances, annual MVP votes and four more World Series rings. O'Neill never the most talented player on the team, was considered by many to be one of the most important players on the team. He was a lifetime .288 hitter that averaged 92 SO, 100 RBIs and 22 HRs per season.
Jeff Francoeur was suppose to replace Chipper Jones as the face of the Atlanta Braves, in 2005 he was #3 in ROY voting and in 2007 he won a gold glove. By 2008 he was hitting a mere .239 with 111 SO, 77 RBIs and 11 HRs. At the same time he struggled offensively the organization had become frustrated with him going outside the organization for help with his hitting and his stubbornness. So far in his young career he is a lifetime .271 hitter that averages 120 SO, 92 RBIs and 20 HRs per season ( aside from the higher SO ratio strikingly similar to O'Neill at that age).
As I said before, Francoeur isn't even close to filling O'Neill's shoes at this point in his career, but they seem to have comparable personalities and offensive statistics while following similar paths. One can only hope that the change of scenery helps Francoeur break out as O'Neill did while Frenchy has a similar impact on the clubhouse...