The nice thing — well, one of the nice things — about hanging around New York is you can buy four papers a day. Pretty soon, though, you realize most every sports story in all four papers contains the same quotes. (New York writers, of which there are many, tend to travel in packs.) So I won’t offer every link regarding Jeff Francoeur’s arrival, lest we be here all week. I’ll hit the highlights:
• How did the deal happen? According to Adam Rubin of the New York Daily News: “Mets GM Omar Minaya said assistant GM John Ricco suggested investigating the availability of the 25-year-old Francoeur during an afternoon brainstorming session on Thursday. The deal was completed within 24 hours.” (And you think the Braves weren’t thirsting to dump Frenchy?)
• The headline on Jay Greenberg’s post-trade column in the New York Post says it all: “Minaya’s swap is better than doin’ nothing.”
• From David Lennon of Newsday comes this analysis: “If Francoeur is as screwed up as the Braves believe him to be — and they rarely dump a player before his time — maybe this will turn out to be a regrettable trade [for the Mets].”
• Esteemed former colleague Tim Smith of the New York Daily News asks how long Francoeur’s honeymoon will last: “Given the up and down nature of the Mets, you wonder how long Francoeur, a homegrown Georgia product who rotted on the vine in Atlanta, will maintain his sunny disposition in Queens. You wonder how long [Mets manager] Jerry Manuel will embrace Francoeur.”
• On MLB.com, Tim Britton describes the Mets’ approach to swing-doctoring Frenchy: ” ‘We’re going to take is we’re going to watch for awhile,’ Manuel said. ‘We’re going to try to let him get as comfortable as he can possibly get without trying to make these types of changes.’ ”
• In Newsday, Roderick Boone quotes Francoeur as saying he’s happy to be playing in a pro-sports town: ” ‘I’ve always loved the fans up here, loved the passion,’ Francoeur said. ‘That’s something you don’t get down south. Up here, it’s pro sports. Down by us, it’s always the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Auburn, SEC, Alabama. Up here, this is it. It’s the Mets, it’s the Yankees, it’s the Giants, it’s the Knicks, and that’s what I’m looking forward to is coming to a place where the fans are so passionate, and care and pack the place out every night.’ ”
• Ben Shipgel of the New York Times reports that Francoeur’s last name was misspelled on the Mets’ clubhouse lineup board before Saturday’s game.
• Mike Puma of the New York Post reports Francoeur’s first at-bat as a Met yielded “maybe the cheapest two-run single in Citi Field history.”
• Writes Larry Brooks of the New York Post: “Francoeur is no savior. He is a reclamation project seeking to find plate discipline and consistency on a reclamation project of a team seeking to pitch, throw, catch, run and hit like a professional outfit rather than the stumblebums they’ve been for more than a month.”
After two games as a Met, Francoeur is 4-for-9 with two RBI and only one strikeout. And the Mets are 2-0, having drawn within a half-game of Frenchy’s former club for third place in the NL East.
According to Buster Olney of ESPN.com, the Braves did. (Link requires registration.) Writes Olney:
“I liked this trade for the Braves because [Ryan] Church will fit in nicely into the three-guys-for-two-spots platoon with Matt Diaz and Garret Anderson, and he’s got a better chance to put the ball in play more consistently hitting in the No. 6 and No. 7 spot in the Atlanta lineup. And given where Francoeur is in his career, trying to find himself at the plate and become more disciplined, I just wonder if New York might be the absolute worst place for him right now. If he struggles and then has one of those nights when he sees seven pitches and goes 0-for-5, the fans there will let him have it. Hopefully, for his sake and for the sake of the Mets, it’ll turn out to be a great match — a high-energy player for a high-anxiety atmosphere, that’ll bring out the best in Francoeur.
“The fact the Braves moved him is hardly a surprise; rival GMs expected the Braves to non-tender him at the end of this year if they had kept him through the full season because of the depths of his struggles.”
I took this selection from Rory Boylen of the Hockey News as something of a rebuttal to my little effort of last week. (Thanks to Wayne in Tuskegee for passing along the link.) I’d written that Thrashers GM Don Waddell is making moves in large measure to persuade Ilya Kovalchuk to re-up. Boylen thinks that’s bad policy. He writes:
“Kovalchuk is a dynamic player whose caliber doesn’t come around often, but if he is unwilling to commit to the team, I’m not sure the GM should be committing the team to him. If Atlanta struggles again next year despite Waddell’s efforts, Kovy will be gone and the Thrashers will be a misfit team without direction.
Perhaps Waddell should urge Kovy to sign a one- or two-year deal to give the team ample time to correct itself and get its new ownership group on the same page. Then, if he is still unhappy with the direction, by all means, trade him or let him sign with a winner.
But Atlanta shouldn’t be hastily building a team in a year to appease one player with an expiring contract –- it’s just too risky and too short-term.”
In the abstract, I’d agree. But the harsh reality is that, if the Thrashers can’t hold Kovalchuk, they’ll be starting over after a decade in business. And their chances of keeping him are better than finding a big-name free agent willing to come here and replace him. The future of the Thrash essentially hangs on one man’s whim: Like it or not, Waddell has to placate that one man.
What, you’re asking, is Jim Harrick doing these days? According to Hall of Famer writer Jerry Tipton of the Lexington Herald-Leader — Jerry’s an esteemed former colleague, as is John Clay, who passed along the link — Harrick surfaced at the adidas-sponsored It Takes 5ive basketball camp at the University of Cincinnati last week.
Harrick, you should know, was serving as an assistant coach for Pump N Run, a summer-league team based in southern California. Writes Tipton: “Harrick said he was helping coach the team as a favor to Pump N Run officials who are long-time fixtures in recruiting circles.”
I have four words for you: Supply your own punchline.