Building a Better Jeff Francoeur

The Mets want more from Francoeur

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    Anyone who has followed Jeff Francoeur's career knows that his rapid rise to the big leagues cost him the chance to learn some of the finer points of baseball. Somewhere along the way most players learn to distinguish between good pitches and bad pitches, a bit of knowledge that helps them avoid swinging at any ball thrown in their general vicinity.

    Frenchy's pledged to do a better job with that this season in hopes of raising his on-base percentage to levels associated with non-pitchers. The Mets don't want him to stop there, though. It seems he also missed out on learning about stealing bases and that needs to be remedied immediately.

    Francoeur says he never learned how to steal bases with the Braves, explaining that it wasn't part of Atlanta's offensive philosophy. But it is part of Manuel's plans. So this spring he's told Francoeur he wants him to run more, and now the Mets right fielder is trying to learn how.

    No better way to sneak up on teams by employing more stolen bases than announcing it to the New York Post. Let's hope that the rest of the National League prefers the stylings of the Daily News.

    That said, it does seem a bit odd that Francoeur has only managed 15 steals on 30 attempts in his career. He's a good athlete and isn't slow, after all. It seems odder that the Mets would be worrying about that facet of his game when he has enough trouble just getting to first base, though. It would be downright strange if it weren't right in line with Jerry Manuel's overall approach.

    Take his idea about batting Jose Reyes third, for example. It's not the worst idea in the history of baseball -- that would be these uniforms -- but it is one of such minimal gain to the overall goals of the team that it feels like Manuel's trying to fix something that isn't broken in the first place. The same could be said of his fascination with curtailing Jenrry Mejia's development and taking him north for the start of the season. 

    Mejia might improve the bullpen, but his growth as a pitcher should trump the Mets' desire to see him at Citi Field immediately. If things break right for them and they are in a position to use Mejia to help their chances of a winning season, then bring him up and let him loose. You'll probably even get a better Mejia in the process. That's the rare opportunity to have your cake and eat it too but Manuel seems determined to muck it up for a minimal gain in the near term. 

    Mets G.M. Omar Minaya famously downplayed working with statistics as false hustle for personnel men, but this kind of busy work is exactly that. It's false hustle to worry about these fringey things that don't do much of anything to help the team win more games and meet more goals. It sounds like work, though, and that's good enough. 

    The only other option is that this whole plan is a way to show Francoeur all the fun stuff you can do if you get on base in the first place. While it's unwise to put anything past Manuel, that sounds like a real stretch.  

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.