Frenchy a difference-maker? Not likely

NEW YORK -- The New York Mets won Tuesday night, but it still felt like they were reaching for something that doesn't exist.

Manager Jerry Manuel, who is watching the clock wind down on his time in Flushing, fed into a notion that somehow the Mets might still be in the wild-card race.

Manuel, who will be most remembered for his honesty and his laugh, hinged the Mets' present chances to Jeff Francoeur.

Jeff Francoeur? He of the .299 on-base percentage entering Monday night.

"We have to find a way to get Frenchy going," Manuel said prior to the Mets' 6-5 ninth-inning victory over the Marlins. "I think he is an important part of the team, and the makeup and the fabric of the team. When he is going well, I think we are able to win some games."

In other news, the Mets would start winning some games if Oliver Perez turned into Tom Seaver, Luis Castillo played like he did when he first came up with the Marlins and if their owners knew how to run a franchise.

Manuel told Francoeur before the game he will play more the rest of the way. Francouer hit two sacrifice flies and nearly hit a game-winning homer in the ninth. Instead, Castillo -- of all people -- picked up the game-winning hit.

Ultimately, the Mets have to convince themselves and you that they still have a chance this year and next.

They do this by creating illusions, because, in reality, there doesn't appear to be a near-term way out of this mess with the Wilpons likely unwilling to increase the payroll significantly.

Since the team has a gigantic amount of money still on the books for next year, a team official acknowledged to ESPNNewYork.com's Adam Rubin that the club has already eliminated itself from the Cliff Lee sweepstakes.

So the Mets are left to rely on the Francoeurs of the baseball world. It is the same Francoeur who was recently going to sit for the so-far-underwhelming Fernando Martinez.

Francoeur is a great quote but a lousy hitter. Is that the guy you want to say is the difference-maker?

The problem is, the Mets are always trying to sell something that isn't there. The failing of the team, the atmosphere of chaos wear on the players, even a guy as upbeat as Francoeur.

"You get down on yourself," Francoeur said.

He added that "every day there is a story here" and it is a tough place to play because of the flak the Mets take. He didn't know whether it was the team's fault or not.

So Manuel -- who is the front man for the Mets -- will say ridiculous things. Next season, with Manuel gone, the Mets will try to create new mirages with someone else.

Besides a new manager and possibly a new GM, there likely will be a new commitment to youth. Francoeur doesn't know whether he will be back or not. He won't.

Manuel might have singled Francoeur out as the difference between winning and losing, but the team will non-tender Francoeur because it is not going to pay him $5 milllion plus for an on-base percentage around .300.

On Tuesday, the Mets moved passed the Marlins into third for one day. They want to show some flashes for the final 37-plus games so they can create some excitement going into next season.

The problem is, it is hard to create anticipation when your front man is not expected to be back and your new difference-maker is also unlikely to return.

Andrew Marchand covers baseball for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

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