Jeff Francoeur is one of the few bright spots in an otherwise sluggish Mets start as he has pounded National League pitching to the tune of a .438 batting average. For a player who was practically thrown out of the Braves clubhouse, it is a rather remarkable turnaround which the Mets right fielder credits to the way Howard Johnson handled the situation.
“From the moment I got here," says Francoeur, "Howard Johnson just told me that I needed to get into better hitting counts, whereas in Atlanta they kept pounding home the fact I would never get any walks.” Things got so bad in Atlanta that Bobby Cox buried Francoeur on the bench and the team was more than happy to send the troubled player to a divisional rival.
“It was a real awakening because it was the first time I played anywhere else other than my hometown but the New York situation intrigued me because I knew there was talent on the roster and real opportunity for me to play every day," says Francoeur. He got that chance and really excelled at the plate hitting over .300 after coming over here, consistently pounding extra base hits in spacious Citi Field.
According to Johnson, he was a quick study. “Very early on we realized that he was not a player who was ever going to draw a bunch of walks but we did think he could get into better hitting counts by being a bit more selective. Being ahead in the count would then allow him to use his aggressiveness at the plate to his advantage," says the Mets batting coach.
That approach has allowed Francoeur to drive the ball much more consistently, making him look more like the hitter that had back-to-back 100 RBI seasons in Atlanta a couple of seasons ago. “Pure and simple, none of this would have happened without Howard Johnson and he deserves a lot of the credit,” says Francoeur.
Whatever the reason, Francoeur has become a valuable Met both on and off the field, and if we are to be fair, Omar Minaya deserves the credit for swinging a swap of outfielders during a year in which not much went right for the Mets.