Jeff Francoeur – Dayton Moore’s Last Stand
Have you ever known someone who was completely, totally, and utterly wrong about something, yet stubbornly refused to admit his mistake? When this happens in the movies, it can be funny. When it happens at work, jobs may be at risk. When it happens in politics, it can erode the fabric of a country. When it happens in baseball, the team becomes a laughingstock and the fans suffer through seemingly endless seasons of hapless mediocrity, turning bald from pulling their hair out by the roots.
As bad as a situation like this may be, what would you think about this individual if he had made almost the same exact mistake previously, and learned absolutely nothing from the experience? You might say he was a mad lunatic, hell-bent on self destruction. You might think he was a subversive implant on a mission to destroy. You might say his name is Dayton Moore.
Let me take you back a few years to explain how we got to Dayton Moore’s last stand. No doubt you are aware that Dayton Moore spent the first several years of his administrative baseball career with the Atlanta Braves. After becoming the Royals General Manager in 2006, he made three trades with his former organization within about a year, sending a couple of guys you never heard of plus Octavio Dotel to the Braves in exchange for another guy you never heard of plus Tony Pena, Jr. and “dum, dum, DUMMMM!” (that’s my weak attempt at ominous movie mood music), Kyle Davies.
You remember Kyle Davies, right? He’s the guy that many believe is possibly the worst starting pitcher in the history of the major leagues, by a long shot. And what normally happens when a team brings up a pitcher who goes down in flames on the mound? If he’s had success in the minors, as Davies did, they’ll probably give him a few chances, several more starts to get accustomed to the speed and talent level in the majors. If he still isn’t successful, the player will soon be demoted back to AAA or released. But that’s not what happened with Kyle.
In 2007, Davies came to the Royals in mid-season, pitched 50 innings and posted a 6.66 era. Let that soak in for a moment – a 6.66 era. To put that in perspective, the Royals current embarrassing group of starting pitchers all have era’s of 5.50 or less.
What do you think was the result of Davies near historically poor performance in 2007? Was he chased out of Kauffman and demoted to Omaha? Was he placed on the waiver wire? No, he was shockingly rewarded with another season in the Royals rotation. And another. And another. And another, until July 2011 when the Royals finally gave Kyle and his 5.59 lifetime era his walking papers. And by the way, Luke Hochevar’s lifetime era is 5.29 – don’t get me started. That will need to be the subject of a future story.
Do you remember how Dayton Moore was mercilessly vilified for his decision to keep running Kyle Davies out to the mound year, after year, after year? Kyle had only one somewhat promising season in 2008 when he threw for a 4.06 era, and Dayton rode that train of possibility all the way to the end of the line and beyond. There really is no explanation for the blinders DM wore when reviewing Davies unless you believe he simply could not admit he had made a mistake. He was like the man who keeps doubling down at the roulette wheel thinking the odds have to land in his favor eventually.
History appears to be repeating itself with Jeff Francoeur. If you don’t know this already, Frenchy is another product of the Atlanta Braves system that DM is so fond of. I think Moore believes so strongly that the Braves talent evaluation process is infallible that he refuses to give up on any product of their system until his reluctance to do the right thing drives the Royals fan base to the brink of insanity.
Jeff Francoeur was a first round pick of the Braves in 2002. He was relatively successful in the minor leagues, although he never lit the world on fire anywhere he went. He eventually received a call-up to the majors in 2005, as all first round picks eventually do, whether they deserve it or not.
Francoeur has shown flashes of promise, particularly in his 2007 season when he batted .293 with 105 RBIs. However, “flash” is a particularly accurate description of Frenchy’s talent. For example, during a couple of his full seasons in the majors, he has batted .239 in 2008, .249 in 2010, and he strikes out a whopping 118 times per year. Aside from the fact that he may have the greatest outfield arm of our generation, there is very little to like about Francoeur’s performance. Yes he has a great attitude, yes he is a clubhouse leader, yes he purchases pizza for the fans in the bleachers, yes he had one respectable recent season in a Royals uniform, yada, yada, yada… But you know what? That simply isn’t good enough.
I am sick and dang tired of the Royals settling for mediocrity. If a player isn’t cutting it, then trade him, demote him, or DFA him – I don’t care what you do and I don’t care how much money you’re paying him, just get him off the field. Particularly when he’s blocking the path of a young stud like Wil Myers. I know Wil has struggled since the All Star break, but you might struggle too if you had put up super-human numbers, led the minor leagues in home runs and done everything expected of you to receive your call-up, and then the promotion never came because Dayton Moore’s favorite son inexplicably continues to play every day.
Once upon a time, Dayton Moore made a stand with Kyle Davies. I don’t think any of us truly understand why he did it, or why he didn’t learn anything from the experience. It appears that he is making another stand now with Jeff Francoeur. Except this time, based on the teams’ underwhelming performance and lack of any real direction or focus, it could be Dayton Moore’s last stand.