For an art -- the art of pitching, that is -- predicated on deceiving and/or overpowering the opposition to the greatest possible extent, it's a little surprising that we don't see more wild pitches uncorked. Only one out of every 450 or so pitches eludes the catcher and meets the necessary conditions to be a wild pitch; I'm going to assume the ratio is infinitesimally smaller for walk-off wild pitches, such as that which we saw Alexi Ogando fire last night to end a really terrible Cliff Lee-started game in Kansas City. The Lee euphoria is petering out, and we can only hope he resumes flashing his pinpoint command before we hit late September, because the hits aren't exactly flukes when they're being smashed on belt-high meatballs.
But since I can't bring myself to re-examine all of the minutia of that game (right now, at least), I'm going to divert the discussion towards the last remotely meaningful trade of the Rangers' 2010 season (and their last hope to make everyone forget about Ryan Garko and Jorge Cantu), a polarizing trade not so much because of the cost as because of the principal figures: persona non grata infielder Joaquin Arias to the Mets in exchange for outfielder Jeff Francoeur and a bundle of cash. (Brandon Boggs has been designated for assignment to facilitate Francoeur's addition, but will remain in the organization provided that no team plucks him from the outright waiver wire).
Up until a few weeks ago, Francoeur was mainly famous for three reasons: (a) seducing retired Braves general manager John Schuerholz and the rest of his baseball operations department with a five-tool package that evoked comparisons to Dale Murphy (and prompted Baseball America to rank him as baseball's 15th-best prospect before the 2005 season), (b) becoming the target of interminable ridicule and mockery when he failed to develop any semblance of plate discipline, and (c) being at the epicenter of a bizarre late-2008 trade rumor that had the Braves sending Francoeur to the Royals in exchange for soon-to-be Cy Young Award winner Zach Greinke. That, of course, did not pan out, and last July he was exiled to New York in the Francoeur-for-Ryan Church deal.
What is Francoeur today, besides a cost-neutral acquisition? A two-tool player, really; there's still some latent raw power there, I think and he might have the best throwing arm of any right fielder in baseball, but his defensive range is subpar -- a function of diminished speed, I'm guessing -- and he doesn't hit for average or contact or, for that matter, draw walks. As both myself and ESPN.com's Rob Neyer have written, though (here and here, respectively), there's at least a chance that Francoeur provides some limited amount of utility as a right-handed platoon partner for David Murphy, with one or the other holding down a corner outfield spot opposite Nelson Cruz and Josh Hamilton -- notwithstanding his balky knee -- patrolling center field.
The other argument for acquiring Francoeur seems to revolve around his clubhouse leadership and playoff experience and such, but since he has amassed exactly four career games of the latter -- in a four-game loss to the Astros in the 2005 NLDS -- I'm choosing to focus on the chemistry component of his purported intangible value. Josh Garoon already wrote one of the quintessential articles on this subject, but let's look at Francoeur in isolation. A five-second Google search will turn up a multitude of articles extolling him for being a great character guy and a let's-keep-things-loose prankster and, in broad terms, somebody who's just great for your clubhouse chemistry.
Here's the problem, though: arguably the fourth reason why Francoeur is famous is because his agent gave the Mets a public ultimatum about three weeks ago, essentially conveying the message that Francoeur either wanted everyday playing time or a trade. Seeing as how Francoeur's a terrible hitter versus right-handers and doesn't really need to ever face one again (along with the fact that he's having a terrible season), this was a downright delusional gambit, and for all the talk about Francoeur being so great in the intangible respect, I have to wonder how such a seemingly arrogant personality with such a poor grasp of his talent level can really be that beneficial to a Rangers clubhouse that, by most accounts, already has more team chemistry than it knows what to do with.