Francoeur Completes the 9th Circle of Hell
By Dob Button
The Dayton Hell-Stars ended the winter meetings with a flurry of activity yesterday. The crowning achievement was the free agent acquisition of Jeff Francouer.
"He's a guy with all the tools," GM Dayton said, "And he's a winner. He may not do all the things that show up on a stat sheet...or any of them, really, but he's a winner. I know he's a winner. Any manager would love to have this guy in his clubhouse."
When manager Yed Nost, who abrubtly left the winter meetings earlier today, was reached for comment, he said simply, "I quit."
This led directly to Dayton's second big announcement of the day, the re-hiring of former manager Hey Trillman, who Dayton just fired last summer. When asked to explain, Dayton said, "I was just kidding about that. He's the guy I wanted all along. He's a winner."
The signing of Francoeur completes the everyday lineup, and he'll play the outfield with Rick Ankiel and Jose Guillen. Jason Kendall returns behind the plate, while Ross Gload, Willie Bloomquist, Tony Pena Jr, and Yuni Betancourt round out the infield. Mike Jacobs will DH.
Said Dayton, "It’s my dream team. It is so satisfying, as a general manager, to assemble this many talented players in one place at one time. I mean, just look at all these tools. And it wasn't easy, I really have to credit the Glass family for stepping up budget-wise. They've allowed me to commit almost $60 million of their money to buy all these tools…Did I mention I like tools?"
Trillman also commented on the lineup, "I'm real excited about this group. I can't wait for Opening Day... We do have some positional issues, though. For instance, I don't see a 3B here. However, what I do see is two tremendously talented shortstops and I don't think it would be fair to ask either one of these guys to change positions. So I'm gonna go outside the box here and play both these guys at SS at the same time... I may even tie their legs together with burlap, you know, potato race style."
He was then asked if he thought that it might be a risky idea to not field a third baseman.
"Not really, Dob. Our scouts think these two guys have the ability to not play at least one position, maybe even two at a time. We've got great scouts. They just keep finding us these tools. While we're on the subject, I've been giving serious consideration to playing Francoeur and Guillen in RF at the same time. Have you ever seen two rightfielders with better arms than these guys? It's going to be amazing."
Privately, team officials express some concern about such an alignment, but as Dayton explained, "We really feel, as an organization, that this whole hitting-to-left-field thing is just another moneyball pyramid scheme. We don't think its going to last."
Trillman also offered some hints about his projected batting order. "Well, they can't all bat last, so somebody's going to have to take a bullet for the team and hit leadoff. Now, the conventional wisdom says bat your high on-base percentage guys at the top of your lineup, but since we don't have any of those I'm leaning towards Yuni at leadoff. We really like having his wanton aggression setting the tone for the team. And then everybody knows how much I love having Kendall in my two hole. After that I'll probably just pick 'em out of my hat."
Speaking of Kendall, the Hell-Stars are now expecting Kendall to be ready for spring training, well ahead of his initially projected recovery time. Dayton said, "He never ceases to amaze me with his toughness. His surgically repaired shoulder wasn't healing like he thought it should, so he just took his fishing knife and reopened the incision himself, mind you with no anesthesia, and then with his left hand he took some hay baling wire and pliers and just tied all those shredded tendons together. Now that's tough...what a winner."
Trillman sounded a note of caution, however, "I don't think he used galvanized wire, so I'm a little worried about rust. Jason won't like it, but we're probably gonna have to bring in a veteran backup to play when it looks rainy out."
He went on to say, "He may not be able to throw with that right arm, but Jim Abbott got by with just one arm, and Kendall's a helluva lot tougher than him...Our pitchers are gonna love pitching to Kendall."
"That reminds me, Hey," Dayton said, "All of our pitchers quit. But don't worry, we've already been scouting this big burly Jewish kid in the Israeli leagues. His stuff is fringy, but my scouts tell me his makeup is off the charts. Goes by the name of Job...no last name, just Job. We feel like he's really the perfect guy to pitch in front of the Dayton Hell-Stars."
Dayton was then pressed about whether he planned to go with a four- or five-man rotation. "Neither, just Job. We are going to give this kid the opportunity to be a real workhorse for us. We did a thorough background check on him and we feel like he's up to the challenge. Besides, having a one man pitching staff is going to allow us tremendous roster flexibility. We may be able to go with as many as 12 or even 14 utility players."
Does Dayton worry about Job hurting his arm pitching everyday?
"No. My scouts tell me he has another one... You see, it all goes back to scouting. You just can't get that kind of information off that cyber thingy. A lot of people in the industry don't think we used advanced statistics to evaluate personnel moves, but that's a gross misrepresentation. We actually have our own proprietary stats, and while I can't divulge the entire equation, I can assure you that quantity of limbs is definitely in the numerator."
It was previously thought that the Hell-Stars might have several minor leaguers ready to contribute soon, but Dayton is not so sure: "We don't want to rush these guys. They're good ballplayers for sure, but I just don't think they're ready. Many of them will actually watch multiple pitches go by without swinging. We feel that, as an organization, that just won't work at this level. We're looking for guys that have got that fire in their belly, that...what did you call it, Hey? Oh yeah, wanton aggression. That's it."
"Additionally, I was just informed earlier this week that several of our minor leaguers have tested positive for UZR. That's a great concern to me, first because I've never heard of it, but secondly because we've got to get this thing stamped out before it infects the big league team. Fortunately, the Glass family has again stepped up financially and, on my advice, has rehired our old training staff to work on a vaccination. We don't want a positive UZR to get anywhere near our major leaguers. That's why we are totally committed to 100% complete eradication. That's our pledge to our fans.
"Speaking of our fans, we have some great promotions coming up at the stadium this year. We're still trying to iron out some of the details, but we're working closely with the stadium authority to set up a series of major tractor pulls this summer. Several luminaries from the tractor pulling field have already committed. It'll be like an All-Star Tractor Pull."
"Umm, Dayton, you can't be serious about this. It will tear my field all to hell. We won't be able to play on it."
"Yes, well, you wouldn't be able to anyway, Hey. That's another thing I need to discuss with you...The Hell-Stars have scheduled a team fishing trip this summer. It was a contractual stipulation that several of them insisted on. Otherwise they were going to sign elsewhere."
"I guess that explains why Ankiel asked off for May and June again...a team fishing trip, huh? Sounds pretty cool."
"Sorry, Hey, its a players only trip."
"Oh well, I like tractor pulls, too."
"Yeah, its going to be a real treat, especially for our fans. And frankly, the Glass family and the stadium authority are insisting on it, because for some reason ticket sales for our baseball team are way, way down.
"One thing I've got to say to our fans, though: You absolutely have to be patient with this tractor pull business. These things just don’t happen overnight. Casual fans don't understand how long it takes to put one of these things together. Heck, look at how many years it took in Tampa, in Atlanta, and in Minnesota. The fans have just got to be patient. It's a long process... you've got to trust the process.
“Another thing I want to announce to our fan base is our new team slogan for 2011. In honor of Jeff Francoeur, the PR department and I have decided on, ‘WHAT THE FRENCH?!?!’ as our new rallying cry. I just love it and I think the fans will too… it’s really catchy. Plus, it’s the first time we have been able to squeeze so much punctuation into our slogan. Originally, it was my idea to have the fans to yell, ‘WHAT THE FRENCH?!?!’ whenever Jeff gets on base, but the stats department tells me that’s not going to happen much. So we are thinking now that anytime he does anything, or anybody else does for that matter, we want the fans to join together and really scream out, ‘WHAT THE FRENCH?!?!’ as loud as they can. And we’re getting some t-shirts made up with a picture of jeff and myself on the front with the abbreviated slogan, ‘WTF?!?!’ on the back.
In another move, it was announced just before press time that the Hell-Stars have also acquired Melky Cabrera.
Trillman described Melky as, “A true non-bidextrous player. He can’t hit left-handed or right-handed. And as a fielder, he’s gotten so fat that about the only thing he can still catch is a buffet.”
He was then asked what prompted the acquisition. “We’ve been watching some video of this guy, and what really stands out is that he has this phenomenal ability to hit three hoppers to the second baseman. Not one hoppers, not two hoppers, heck, not even six hoppers, but THREE hoppers almost EVERY time up…right to the 2B. It’s spooky how good he is at it. There’s no doubt in my mind that if he gets to play everyday that he could lead the league...maybe even set a record. And what’s really scary, to me, is that this kid is still just 26, there’s room for him to get even better at it.”
So, does Trillman and Moore see Melky as the answer in LF? “No, we really like him in right.”
Baseball's winter meetings may be winding down, but Dayton's Hell-Stars are just starting to heat up.