ARLINGTON, Tex. – Jeff Francoeur was always smiling when he was a Met. So it’s no surprise he’s still smiling.
Francoeur was traded – some would say liberated – from the Mets on Aug. 31, when he was dealt to the Texas Rangers just before the deadline for postseason roster eligibility.
Friday, he will be in rightfield against CC Sabathia and the Yankees as the Rangers host Game 1 of the American League Championship Series at Rangers Ballpark.
“I was hoping going into this year that I’d be playing in the NLCS in Queens,” Francoeur said Thursday. “Instead I’m going to be playing in the ALCS in the Bronx.”
The first two games will be in Arlington before the series shifts to Yankee Stadium for Monday’s Game 3. Francoeur has been starting against lefthanded pitchers, so he should be in against Sabathia and Andy Pettitte.
Francoeur is just 2-for-12 lifetime vs. Sabathia. But he’s 5-for-8 with a home run against Pettitte, the Yankees’ Game 3 (and possible Game 7) starter.
After the trade, Francoeur hit .340 with two home runs and 11 RBIs for the Rangers in 15 games. He had one hit – an RBI double in Game 1 -- in eight at-bats in Texas’ five-game victory in the ALDS against the Rays.
“Obviously, you just went from a tough clubhouse, a tough situation up there into a great situation down here,” he said. “I had so much fun in New York and had great teammates, but obviously this is a great opportunity for me and my career to come here and go to the postseason.”
Francoeur hit .311 in his first half-season with the Mets in 2009. But he slumped this year to .237 before the trade.
Still, he embraced New York. He wanted to have success there. When it was clear he wasn’t going to, he wanted to leave.
“I remember that day when I got traded,” he said. “I said it was bittersweet because I loved all those guys, had so much fun with them. I know it was tough to the end for them with what happened with Omar and Jerry.”
What happened was an organizational shakeup that led to Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel losing their jobs. Francoeur said he spoke with Manuel on Wednesday for the first time since the Mets’ season ended.
“It was pretty inevitable what was going to happen, especially that last week,” he said. “I talked to Jerry and I texted Omar and I texted Jeff [Wilpon]. I told all those guys, ‘Thanks for the opportunity.’ ”
Francoeur said Manuel, who has not spoken publicly since his dismissal, “was actually heading to the golf course. Good for him.”
There was little doubt the trade to Texas was good for Francoeur. It has also been good for the Rangers, according to manager Ron Washington.
“He's always upbeat,” he said. “He's a great teammate. More than anything, he plays winning baseball. We are very fortunate that at the trading deadline we were able to acquire him. We certainly were looking for a righthanded bat that could help us against lefthanders, and he's been that guy since he's been here. He's a professional. He's learned the game very well, from a very good organization: the Atlanta Braves.”