Hometown hero’s story twists into unhappy end

Sad to say, that in this fairy tale, nobody lives happily ever after.

“The Natural” has been cast off by the team that brought him in from the suburbs, gloated over him through those first two seasons when he was a steady producer, and then, suddenly, when he lost his game, there was no one to help him.

So Jeff Francoeur went searching on his own. I don’t understand how it came to that. Neither do I understand just why a hitting slump can’t be cured like the common cold.

At any rate, as the season ended last year, Francoeur had made arrangements to go to Texas and spend some curative time with Rudy Jaramillo, the Rangers hitting coach. No guarantee came with it, but Jaramillo had worked wonders with some of Francoeur’s friends and Jeff was in a listening mood.

Mark DeRosa was one, rejected by the Braves, signed by the Rangers and under Jaramillo, as the story goes, found a swing that eventually led to a $13-million contract with the Cubs. Then Mark Teixeira passed that way, and need I say more?

With Francoeur, it was a private project. He did confide in me and I wrote of his project, but he didn’t inform his mentor. This, of course, was a slap in the face of Terry Pendleton, the Braves hitting coach, naturally close to Bobby Cox. Nothing was said. Nothing was written of Jaramillo. Nothing of it ever surfaced in the Braves clubhouse.

Meanwhile, neither did Francoeur’s batting average show sign of recuperation. If his furtive mission to Texas ever came up, it never surfaced in Cox’s office. Nor with Pendleton. Through it all, Pendleton never mentioned it, nor did it ever come up even in casual banter around the batting cage. He was professional through it all.

I did have a brief exchange with Chipper Jones one day, in which I asked, “Who is the best batting coach you ever came across?” He pondered for a long moment, then said, “Don Baylor,” who spent the season of 1999 with the Braves.

So the season opened, Francoeur’s swing still showed some lack of discipline and his average hovered around .250.

He became a target. Meantime, Francoeur had directed Andruw Jones to Jaramillo, and thus the Rangers signed him. Andruw has had mixed results there, even though he had a three-home run game the other day.
Meanwhile, back in Atlanta, you wonder. How would Cox have reacted if Francoeur had told him of his Jaramillo plan? What if he had come back to the Braves hitting .300 with a generous sprinkling of home runs? Would he ever have been traded? Exiled to the Braves’ most despised rival, and in their own division?
Frank Wren, of course, handled the deal, but it had to be approved by Cox. And there went the hometown hero, who could have been a Clemson Tiger, but chose the Braves and their sweetened pot of $2 million or so. Now, all that remains of that class of golden prospects is Brian McCann.

So Francoeur was dealt to the Mets and his name is misspelled on the lineup card. Big deal. I once walked into the Milwaukee Braves clubhouse and Henry Aaron’s name was misspelled. Besides, Francoeur isn’t easy to spell, anyway.

Nor is it easy to say goodbye.

97 comments Add your comment

country boy

July 16th, 2009
7:33 pm

Thanks Mr. Bisher. I believe this is more than a trade of two outfielders. It is a process a GM must take to remove an iconic manager. As you said Cox would have a heavy voice in the trade of JF as well as the abortion of Glavine, bringing up Medlin & Hanson, starting Schaffer, ect. When this poor season ends with us again missing out of post season play a decent GM must evaluate if mgr. is getting optimum results. I expect the JF trade is part of the needed process to push Bobby upstairs beside Aaron and get fresh blood for a mgr.

Jeff Francoeur Fan

July 16th, 2009
8:03 pm

Frank Wren is not only an idiot, but is a snake. The way he treated Tom Glavine and Jeff Francoeur are signs of what Braves fans can expect in the future. This will be Bobby Cox’s last season, and look for other moves (including Chipper) as Wren moves on any player who’s popularity threatens his over blown ego.

GO METS!!!!

hop

July 16th, 2009
8:06 pm

MR. BISHER,Another great article as you brought a prospective that i had not heard before.

it appears though not expressed that jeff crossed the line by pursuing an outsider to help him get through this long term slump.

the braves lost their patience including bobby cox.

i hope jeff finds his swing and the braves lose yet another in series of talented players to unperforming coaching.

where does the evaluation begin to look at the braves coaches to determine if thre is also a problem in this area .

hopefully, that process will begin as well or the braves will continue to be a sub-500 team.

Bill

July 16th, 2009
10:13 pm

What happen to DOB’s blog? Has he been fired?

Glad Frenchy is gone, now lets Win.

Ed-Covington

July 16th, 2009
10:19 pm

No mention of the fact that Francour refused to sign a contract just like McCann’s when Brian did, thinking that he would be worth more. Note to anyone: when your employer offers you a lucrative contract and you refuse to sign, you better produce or be ready to leave.

dose of reality

July 16th, 2009
10:25 pm

Jeff Francoeur fan:

For the last time, Tom Glavine was not sent to Guantanamo by Frank Wren. He was released at the ripe old age of 43, with an 80 mph fastball nonetheless, so he can go sip martinis at his mansion by his pool. After making millions off the braves and the city of Atlanta pitching baseballs for a living, Glavine doesn’t need you to complain/ campaign for him.

Moreover, Jeff Francoeur is too thick headed to ever become a good major league hitter. It took one season before teams learned he swings at everything all the time. Here’s a quote from ‘ol JF earlier this year: “If on-base percentage is so important, then why don’t they put it up on the scoreboard?” And he was wondering why the Braves didn’t give him a multi year deal when McCann got his? Dead weight if you ask me.

Ken Stallings

July 16th, 2009
10:33 pm

Good background on the inside working in the Atlanta clubhouse. And Furman is trustworthy to tell it like it is.

I wish people would get over the Glavine thing. Tommy will wear an Atlanta hat on his Hall of Fame plaque. He will grace the Braves Hall of Fame and within a year join Maddux on the outfield fence.

Tommy Hanson’s performance has removed all doubt of the decision to release Glavine. The Braves offered him a position with the organization and a press conference to retire if that was his decision. Tommy declined. No one has tendered him a contract either, have they!

Hey! It’s tough. I loved Glavine. But everyone’s career ends. I just wish Glavine and Smoltz followed the lead of Maddux, who left with nothing but praise for Atlanta and the entire organization. He burned no bridges, made no emotional statements. Glavine and Smoltz could have taken a page from that, but they did not.

It doesn’t nor should change our regard for Glavine and Smoltz. But, it’s time to move on and look forward to their respected HoF speeches!

supernes

July 17th, 2009
3:10 am

How can Bisher say “there was no one to help him?” Pendleton, Chipper, McCann, the minor league staff when he was sent down, and several others tried.

sad brotha

July 17th, 2009
6:45 am

“The natural” is a natural bust. Numbers don’t lie and the ONLY reason we are discussing Fancant at length is because he is a “homeboy.” He needs to get his clear his head, he needs to be more patient, he needs a change of scenery, he needs a trip to the minors… he needs to “get gone” and finally the Braves got rid of him. Now he is the Mets problem and he will be out of MLB within two years. Good riddance and now what are we going to do with the real problem of the Braves… Liberty and McGuirk?

Maybe Next Year

July 17th, 2009
7:32 am

A “hometown hero” does not whine like a baby when he is sent to the minors. So let’s stop treating Francouer like he was a HOF.

bull-gator

July 17th, 2009
7:35 am

Too much hype way too soon and the kid started to believe he was Roy Hobbs. Sports is a business, albeit entertainment, but still a business. Winning brings people to the ball park with money to spend. I wish the kid the best and would like to have seen him go 4 for 4 last night. I cringed when he smacked the first pitch he saw right into a double play. Oh well, some things will never change. Good luck kid, you’re gonna need it in NY.

Henry D.

July 17th, 2009
10:15 am

Jeff’s downfall started when he declined the multi-year, multi-millions contract the Braves offerred him and McCann at the same time.

That was when Jeff started his decline. The first thing was to go “bulk-up” to hit more home runs. I think he started to put so much pressure on himself at that point so he could make the REALLY BIG BUCKS and that’s when his head caved in.

And that’s the true story of Jeff Franceour.

Gene

July 17th, 2009
10:35 am

I seem to remember Chipper Jones going to his father for hitting advice a few years ago. Will he end up in NY? I think that Pendleton was a better hitter than he is a coach.

Herschel Talker

July 17th, 2009
12:48 pm

This man, Jeff Francoeur, hasn’t been a hometown hero for quite some time. All you need to know about “Frenchy” is what Henry D. says at 10:15am. That sums it up.

Furman – no wonder you get so few readers these days. This column is pure dribble.

Observor

July 17th, 2009
5:18 pm

Francine was by far the most overrated and overhyped player I can ever remember come through the braves organization. He’ll slowly fade away out of baseball in a few years and into oblivion. He’ll be an obscure trivia question in 10 years, where the reaction of most people will be ‘oh yeah, that guy….I remember him’.

Greg

July 17th, 2009
5:26 pm

Yes, Chipper went to his dad for some tweaking, but he’s been doing that for 30 years. He’s also got more cache since he’s been around for 15 years and has done nothing but smack the ball around. I wish frenchy the best, but face it: Here, he just struck out.

mudcat

July 17th, 2009
5:41 pm

You look at this team, day after day, and there is no spark. We don’t need to make a minor-league busting trade to start winning. The on-field managament NEEDS to be changed. If that doesn’t happen, we’ll continue finishing second-fiddle to other, less talented teams.

Sr.Circuit sadsack

July 17th, 2009
8:08 pm

What are Ted Turners book sales like? He said if he made enough it would be used to buy our Braves back…
This is everything we gripe about; money. Our gm can’t spend like we used to when I could watch Murphy chase down flyballs. Thus we are much more dependent on each player we have. Jeff is no student of the game. If he were, he’d have used Chipper just like Mac did w/ good results last year when Brian had to be reminded to pretend his back foot was nailed to the ground inna 5min review by Hoss. TP is a fine batting coach. But golden children won’t blame themselves till too late. Coaches are only capable of helping the coachable. Jeff is not a student of hardball; he is a. Multisport jock that took the biggest offer that held greatest acclaim for his “I will crush it or be damned ” ego. He was embarrased & pride drove him to Rudy in TX.so none of us or Braves worried or asked. NY will take the ego down or he’ll be in AL farm system one year from now wondering if football needs a supa-star…

ASN

July 17th, 2009
8:29 pm

Mr. Bisher,

I don’t think Frenchy was traded because he didn’t seek help from Terry or some other in-house option (because he did – all of last year). He was traded because the team was going to non-tender him at the end of the season. And this move at least assured us a decent player.

I hate when journalists offer a side that so many people (several journalists and players) have disputed. It’s frivolous and leads to unqualified rumors.

DBCOOPER

July 17th, 2009
9:32 pm

I agree with most of what Mr. Bisher says about Francoeur however, I stopped feeling sorry for millionares some time ago. Todays atheletes are coddled from about 9th grade on. I have witnessed it first hand , in High School and college and it only gets worse in MLB or NFL etc. He should be fine the rest of his life and the rest of us will get up early and hit the “grind”.

As for Glavine and Wren’s handling of some of our veterens. I do remember Glavine jumping ship for New York when he could earn more money. He left them first. I also lost some respect for Glavine during the players strike in the 90’s. Thought he acted like a little weasel. Thats just me, and besides he’s probably earned over 100 million dollars in baseball and will go to the HOF. Not a bunch of tears from me. It was good he was a great pitcher but hey it’s a business the rookie they brought up is good and time goes on.

Ross

July 17th, 2009
10:09 pm

What we have here is lack of maturity, which could have been gained in the Clemson backfield and outfield – but the money talked louder than everything else – and you ask why? Here’s a kid from a fairly well-to-do family who could have taken a chance that college sports would not cripple him physically – the money was always going to be there. Francoeur was his own worst enemy – the old story – when the first hurdle appeared, he stumbled, tried to go under it, but just lacked the maturity to adjust. Again and again we see that talent is always trumped by character.

-drl

Joe Charboneau

July 17th, 2009
11:45 pm

I did the same thing in Cleveland. Workin’ blows….wish I’d listened to my coaches

GT

July 18th, 2009
8:47 am

Lets see, Jeff Franceour not only started hitting like a pitcher, he made base running errors that would embarrass a little leaguer and this natural business didn’t seem to help his ability to adjust and certainly didn’t overcome him being eaten up by the dumb jock disease. I am thinking the marriage which seemed to coincide with his downward path would be a bigger cause and effect than drifting off to a club pro to improve his backhand. Something changed, when he was living with McCann he seemed to be more alert like being in boot camp ready for war. McCann is still that way, Jeff is a space cadet. Going to Jaramillo is a last dig effort at denial for Jeff that what ever is happening to him is someone else’s fault besides himself. This has nothing to do with Cox or Pendleton who I am sure would have love Jaramillo putting some magic dust on a sick puppy, he was still a Brave, the return would have gone into their bank account. The guy couldn’t play baseball in all levels of the game not just hitting. I suspect there is something deeper going on here, something the reporters because of Jeff’s popularity know and won’t tell or just won’t do any homework to find out. It will eventually surface and you will scratch your head wondering why Cox or Pendleton were exposed to all this because they happen to be in the neighborhood.

o-me

July 18th, 2009
10:38 am

Please Enough on the Frenchy Crap. Its over get a life.

Ringleader

July 18th, 2009
10:46 am

Francour forever lost his homeboy immage when he commited to the Clemson Tigers rather than the Dogs. He has no allegance to anyone. Put him out and let him go. He is just a Prima Donna.

Not Sympathetic

July 18th, 2009
12:54 pm

Spare us the melancholy. He was a terrible terrible baseball player who is basically a 1/2 tool player now considering his strong arm is not accurate. That in and of itself would not inspire disdain from a large number of us knowledgeable Braves fans, however the fact he was a class A primadonna is.

Good riddance to him. Frankly, I find him to be a fraud. He was never fast, and never would listen to anyone that would tell him anything he didn’t want to hear. And before I forget, shame on the Braves for demoting him for three games and then letting him whine his way out of it.

RK

July 18th, 2009
3:17 pm

listen to o-me

dawes

July 18th, 2009
8:58 pm

ypor people don.t be mad my wynn you got unstand that glvane was wash up and francour have not hit but 225 in last year and half they two can blame them self

dawes

July 18th, 2009
9:06 pm

your people don,t be mad at mr wynn you got to unstand that glvine was wash up and francour have not hit but 225 in the year and half they can blame them self

Rich M.

July 19th, 2009
1:22 am

Pendleton may be professional, but how good a hitting coach? He doesn’t seem to be able to help proven hitters when they get into slumps. Might be time to make a change.

Furman Bisher

July 19th, 2009
7:53 am

Has anyone seen my bedpan?!

I just soiled myself!

Where is Terence Moore to roll me over- the bed sores are killing me!!!

Tim in Stockbridge

July 19th, 2009
3:20 pm

The truth-the Braves realized that this guy is not a major league player. He will be released by the Mets at the end of the season and out of baseball in one more season.The problem with the braves is their style of play, instead of manufacturing runs, putting pressure on opposing pitchers, they wait on homers, which has rarely happened with this team. Hometown hero?lol!

jeff is gone n bobby next

July 19th, 2009
6:17 pm

Well yesterday frenchy did zip…if he go’s 0-5 he be like was here at 240 mets soon….and howard johnson will try n even mets former accouncer use play for Pirates ralph houk said he would relax he be better u think he listen Nope….HJ n fellow coach’s just say 3 words to frenchy he understand Minors for help are this one…Bye Bye at end!Oh and braves be 8 out after tonight…..Just about over n cox to and TP job also bring in eddie yost as mananger

Acworth Don

July 20th, 2009
8:10 am

Well, most everybody right on this subject, NO ONE HAS A CLUE. Folks this is baseball. You don’t get to write anyone’s history, they do that and yes, some promising players learn and some
don’t. Frenchie hasn’t! he may still someday but if you noticed yesterday the Met Manager was
asked point blank about the trade and he said something like, “He (Frenchie) brings a lot of energy
to our team and we hope he is going to produce for us.” Joe Morgan asked the question. We fans
got to see Jeff in four games and he never hurt us at all. GREAT COLUMN as usual Bish! The Braves hope is our becoming great pitching.

J-man

July 20th, 2009
9:28 am

So many posts. So much wrong information. The Braves forced Glavine to leave to the Mets by retracting their final offer after it appeared that he was going to accept it. How people continue to blame Glavine for being “greedy” is something I just don’t get, but Schuerholz has spin doctors like you wouldn’t believe. The fact is that there was no offer from Atlanta in the end and that’s why Glavine left.

Anyway, Pendleton is a terrible hitting coach. He was never going to straighten out Francoeur. Note that when Chipper was asked who was the best hitting coach he ever played under that he did not say Pendleton. The truth is that Francoeur showed signs of decline in year 2 and it’s basically been downhill since then. Francoeur came up as a deeply flawed hitter with poor strike zone judgment. Some guys just decline. That’s just how it is.

TT44

July 20th, 2009
12:20 pm

Glad they moved JF. TG, Js, arent getting the job done pitching any longer. Liked them both…..move on…..
Braves will win the division with at least one more power hitter this season…….

Jay

July 20th, 2009
1:02 pm

Your article reads like a listing of jotted notes. Please have someone edit this next time.

Stanco

July 20th, 2009
1:19 pm

Unfortunately it was best for Jeff to go. The best players always make adjustments, to both improve and take it to the next level. The mets will release him after the season….then KC with sign him, as Taylor tries to build a Braves II in Knasis City…

Stanco

July 20th, 2009
1:20 pm

oops….Kansas City

Allen

July 20th, 2009
1:55 pm

Cox has to go – but no one in the Braves org. will make that happen until Cox decides he is tird of coming to the park. Even when the Braves were winning, they still underachieved except for 1995. If Joe Torre had the talent that BC has had he would have 10 rings instead of 4 or 5 or what ever he has – how many does BC have? Believe it is one! Said this before, Cox likes managing the braves, what else is he going to do, go to his farm and watch the grass grow – here is the rub, winning is only a bonus for him, iceing on the cake if you will. Why would he retire when he obviously loves coming to work and being in the dugout? Having to answer the not winning quesitons is only a minor inconvenience in the bigger scheme of things.

D.W.

July 20th, 2009
2:37 pm

Bobby Cox does need to go and I agree that the Braves should have more than one world chapmpionship banner with the talent that they had over the glory years. Also, they never should have hired Frank Wren who is a John S. clone. The Braves need some totally new blood with new ideas. I like Chipper Jones and he is one of the best pure hitters inn MLB. However, they need to trade him and get some good prospects for him.

Also, why are they Braves always trying to trade Junel Escobar. Is he a distraction in the clubhouse or something? I think with a better displinarian as the manager he could be handled and molded into a superstar.

The Braves need to quit trying to be contenders year end and year out and go into the re-building phase so that they can get back to being contenders.

Anthony

July 20th, 2009
3:14 pm

There is more to being a hitting coach than making sure there are balls available for hitting practice and finding a seat beside Bobby at game time. Just as there is more to being a manager than filling out a lineup card and cheering from the dugout. Neither TP nor BC are doing what it takes to work with and develop players and provide situational game management. As a true fan of baseball, and not just a home town apologist, you can see a stark difference between the Braves and the top contenders. Until the leadership is changed, expect nothing more than what you’re getting, a non-playoff team with non-disciplined players. JF failed as a Brave as he got neither coaching nor management. Do you think any other team will let him swing at every first pitch?

Chris Broe

July 21st, 2009
12:01 pm

Braves are gellin’. If they can just keep up the pace demanded of them by playing .500 ball.

James

July 21st, 2009
1:28 pm

I was glad to see someone with some insight defend Jeff. I have felt like this was a management trade from the beginning. Jeff went to arb.
with the Braves last year and won. In my OPINION management wanted to make an example of him. If TP is such a great hitting coach then why have the Braves bats been so bad for the last three years. Jeff reached
out to another coach for help but what did Braves management do. This is
another trade the Braves will regret. As of now we have less defense in
right and a platoon players. If Cox cannot manage players that he has a
difference with then maybe it is time to look at him. Escobar needs to grow up in a hurry or he will be another example. I am very leary of Braves management now. The way Glavin was treated was embrassing. The way the Braves are playing now I feel like bring Hanson up was the right call. But you do not treat a player like Glavine like a bag of trash, after you’ve rode his coattail for so many years. Kelly Johnson is another player I like, but with his bat he is most likely on a short list. What about Hudson will the Braves keep him next year or not? If the Braves do not play any better [around 500] then maybe it’s time to
look at trading Chipper and give him a chance to be in the playoffs again. But the Braves usually trades a way the farm for someone they will have for a few months maybe a year and then trade him because they
know they will not be able to sign him. Oh for the days of Ted Turner.

The Fox

July 21st, 2009
1:55 pm

Mr. Bisher,
I do read your columns and appreciate your opinions/imput. My family will miss Frenchy in Atlanta. We happen to believe that having a native son on the team is a great thing. Frenchy’s defense made up for offensive woes sometimes. And we believe that if he can hit like he did previously, he will again.
He will be sadly missed.

And thank you to Furman for your insights.
Baseball Fan Family

Hank

July 21st, 2009
2:26 pm

You people must be on crack, or perhaps too young to remember who helped build the braves team that lost to the cardinals in 82. Not Joe Torre who did the losing and then more losing with the same cardinals. Cox coached 3 HoF and perhaps 4 with Chipper. No explaining who the three are but, in New York a gold fish could have coached those players. HoF shortstop, catcher, CF, Clemons (pre-steriods taint), Mussina, Pettitte, perhaps O’Neal. Give me a break. Cox has coached a lot of journeyman players at best, most of whom fell apart after leaving Atlanta, and numerous rejects or cast offs from other teams. We had one Rookie of the year during this span, David Justice. How many did the Marlins have? The Dodgers? Any Biggios or Bagwells? No we had Breams, Cabrerras, Nixon, Smith, Lemke (played huge in the playoffs) but, no HoFs in this bunch. Cox is not the problem but, he has been the solution.

Paul In Richmond

July 21st, 2009
6:13 pm

Some of you don’t understand the attitude in baseball about hitting. There are guys who live for the long ball and there are guys who seek to put the ball in play. Turkey pants lived for the long ball. Just as Ron Gant, Andruw Jones and even Bobby Cox all seem to do. The real mystery is how/why a contact hitter like Pendleton got the batting coach job since Bobby has no desire to play small ball. He will bench a Diaz in a heartbeat for someone with 50 points less of an average but is a bigger long ball threat.

Frenchy would not be coached by a contact hitter. Neither will Larry Jones. Neither would Andruw. Don Baylor- yes. TP-no. Even if they listen to him they don’t follow his suggestions.

Add to that the “natural” had no idea why he could hit so he had no idea why he stopped hitting. He was pretty much uncoachable. By anybody. Look for him, and Andruw and Ron Gant and others like them to forever be ground ball outs that is unless the pitcher throws a mistake- then they will jack one and run back to the dugout with a smile on their selfish faces.

Ed D'Agostin

July 22nd, 2009
6:41 am

So far Wren’s moves are looking pretty good and this Brave team is very exciting and getting better EVERY day. This team also has balance and youth with great pitching. Who knows, maybe later this year we will see the best prospect in baseball in Atlanta, Jason Heyward. The Braves will be in the playoffs this year and next year! Frank Wren should be the Gerneral manager of the year.

aztec

July 22nd, 2009
9:14 am

hey guys, as my freind clark howard says, talk with your wallet and stop supporting pro sports financially..there is plenty of great baseball on the high school and college level in the atlanta area

Scuba Steve

July 22nd, 2009
9:21 am

How can you people defend Jeff…he was a cancer and the team is much better off without him! His sulking seemed to bring the whole team down and he had more than his share of chances!