This fantasy hasn’t played out like expected

So maybe we should forget about that whole Roy Hobbs thing.

So maybe we should forget about that whole Roy Hobbs thing.

It was nearly four years ago when Jeff Francoeur appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, holding a bat, flashing a Pepsodent smile, and suddenly looming so large (and borderline Utopian) one month into his major-league career that a two-word headline screamed: “The Natural.”

On Tuesday, the same Jeff Francoeur was coming off a .239 season. After going hitless against Colorado — though reaching base twice on an error and hit batter — he’s mired in a 5-for-41 slump to drop his season average to .242.

When reminded about the magazine cover just before batting practice, Francoeur laughed and said, “Yeah, I know. Screw ‘em.”

Know what? This may be progress.

Nobody ever has questioned his talent. The issues generally have been from the neck up. When he struggled early last season, he didn’t handle it well. When the Braves demoted him to the minors, he viewed it as slap instead of a needed escape. Eventually, with the help of a little off-season perspective and extensive work with Texas hitting guru Rudy Jaramillo, he acknowledged he was new to this whole failure thing and, well, must have not been blessed with the adjustment gene.

But this is different. He feels it. He says it. We’ll find out soon enough if he can prove it. He doesn’t have to be Roy Hobbs. He just can’t be the guy who lets his average drop 45 points in two weeks.

Jeff Francouer was still smiling Tuesday night, despite going hitless, dropping his average to .242.

Jeff Francouer is still smiling, despite going hitless again Tuesday to drop his batting average to .242. (Brant Sanderlin/bsanderlin@ajc.com)

“I felt so good in spring training, and I got off to a great start,” said Francoeur, who was hitting .317 16 games into the season and .287 as recently as May 6. “What disappoints me is when I started not feeling good in the last two weeks, I abandoned what I worked on. I can’t do that. But the difference between last year and this year is I realize, ‘Hey, it’s two weeks. It’s only two weeks.’ ”

Yes, it’s only two weeks. But the Braves are not strong enough on offense to endure this. They’re surviving on their pitching. Their 157 runs through 37 games ranked 13th among 16 teams in the National League. Five starting outfielders have combined for only seven home runs (two by Francoeur). That’s not going to get it done.

The other part of this is expectations. When a pro athlete busts out of the box like Francoeur did in 2005 — 14 homers, 20 doubles, 45 RBI, .300 average in 70 games — and then follows it up with two pretty solid seasons, this kind of drop-off isn’t received well by the populace.

Francoeur said he can deal with that. But he’s angry at himself, and Jaramillo isn’t real happy, either.

How’s this for strange? Not only did Francoeur work with the hitting coach from another team in the winter, he took a phone call from Jaramillo on Monday night (after he went 0-for-3).

“Rudy called me last night and got on my [rear],” Francoeur said. “We spoke for a while. He had watched some tape and basically said, ‘All the work we’ve done, you’ve abandoned it.’ I knew it, but when he said it, it sunk in. You expect a drop off, but at the first sign [of trouble] I just went away from everything.”

Francoeur’s father, David, also was at Monday’s game and later gave his son an earful. Off-balance stance. Out front on the swing. Trying to pull pitches.

Braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton thinks Francoeur will be fine. But he added: “Sometimes he gets to the point where his competitiveness takes over, instead of just standing back and going, ‘Wait a minute. I can’t get frustrated.’ ”

Turns out he’s not Hobbs. But he can deal with not being fantasy as long as this isn’t reality.

148 comments Add your comment

Brendan

May 19th, 2009
9:51 pm

It’ll get better for Frenchy. But I can’t see this team going better than 72-90.

Hot Phone Sex Princess

May 19th, 2009
10:13 pm

I agree with you Jeff.

Hot Phone Sex Princess

May 19th, 2009
10:13 pm

BTW: call me.

Mark Patterson

May 19th, 2009
10:15 pm

Maybe Jeff and the rest of the team would play better if the public of Atlanta would come out and support them. I live in California, but would give my right arm to attend their games. I see them every time they come to my area. When we lived near Atlanta we would go to all the weekend games, having to travel 90 miles whether they were winning or losing, dry or wet. The Braves have a prestigious historical past dating back to the late 1800s. The Atlanta area should be ashamed that they aren’t filling those seats and shaking the earth with the “chant”. The franchise should incorporate the haunting sound of drums. You want a winning team… make them a winning team.

BugKiller

May 19th, 2009
10:21 pm

After reporting the standard Bobby Cox / Terry Pendleton response to a player’s struggles (and the fact that the player went to someone on a DIFFERENT TEAM), Schultz, are you STILL claiming that Bobby Cox and his coaches haven’t been the problem with this team throughout the years?

That when push comes to shove, when crunch-time decisions must be made, when players can’t take care of an issue on their own (cough-AndruwJones-cough), that Bobby Cox, his coaches, and their approach simply doesn’t work?

When will admit this.

The proof is right there.

Bobby Cox and his coaches road the coattails of the most talented teams of the 1990s during the regular season when a manager’s terrible tactical skills are covered up by the fact the season is 162 games long. But come October, when talent is finally equal, Cox and his coaches bumbled their way through 13 out of the 14 chances. That isn’t a crapshoot. That is being out-managed and out-coached, pure and simple.

You know what a crapshoot is? Joe Torre winning 4 times out of 12 Octobers. THAT’S a crapshoot. 1 out of 3. Cox and his cadre of bumbling coaches is 1 for 14.

That’s HORRIBLE.

Now we see Andruw Jones reborn on the best team in baseball right now. Suddenly, he can hit again. Seems to me a good coach or manager got in his ear and set him straight. The same guy who set Frenchy straight, cause God knows, no one on the Braves was doing it.

Cox is pathetic. And Pendleton is worse. This team needed a fresh start after the debacle that was the 1996 World Series.

Instead, you at the AJC, the Cox-worshippers, and the Braves organization felt division titles were fine, who needs to win more than one World Series? Which, by the way, Cox was lucky as hell to win anyway.

No, your read here is completely wrong. Just like Cox’s and Pendleton’s approach to their player’s struggles. The talent in this organization has always been top-notch.

It’s the Nose Picker in the Dugout who’s let them down time after time, October after October,

Again, the proof is in the pudding.

Cox has never taken an average team and made them better. In fact, he’s taken average teams and made them worse. He’s a front-running, button-pushing manager of the worst kind, and again, should have been fired after his horrendous performance in the 1996 World Series.

Ted Striker

May 19th, 2009
10:37 pm

The fact he’s as open as he is in this interview says something to me about his maturity. Besides, he has a hot wife.

MLH

May 19th, 2009
10:51 pm

The 2004 team was pretty average. He took them to the playoffs

Bryan G.

May 19th, 2009
10:57 pm

Touche, bugkiller.

Coach (2010 or Bust)

May 19th, 2009
10:58 pm

Frenchy should listen to Jaramillo, the dude is only the best hitting coach alive.

I just have one thing to add if Jeff Francoeur should read this. Remember Brad Komminsk?

No ? Neither does anybody else. He’s what you will be if you don’t pull your head out of your kiester.

Dumbfound

May 19th, 2009
10:58 pm

Don’t give me that attendance crap ! Ain’t nobody going to spend money in this economy, on a crappy team like the braves ! If they get better or go get someone worth while, Maybe !!!

Nelson

May 19th, 2009
10:59 pm

Bug Killer: Your post made me so happy that I saved in my computer, finally somebody agree 100% with me, thanks.!!!
Nelson.

rlinaug

May 19th, 2009
11:02 pm

I agree with BugKiller. Cox deserves to be fire for not firing Terry Pendleton. Any time the hitters on this team look for advice, they go to Chipper or some other coach on some other team. Proof that Cox is a bit of a bungler–Kelly Johnson continues to be in the lineup night after night when Prado and Infante have clearly outplayed him at the plate and in the field.

Jay

May 19th, 2009
11:02 pm

Time to pull the plug on this experiment. Frenchy doesn’t have what it takes. The pitches adjusted to him, and its clear he never adjusted back. Dump him for whatever we can get, or continue to have the worst-hitting outfield in baseball for the second year in a row.

Coach (2010 or Bust)

May 19th, 2009
11:03 pm

Bugkiller, Cox should have been fired after losing back to back WS in 91-92. If he would have done the same thing in N.Y. Boston or L.A. , he would have been fired.

But well said at at 10:21

Johan

May 19th, 2009
11:06 pm

NON-TENDER JEFF FAILCOEUR

Matt

May 19th, 2009
11:08 pm

So let me get this straight. Francoeur sought hitting advice from the RANGERS’ hitting coach? Sounds to me like someone (*cough* Pendlenton *cough*) isn’t doing their job very well. And it’s not just Francoeur. Kelly Johnson, Yunel Escobar, Schafer, etc. would probably perform a WHOLE lot better (and more consistently) under the guidance of a competent hitting coach. I don’t care how great a hitter Pendleton used to be (and he never really was that great of one), his failures with Francoeur, Kelly Johnson, and Andruw Jones are enough to convince ME that he is a lousy hitting coach. Any other team would have fired his @ss a LONG time ago.

IlliniBrave

May 19th, 2009
11:10 pm

“Sometimes you just have to cut a guy loose” – Gary Bertier to Coach Herman Boone (from Remember the Titans).

Tommy D

May 19th, 2009
11:15 pm

Terrible at the plate no matter what philosophy he is listening to, slow on the bases, and lackadaisical in the field letting important runners take extra bases on him. He needs a complete adjustment or a period on the bench or a chance to comeback with another team.

Mike

May 19th, 2009
11:20 pm

Cox is considered one the best managers in baseball, not just by the players, but by other professionals in the sport. Has he lost a bit of fire in his old age…yes, should he retire soon…probably, but to pound on him like he some worthless manager is just plain ignorant. Now TP on the other hand…he is obviously not a great hitting instructor. And one of Cox’s downfalls is that he has a tendency to stick with someone (manager or player) that is failing for too long. But at the same time, that quality is one of the things that makes him such a great manager. It works good throughout the season, but can be a hindrance in the post season if your players are struggling. I do feel we need to go in a different direction with out hitting instructor. this team is better than this offensively. We need someone that can get in the players head and help calm them down and focus on what needs to be fixed, and fixing it.

The Truth Hurts

May 19th, 2009
11:20 pm

A dead-pull singles hitter with average speed.

If the Jo Jo Reyes Experiment has taught us anything…nevermind, it hasn’t.

If his worth gets any lower, we’ll have to get Hubble’s new telescope to find it for us.

I wish his maturity could grab a bat and hit for him. But he probably only uses his left-brain anyway.

Maybe it could find Kelly Johnson’s glove, too.

IlliniBrave

May 19th, 2009
11:20 pm

I never quite understand the cacaphony of calls for Cox’s head. As someone who has coached multiple sports for the past 30 years, leading some teams to regional/league/district championships, I can tell you that no coach is any better than their players. Coaches get way too much credit when the team does well and an inordinate amount of blame when things go south. Good players = good results. Bad players = bad results. Cox is no more responsible for the shortcomings of the last two years than Schultz and Bradley and DOB and their often misguided columns on the Braves.

Jeff Schultz

May 19th, 2009
11:22 pm

Hot Phone Sex Princess: Send me your digits. Or do you have a Twitter account?

BugKiller: the change of scenery obviously has helped A.J. If Francoeur ends up improving somewhere else also, it’s a worthy criticism. But, and this will sound like an old tired record, I agree: It doesn’t void a manager’s entire career. (And I realize here we will have a difference of opinion.)

Ted: Have you met Hot Phone Sex Princess?

IlliniBrave: Seen the movie a million times. Was that Pendleton who missed that block on purpose?

Tommy D

May 19th, 2009
11:27 pm

Agree with most about TP. He was a great hitter and brought a lot of needed fire as a player. However, I cannot remember one instance where he has made a difference with a hitter as their coach. We need a proven hitting coach; sometimes a person for whom it came easily cannot pass it on to others.

JD

May 19th, 2009
11:28 pm

Yeah Coach…once your manager takes you to the World Series in consecutive years, THEN you should fire him. Good call.

Reid Adair

May 19th, 2009
11:28 pm

Hey, Jeff, if you get her Twitter account, please share.

I would agree about Jeff Francoeur. He’s somewhere between “The Natural” and the borderline disaster he enduring last year and the last two weeks.

JP

May 19th, 2009
11:30 pm

Bugkiller – Are you forgetting what happened to Andruw with your beloved Joe Torre in LA? If he’s as good a manger as you claim, then why didn’t HE turn Andruw around? Could it be that some players are just uncoachable until they hit rock bottom?

rlinaug – KJ had 3 hits tonight bub, and he’s been hitting the ball hard for a while now.

You guys just love being negative Nancy’s. A lot of people who know a lot more about baseball than you 2 fools think Cox is one of the best in the game – and they’re right.

IlliniBrave

May 19th, 2009
11:32 pm

Jeff:

Actually, I was thinking of Francoeur (and JoJo… and BurgerBoy Bennet… and Garbage Anderson).

But maybe it was Pendleton that missed the block on purpose. And maybe the other three are just guilty of being like Petey – they just can’t get it done and have lost confidence in themselves.

jrcua66

May 19th, 2009
11:41 pm

Ha ha you’re a funny dude, Schultz.

Jeff Schultz

May 19th, 2009
11:53 pm

Yes, I’m still up, watching Rescue Me. Awesome episode. Tommy’s ex-wife — wow… Where was I? … Illini: Petey had talent but was soft. Probably went on to play for the Raiders.

uga-brave

May 20th, 2009
12:06 am

jeff,

here is a stat for you. the braves have hit 16 homeruns this season outside of ctizen one ballpark.

JD

May 20th, 2009
12:09 am

JS – I don’t know if it was intended or not, but I like how you noted that Francoeur turned to his father and the hitting coach of another team, but said that TP thinks Jeff will be fine.

Maybe if he would’ve been let go years ago like he should’ve, we wouldn’t have seen the streaks (KJ), the slumps (Schafer), and the slumps of Biblical proportions (Francoeur and Andruw). But alas….our lineup looks to be inconsistent for another season.

Supes

May 20th, 2009
12:19 am

TP needs to be fired as a hitting coach. All the guys are going to other people for advice and swing adjustments. It’s unheard of in other sports. Braves should be ashamed to have a hitting coach like TP that apparently can’t get through his own players.

Unless Jeff has a big year, he is well on his way of playing out of ATL. I’m sure KC will have a spot for him, if he can beat out David DeJesus that is!

Just A Fan

May 20th, 2009
12:31 am

Infante at second and leading off. Kelly in right and batting 6th. Frency platoon in outfield. Just not that good. My patience is thin. I want a good team.

Go Braves…

freshd

May 20th, 2009
12:35 am

It doesn”t matter who the hitting coach is if THE NATURAL is gonna go up to the play and swing at the first pitch everytime, he has fallen back into the same bad habits. Francouer is overrated and overpaid.

freshd

May 20th, 2009
12:35 am

yogi2

May 20th, 2009
12:36 am

Francuer and Shaffer could hit spring training pitching. A-ball and old pitchers trying to hang on. but now pitchers are getting better each time and these hittersd just cannot adjust. Pendleton is a JOKE. Bobby Cox never fires a coach,no matter how bad they are . WE have the worst hitting and pitching coaches in the majors. Saffer should be in Rome or Tee Ball

Coach (2010 or Bust)

May 20th, 2009
12:57 am

JD, shut your damn mouth.

Idiots like you will make excuses for mediocre results no matter the cost. Anybody else but Bobby Cox would have multiple WS teams given the same talent.

Another Cox apologist has revealed his stupidity for all the world to see. Good job.

Da Mick

May 20th, 2009
1:42 am

Just a reminder, Francour’s problems actually extend back to about mid-way in the 07 season, not just 08. It’s always confounded me how he’s managed to have the RBI and RISP numbers that he’s had, because I watch the Braves consistently over the years, and would swear by his performances that I’ve witnessed, that he doesn’t come through when it counts, and hence, that his numbers have always been soft (except for his first year or so). To me, Jeff’s always seemed to be a dumb ass at the plate, with not a lick of sense to what’s actually going on around him, he’s just so caught up with his own head. And I think that’s really the big picture problem — Jeff is really a dim bulb whose physical talent carried him against lesser opponents who also were mostly non-thinking jocks in his earlier years. This is not the case in the bigs once they figure you out. Just look at the smarts of the good hitters — check out Jeff’s pal McCann to see how much intelligence plays in the maturation process of a good hitter. Taking strikes and swinging at balls, Jeff is just plain out-witted most of the time, and no batting stance changes are going to change that.

yogi2

May 20th, 2009
1:51 am

Brandon Jones and Matt Diaz are much better players than Francouer and Shafer. Heward can play too. Josh Anderson was better then Shafer ever will be. DA MICK got it right

The Grinch

May 20th, 2009
1:57 am

Terry Pendleton was a great player and from what I know a great guy. But the fact that all the players on the team have to go to different people when they’re in a slump (Chipper’s dad, McCann’s dad, the Texas coach) tells me that the problem is fairly square on TP. He was a great player, but one can be great at math and be a crappy math teacher. It’s starting to look pretty obvious. Even Andruw benefited from going somewhere else. Terry’s a drinking buddy, not a coach.

Sage of Bluesland

May 20th, 2009
4:21 am

“Screw ‘em”

I believe that was The Natural’s reference to Sports Illustrated’s cover title?

No, Natural–”Screw YOU”.

Stop the coddling and start the accountability. From the coach to the “hitting” coach to the player(s)…

What a sad joke Bravesland has become! Oh well, I won’t subsidize the incompetence–I hope you don’t either…

Santa3247

May 20th, 2009
6:13 am

Hi, I’m Seong-Ho,Yoon left foot on the sea and right foot on the land until now.

Jeff Francoeur need a rest from time to time I think. So Braves have to use Brandon Jones, he can play at CF,RF,LF and trade DH/PH he is week at OF and 1B. Why national league need a special PH? are you insane?

Do you think gyt who breaking into queue can do play good at CF? The imposter passed AAA & AA, he failed at AA too. ^*^

May the force of Messiah be with you

Nation of the coward~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Chris Murphy, Atlanta, GA

May 20th, 2009
6:20 am

Went to a game vs. the Mets. Braves lost- Schafer was clueless, like someone hasn’t ever told him just make contact with men on base- and the stadium was fairly empty, especially for the Mets (NY’ers used to show, at the least). Teams and their players better get this into their heads: my $12 ticket put me up in the highest level, $11 bought me only peanuts and a Coke, so with my share of the parking money I spent over $25 for 3 hours of entertainment. That might get it for some folks, but for me and millions like me, not for those prices.

richtfan

May 20th, 2009
6:29 am

mark patterson—-this argument is as old as the hills, but it’s still true. put out a winning product FIRST, and people will support it. not the other way around.

QueenKing

May 20th, 2009
6:55 am

It’s obvious. Bobby Cox is a LOSER. In Cox’s mind it’s acceptable to lose and as long as he maintains that kind of attitude, the Braves will always fall short of glory. Jeff Franceour is an overpaid, spoiled brat and clearly not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Cox needs to go if the Braves ever expect to return to some sort of winning form.

jerry

May 20th, 2009
7:07 am

The players love Bobby because they cannot play themselves out of the lineup. (aside to Bobby-when Chipper is out of the lineup, you don’t HAVE to let his replacement bat third,fatboy).

hop

May 20th, 2009
7:10 am

it is high time the braves get rid of the high salaries and call up the kids and find out which one of them can play.

this team is going nowhere and if we are going to lose,lets do it with the kids.

frenchy is a good guy,but he is not a very good baseball player. the braves have been very patient with him,but the braves need to try someone else.

i think this will be bobby’s last year and i hope the braves have enough sense to look elswwhere and not hire tp as the new manager.

Lowcountry Bulldawg

May 20th, 2009
7:12 am

Do players from opposing teams seek out TP for hitting advice?

Cox needs to retire, not get fired. The game seams to be evolving once again in the post steroids era. No more can managers sit back and wait on the three run homer.

Managers now have to mix in a little of small ball, but pressure on the defense to make plays. This is something that Cox has not been willing to due over the past two decades.

Frenchie, I have been a supporter and will continue to be ,but he is a liability most of the time.

Dolemite

May 20th, 2009
7:18 am

In some sense the headline was correct. We have now seen the typical “Natural” digression of a player under the Bobby Cox regime. Please trade Jordan and Tommy before Bobby and his good ‘ol boy network ruin a couple more careers.

bull-gator

May 20th, 2009
7:20 am

The Braves need a new hitting coach AND a new pitching coach AND a new 3rd base coach. Cox is a great manager, he’s not a coach. Pendleton, McDowell, and Snitker are not getting the job done. I’m not so sure they even know how to coach. The three of then look like they are lost in space and clueless as to what to do next.