The new Francoeur: “I’m back to being myself, but different”

It wasn’t just that he hit a home run off Brett Myers his first time up in 2009, though it was, Jeff Francouer concedes, really nice. Better still was what happened three days later, when he faced Joe Blanton with the bases loaded, and we know too well what befell Francoeur with the bases loaded a year ago.

“I struggled in that situation last year,” Francoeur said Friday, speaking before the Braves’ home opener. And yes, going 6-for-33 in the maximum run-producing opportunity would constitute a flop in any man’s league. But that, as we’re learning daily, was then. This is now. Now is better.

“I got the count to 2-0,” said Francoeur, the famously free swinger. “And I got a fastball and didn’t try to do too much with it. I just took it back up the middle.”

Two runs scored on the professionally struck single, prompting Francoeur to say: “At the end of the day, I felt better about the bases-loaded single than the home run.”

Yes, our little Frenchy is growing up. We loved him when he arrived in July 2005 because he played baseball with a footballer’s ferocity, but over time we came to love him less because that approach was getting in the way. And finally Francoeur, who became one of the greatest two-sports stars in this state’s history by being gung-ho about everything, came to realize that being gung-ho doesn’t work in the sport he has chosen as his vocation.

“I’ve tried to get out of that football mentality,” he said. “I’m a little better about that now. I’m having fun. I’m relaxed. I’m not as tense, not as amped up. I’m really trying to control my emotions.”

More than a few folks (and you know who you were) were ready to give up on Francoeur last summer. The guess here is that, come September, every Braves fan will be glad Francoeur’s employer stuck with him. Having learned how to succeed the first 24 years of his life, he spent his 25th year learning to fail, which is never easy but ultimately necessary for every athlete.

There were times in 2008 when Francoeur dreaded coming to work. He reported to Turner Field on Friday feeling none of that. “I’m back to being myself,” he said. And then: “But I’m a different player, too.”

And not just emotionally. Technically, too. The swing he brought home from Texas after working over the winter with Rudy Jaramillo, the Rangers’ hitting coach, gets better by the day. The new Francoeur Method calls for a slightly open setup, a shorter stride and less hand movement. “From the very first day of camp, my swing hasn’t changed a bit,” he said. “That’s something I’m proud of.

There are going to be rough moments. Francoeur knows that. He struck out on a Julian Tavarez slider to end the fifth inning with two men aboard. But later Friday — actually, it was Saturday by then — Francoeur slapped a Saul Rivera delivery up the middle to drive home the go-ahead run in this rain-delayed game. (The Braves would win in the 10th on Kelly Johnson’s single.)

How hard, Francoeur was asked, would it be to revert to his old flailing approach? “I’d have to relearn it,” he said. “This has made a huge difference for me.”

The 2009 Braves need Francoeur to be a difference-maker, and he’s capable. He didn’t become less a talent because he had a lousy year. In the grand scheme, that lousy year will make him a better ballplayer. Just watch.

50 comments Add your comment

Rimfire

April 10th, 2009
8:05 pm

Agreed, hopefully the bump in the road makes him much more wary to the pitfalls…

willie

April 10th, 2009
8:35 pm

Anybody who was already looking to give up on Francouer last year doesn’t know baseball. The kid is still a pup. He is a winner, pure and simple. He’ll figure it out.

Mark Bradley

April 10th, 2009
8:51 pm

I think he’ll be fine. Now watch me jinx him, too.

Ted Striker

April 10th, 2009
9:01 pm

“Back to being myself…but different.”

I always figured if he got a little infusion of Yogi Berra, he’d be just fine.

Mark Bradley

April 10th, 2009
9:06 pm

You can’t go wrong with Yogi Berra. Or Gogi Grant.

shortcircuit

April 10th, 2009
9:28 pm

Mark, do you have the link SI had on pro ’s who lost all their money and the people who tried to help them? Or was that Jeff

Mark Bradley

April 10th, 2009
10:04 pm

I didn’t have it, ShortCircuit, but because I’m sitting through a rain delay and have time on my hands, my friend Dr. Google helped me find it.

misterwax

April 10th, 2009
10:11 pm

I wonder if “m” ever posts any TGAG diatribe in here…..hope not!!

Mark Bradley

April 10th, 2009
10:22 pm

Don’t know what TGAG is, MisterWax.

Supposed to get going again at 10:40 — p.m., not a.m.

Mark Bradley

April 10th, 2009
10:49 pm

Playing ball again. Frenchy just struck out. I’ve done it again, I fear.

Mark Bradley

April 10th, 2009
11:20 pm

Struck out once more, this time with two on.

Ted Striker

April 10th, 2009
11:30 pm

Channeling some Yogi again — “Slump? I ain’t in no slump. I just ain’t hitting.”

And a few more that have no relevance here — they just amuse me….

“Why buy good luggage? You only use it when you travel.”
“The towels were so thick there I could hardly close my suitcase.”
“You should always go to other people’s funerals; otherwise, they won’t come to yours.”
“I take a two hour nap, from one o’clock to four.”
“You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.”
“Texas has a lot of electrical votes.”
“If the fans don’t come out to the ball park, you can’t stop them.”

Chipper "DL" Jones

April 10th, 2009
11:46 pm

Like I posted the other day, the Braves won’t be winners this year because they have a bullpen full of dead arms and a fat Australian who can’t pitch. Chipper has already been whining and had to sit out a game that we lost. If Frank Wren can’t find one decent reliever without a bum elbow, then he should be put out to pasture with Dave Braine.

BugKiller

April 11th, 2009
12:18 am

Sorry Mark, I don’t buy Frenchy, and I put much of the blame on Cox, just as I do for what Cox allowed to happen with Andruw Jones.

Cox absolutely ruined Andruw Jones by not demanding more of him early on because he could hit lots of homers (and we know how Cox loves to be a lazy manager and wait for the homer).

Cox was ready to allow Frenchy to become AJ Part II. Hit .260 ever year, kill a bunch of rallies, hit into double plays, ruin bases-loaded opportunities, but hit those homers boy! Who cares if you could be better?

No… Mark, you are WAY off the Mark.

The Braves and Braves fans need to put all of the adulation on the shoulders of Chipper “Life-Long Brave” Jones, and Brian McCann, the BEST catcher in baseball.

Frenchy provides to occasional burst of pyrotechnics.

McCann is the actual SUBSTANCE of this team.

Mark Bradley

April 11th, 2009
12:31 am

Uh, didn’t Cox also manage Chipper? Indeed, isn’t he the only manager C. Jones has ever known? Did he ruin him, too?

Biff Pocoroba

April 11th, 2009
1:18 am

Mark, get down to the bullpen and get ready to pitch the 12th. At least the rain delay gave you a chance to brush up on your Japanese for the game later on today.

Mark Bradley

April 11th, 2009
1:22 am

My arm’s in good shape, Biff. It’s my eyelids that are giving me trouble. I’m feeling very sleepy … very sleepy …

BugKiller

April 11th, 2009
1:26 am

Mark, think about it this way, there are those who don’t need the extra touch.

As for Bobby Cox, he remains the single most overrated manager in baseball, not to mention the worst, absolute worst crunch-time, do-or-die, win-or-go-home, postseason, October manager in Baseball History.

In the regular season, as long as the GM as put together a clubhouse that is harmonious and chock full of chemistry (think of the Yankees under Torre while Paul O’Neil still played, not the every man for himself, free agent mercenary Yankees of AFraud, Sheff, and the like)… then the talent of the team has much more to do with whether a team wins the division or not.

But in the postseason, when teams are equal, then the tactical skills of the manager are either confirmed, or in Cox’s case, exposed, time and time again for the fraud they are.

For 14 postseasons, Cox had the single best postseason pitcher of his time (maybe of all time) on his roster. And he pitched him in the first game how many times? Once, I think.

His managerial decisions in October reflect Einstein’s theory on insanity: Doing the same thing, the exact same way, over and over and over again, but expecting a different result each time.

For some reason, Cox led his team like it was April, not October. Leaving pitchers in far too long. Bringing in bad reliever match-ups. Leaving hot bats on the bench for his favored, limp-hitting veterans. Sticking with his ridiculous platoons, especially during the Klesko era, when Klesko had proven he could hit lefties and righties (and proven again when he left Atlanta).

Nope… Bobby Cox is perhaps the greatest fraud ever foisted upon baseball.

How many great teams did John Schurholtz put together that Cox’s ineptness ruin in October?

This team probably should have won in 1991. It DEFINITELY should have won in 1996 and 1997.

And the only reason it did win in 1995? Because maybe, just maybe, Mike Hargrove is a worse crunch-time manager than Bobby Cox.

Braves win.

DrHenry/ Augusta

April 11th, 2009
1:48 am

Seems we have a pretty good ss in Yunel Escobar…Big arm, pretty good glove, big HR tonite….And to think we all wanted to run F. Wren out of town when the Furcal signing went bad…except U MB….Wasnt it U that wrote not signing Furcal might not be so bad???

Dr. Warren

April 11th, 2009
3:27 am

For awhile, I think we were worried he might turn into George Lombard rather than something more akin to Chipper Jones. You’ve convinced me it could very well work out like the latter…

jake

April 11th, 2009
6:02 am

Nice, feel-good story, and you can’t help rooting for Francoeur. But he’s hitting .222. If I’m him, I show up, shut up and put up some numbers. Then we can talk.

Dave

April 11th, 2009
7:33 am

I hate to be negative, but Terry Pendelton could not fix Andruw Jones who went to Texas to get coached by the same coach who fixed Franchoeur maybe we need to think about hiring this hitting coach especially if he does indeed fix Andrew Jones.

brewdawg

April 11th, 2009
7:46 am

Once upon a time there was a Brave who was hailed as one of the only bright spots on an otherwise bad team. Then, just the very next season, this annointed great one struggled so mightily that the team considered trading him for whatever they could get. However, there is a happy ending to this sad tale. That Brave turned his season around in the second half, and became a staple for the franchise for the next two decades. That Brave was John Smoltz. Jeff, may your career take the same path. Good luck.

fieldofdreams

April 11th, 2009
7:56 am

“The Natural’s” a head case who will never be a clutch player in the Bigs. He’s a football player who’s clearly overmatched by a more cerebral game. With Heyward waiting in the wings, hopefully the Braves have Francoeur on a short leash.

Leland

April 11th, 2009
7:58 am

Dear Mr. MB–It’s not quite eight Saturday morning, and I know you must be home asleep after the late night. But I don’t care, I’m going to write a note anyway so that when you wake up and see it, it will cheer you up. Your pal, Leland

dap01

April 11th, 2009
8:06 am

Great another Francouer article.

rainman

April 11th, 2009
8:31 am

Francoeur used to wiff at the high cheese, now they sucker him on the slider down and away. Until he can get in the pitcher’s head, instead of the other way around, he will not be consistent.

Mdawg

April 11th, 2009
8:38 am

Give me a break. This clown is hitting .224. Should that number excite me? Did you see the lame effort in right field last night that was responsible for the 1st run? If you like him so much now would be the time to deal him. There may be others who value him tody. Later this year there will be no opportunity to move him. Wasn’t he a stud pitcher in high school. I say we shoot Boyer and give his bullpen spot to Frenchy. That way he won’t be allowed to hit but we still keep him around because he’s a “good” guy. Go Braves!

UGASlobberknocker

April 11th, 2009
9:08 am

I guess the Braves should have traded Dale Murphy when he struggled his first few years. Same thing with Niekro, he was just another relief pitcher getting shelled his first three years. Tom Glavine went 7-17 his 2nd year, I guess we should have traded that bum , too.

If we Braves fans are going to get down on somebody, rather than making it a young man with great spirit and great potential, let’s bitch about the Arson Squad down in the bullpen. Why is it the Braves refuse to spend any money out there? Then every year we get pounded in the late innings. Even though mdawg above is an obvious idiot, he may be right about one thing , Frenchy could do no worse than the killer B’s: Boyer, Bennett, and the Bomb Squad. Frenchy could go 5 for 5 every night and if we cant get anyone out after the 6th inning we are still going to be awful. It used to be “Spahn and Sain and pray for rain”. Now it’s. “With Boyer and Bennett, we aint winning the pennant.”

Ted Striker

April 11th, 2009
9:22 am

## BugKiller: “People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along?”

## Mark: This has nothing to do with the Braves but I find it disturbing some NFL teams have set up fake profiles on social networking sites to gain access to prospective draftees. Using pictures of a third party to create a fake profile violates the terms of service for social networking sites & might also be considered spam in certain jurisdictions. Might the Detroit Lions be disturbed to learn that Matt Stafford was generating fake profiles to spy on a girl he was thinking about asking out? Doesn’t that sound a bit stalker-like?

Don’t misunderstand my point. Teams should be able to use a full spectrum of ethical means to investigate prospects. But fake profiles? No. If a team wants to access a prospect’s comments or photos, be legitimate. Get a hot employee or hot friend of a club employee to do it. That may still be questionable in the mind of some, but at least it’s not making up a fictional person based on a real person’s photos. Social networking sites need to contact the commissioner and insist the NFL’s ownership ascribe to the same standards it claims to expect from NFL players.

TheAntiMe

April 11th, 2009
10:00 am

“Our little Frenchy is growing up.”

lol – You’re on a roll this week, MB. :)

JKP

April 11th, 2009
10:29 am

His pitch selection is definitely improved. But, he’s still flying open on his swing. Last night, he hit a ball to left field that could have been a more of a drive if he had kept his shoulder and hips closed for half a second more. I’d like to see him close in towards the plate as the pitch is delivered.

I’m not bashing him, though. I’m very happy with the progress he’s made. And, the fact that he’s made such a change to his approach and swing means that he will most likely be able to put it all together. I’d say by mid-season he’ll have figured it out. But, next season, I think will be when we see the true payoff for a whole season.

He’s already done in 4 years what Andruw refused to do for 10+ years.

A-Jax

April 11th, 2009
10:33 am

Frenchy can hit .250 and strikeout 100 times as long as he drives on 100+ runs, and he’s on pace to do that.

But, even with the new approach his front side still flies open, like AJ, leaving him vulnerable to breaking balls away, like AJ. I like TP but a good hitting coach would have corrected both quickly.

And the bullpen…My guess is that the braves will lead 90+ games after the sixth and lose fifteen of those b/c of our pen. Otherwise this team is good enough to go deep into the postseason.

mike in woodstock

April 11th, 2009
11:39 am

Agree with Jake. You really want the guy to do well but lets get several games in the books before we go into Francour overload.

Da Mick

April 11th, 2009
11:52 am

Jeese Louise, what is it with you media folks and Francouer? Haven’t we all have enough of the jabber about this guy? It is, after all, about what he does, not what he, you, O’Brian, the AJC, the television announcing teams, The Braves front office, and his mother says about what he’s going to do. I honestly wish the guy the best, and hope for his, and for the Braves’, sake that he does find his way and become a consistentley productive hitter. But enough is enough. Every little thing the guy does right as a baseball player is proclaimed as proof that he is risen. As everyone knows, it’s a long season, and being a major league ballplayer requires enormous concentration over the long haul to be a good one.

There’s no question that Jeff has the physical skills. The question is can fight off the psychological problems he’s had reinforced his whole life of being the golden boy, and consequently always looking to pull the ball while swinging for the fences to prove it. He’s always been an eager talker who’s adept at handing out a line of what he’s going to do. He’s really got his rap down this go-round and you folks are publishing and broadcasting it like it was positive news on the economy. Personally, as a Braves fan, I’m sick of hearing it. With his play over the last couple of years (not just last year), I think he’s earned the right to walk the walk or be gone, at this point — no more blah-blah, excuses, etc.. But I continue to be mystified and disappointed at how seemingly all of you media folks just give him so much attention and verbal rope. There are a number of other Braves players who deserve the attention, the loyalty, and the opportunities afforded Jeff Francouer, but who simply play based on their performance. I am offended by this wave of propoganda that has been laid on thick for Jeff Francouer since the beginning of spring traing. I don’t understand what’s prompting it, but I think you media folks should be ashamed. However, I do wish Jeff the best in the real world. Go Braves.

Mark Bradley

April 11th, 2009
1:17 pm

Thanks, Leland. Actually, I’m in Athens, blogging live from G-Day.

Rip D.

April 11th, 2009
1:21 pm

Give me a break Jeff going hit 240 with 10 homers and 50 rbi’s just like last year ,just face it the dude no good stop kiss his golden ass

Tim Brown

April 11th, 2009
2:38 pm

It is almost sickening that some people can never be satisfied. Bobby Cox has done an outstanding job for the Braves. He is the main person responsible for team chemistry and how a team plays together. He plays games the same way from the start to the finish to keep the sameness of the game. Team chemistry is the key and he is great at it. Ted Turner could still be the manager, be very thankful. Wrenn has been unjustly vilified this year as well. I hope that people will begin to see the method in his supposed madness. If every potential player was not reported as fact then the off season would never have been so full of disappointment. It takes a lot to be the best at any thing and just being in the top 6 is quite an accomplishment.

Josh

April 11th, 2009
2:58 pm

We haven’t even played a week of baseball and the anti-frenchy guys are already crying about his batting avg. Hello, in the first couple of weeks of the season your batting avg can increase/decrease by 50 pts in one AB. Can you give the guy a few weekes?

Derrick

April 11th, 2009
5:35 pm

I hope people know what an embarrassment columns like this are. It’s a few fricking games. How about we wait a month and see if Franceour has turned it around, instead of acting like a few extra base hits means something. I swear that I’ve never seen a player in MLB ever get more out of proportion love than Franceour. People may go ga-ga for Jeter but its hard to argue that he hasn’t earned at least some of it. You’ve got a potential future HOF catcher on your team, and writers and fans spend about twice as much time talking about a guy who has played about a total of 3 great months in the majors. This is a sickness

DH

April 11th, 2009
6:06 pm

Frenchy is a quality person, the kind of guy you hope succeeds. That being said I cannot see the guy being an everyday major leaguer much longer.

35YearBravesFan

April 12th, 2009
7:54 am

Geez Mark, do you always draw a crowd like this??? The Pollyanna attitude is tough to take…

Bob

April 12th, 2009
5:39 pm

To say he’s back is to imply he ever was any good. Truth is, he’s never been of much value offensively or defensively. His OBP, which is only the most important measure of offensive value, stinks.

Minor League stuff

April 13th, 2009
4:47 am

A lot of Gwinnett Braves stuff on this site-

http://minorsandmajors.com

stimpy

April 21st, 2009
6:46 pm

stimpy

April 21st, 2009
6:49 pm

stimpy

April 21st, 2009
7:06 pm

stimpy

April 21st, 2009
7:07 pm

The stuff diappears

[...] thought it would work, but it isn’t working and I don’t believe it will again. Francoeur and the Braves need [...]

[...] Francoeur was the same as he’d been last season, give or take. Even after vowing many times to be a new Frenchy, he was the familiar flailing Frenchy. And the Braves had seen [...]