Well, I’ve said this before, that it’s not my habit to recommend the hiring or firing or trading or buying or selling of people in sports. Or any other business, for that matter. However, I can take a dim view of moving players about in trades, and have, numerous times. But now it’s about the unstable status of Jeff Francoeur, once the golden child of the Braves, home-grown and adored. “Frenchy,” as they call him, for obvious reason.
He suddenly fell on hard times, when his offensive production went into a slump. But not his defensive skill. He is still the Braves’ best outfielder, with the truest arm, base runner beware when the ball is hit in his territory. At the end of the season last fall, Jeff took action on his own, to get to the bottom of his batting stress. He’d heard encouraging reports about the hitting coach of the Texas Rangers, Rudy Jaramillo, born and raised in Beeville, TX. On his own—and it was privately done—he made arrangements to spend a few days with Jaramillo after the season. And he confided in me. I promised to keep it private, though I did write of it without including Jaramillo’s name. So he spent a few days in Texas and came home feeling as if he had been cleansed.
It was in no way a rejection of Terry Pendleton, it was reaching out in another direction. Frankly, I don’t know just what marvels a hitting coach can inject into his players. Look at Chipper Jones right now, 0-for-21. Has he forgotten how to hit a baseball all of a sudden? And what can Terry Pendleton do for him? Don’t wait too long. Just the other day the Cubs fired Gerald Perry as its hitting coach. I’d never really known that such was one of Perry’s talents.
But Francoeur’s Texas venture has had only sporadic effect. He has, in the meantime, made his peace with Pendleton, so he told me. I’m not aware that his venture in Texas bothered Bobby Cox, or if it did, Bobby never mentioned it. I’d imagine that any effort Francoeur might have made would have pleased his manager.
Needless to say, any suggestion that Francoeur might be put up for trade represents just another possible blemish on the present Braves regime. At least they have a home talent to attract the locals. The deal for Nate McLouth doesn’t have the turnstiles whirling. In the long run, I think it will work out as a plus, though his arm isn’t a threat to base runners. But whose idea it might be to trade Francoeur, I can’t say—if there is one. Such local gate attractions aren’t easily come by. Brian McCann is an exception. Francoeur could be, should be, and unloading him at this stage of a skid would strike me as being another admission of the failure of present management.