Another Universe-Balancing Jeff Francoeur Rant
By Justin Klugh
Do I know him? Of course not. Am I obsessed with him? I feel like “obsess” is too positive of a verb. [EDITOR’S NOTE: So the word you’re looking for is… what? ‘Haunted?’ ‘Tormented?’ Still weird.]
But that just shows how unlikeable the guy must be if I, someone so far removed from a personal introduction with the man, finds his personality so blatantly detestable that this is the third post on this Phillies blog I’ve written (EDITOR’S NOTE: Fifth–one, two, three, four. Sixth in general) that is dedicated solely to telling you how much I hate the man.
First, a disclaimer: Jeff has spent most of his career on teams competing directly with the Phillies, so to say I enter this with a bias sitting on my shoulder and whispering in my ear is an understatement. The bias is the size of a tanker truck, and its not whispering, its screaming so loudly there aren’t any windows left intact in my apartment.
Here is Joe Posnanski’s recent article on how Jeff’s just got the best smile and keenest attitude and boy spring just isn’t spring without all the [CLICHE] of baseball that Jeff epitomizes just by being Jeff. This post is meant to merely re-balance the universe by saying Jeff maybe isn’t that great.
"“He is the most joyous guy out there. He is the guy who is running hard during base running drills and slapping guys on the butt as they get to home plate and bringing energy to a lazy Arizona morning. He is the guy smiling during batting practice as he tries to steal an extra swing or two, the one talking up teammates as they take their swings, the one sprinting from field to field to get to the next drill.”"
Oh, that guy! If there is no one else as joyous, no one else running hard, no one else butt-slapping, no one else with energy, no one else smiling during BP, and no one else sprinting at the Royals training camp, then… its going to be another banner year for the Royals.
"“It is impossible — utterly impossible — not to root for this Jeff Francoeur.”"
I would have ignored this as hyperbole, but Joe manages to fit the word “impossible” twice into one sentence, so I’ll assume he really wants you to think that you can’t not like Jeff Francoeur.
Okay, now for most of the middle of this article, Joe explains why Jeff was entirely overhyped as a young player in Atlanta, and didn’t deserve his Sports Illustrated cover. So I don’t need to cover that ground. In fact, my arguments against Jeff have mostly been regarding his personality, so the fact that he’s been a relentless letdown is great to me, but in the end, is eclipsed by the childlike whines of his true self. Last night, the Dodgers-Royals exhibition game was on a TV right next to one showing Kansas play Texas A&M, and the bouncing, blued-out KU fans with “KANSAS” written across their chests looked like they were all cheering for the Royals. Then something stupid happened in the basketball game and they all looked pissed, which happened to be right when Jeff Francoeur came up to bat for the Royals. It was great.
Anyways, my point is, we pick up the Posnanski article later on, when he’s getting into the part where Jeff Francoeur may suck at baseball, but at least he’s got that smile.
"“It is impossible — utterly impossible — to watch Jeff Francoeur, to talk with him, and not to root for him.”"
Wow. He said it again. Four times now in this article, you have been warned that if you are ever exposed to Jeff Francoeur, you will have ABSOLUTELY NO CHOICE but to fall in love with him. One flash of that grin, one mention of how swell Delta Airlines is, and you be HEAD OVER FUCKING HEELS INTOXICATED by the man. It’s nature.
"“He plays the game with the enthusiasm of a child who loves baseball. He treats everyone, from the most to least important people in his life, with respect and curiosity.”"
Just out of curiosity, I wonder who the “least important” person in Jeff Francoeur’s life is? I wonder how it feels to know you are that person.
Let’s take a real quick step back for a second. I’m a Green Bay Packers fan, and a big one. Thanks to Favre, I am sick to death of the phrase “He looks like a kid out there” as if its this wondrous, mystical compliment. Sometimes, Brett looked like a kid because he was inexplicably hurling a pass into triple coverage.
Aww, does that grown man bring the enthusiasm of a child on the field? Does his hustle invoke the image of youth tryouts; of a youngster whose so desperate to make the team that he’s giving every last activity, even the ones that nobody cares about like “just walking around,” his all?
Maybe that’s because he sucks. Maybe somebody needs more than a childlike innocence to succeed in professional sports. Maybe this personality trait isn’t as majestic and storybook-batshit-wonderful as sportswriters like to assume it is.
"“This is what I mean when I say that the two big points about Jeff Francoeur collide. His performance demands negativity. His attitude demands hope.”"
I’ve already cataloged some of the dumbest things Francoeur and his hopeful attitude have spouted over the years, but let’s just pick one at random. Ah! Here we go:
"“That’s just bullshit. That’s really not fair. That’s just not fair…It’s ridiculous… Absolutely crazy.”"
This was in response to those three bonus home games the Phillies got a few years back, when the G20 Summit forced them out of a three-game set they were supposed to play in Toronto. The city was already going to be crowded, given the gathering of representatives and security from all over the world, so they figured they could just move it to Philly.
But Jeff, before the series even started–and this was when he played for the Mets and the Mets hadn’t started collapsing that year yet–had decided that these three games were so titanically unfair that they would unravel the Mets’ season. This may be a tight play off race, and it may only be June, but… game over, man. Why bother even showing up for the Mets’ series against the Twins on those same dates? Might as well chalk up three bonus wins for the Phillies.
I believe the Phils went on to lose one of the games, and when the dust cleared, they were still two games behind the Mets, as they were when the series started. But nobody really noticed because those three games–and therefore the division itself–had already been counted as wins for the Phillies.
Which isn’t to say “hopeful” isn’t a true trait of Jeff’s. Here’s a particularly inspiring quote from the lad last year:
"“Maybe it’s a distraction we need. Not to say it’s a good thing. But maybe at the end of the day we can turn it into a positive.”"
Yeah, see? There we go. Nice and hopeful; he’s trying to take some negative thing and squeeze some plus signs out of it. ‘Atta boy, Jeff.
Except the “distraction” he’s talking about is K-Rod punching the crap out of his father-in-law outside the family lounge at Citi Field. Some things don’t have a flipside, Jeff. Some things you just say “Wow that’s terrible,” and move on.
All right, back to work.
"“The last few springs, you could count on a flurry of stories — from Atlanta, from New York, from a wandering national reporter — about how Jeff Francoeur has made an adjustment, how he has become more patient, how he has shortened his stride, how he has gotten into better shape, anything at all to offer the possibility that Francoeur would turn things around and once again be filled with the promise of the photograph on the cover of Sports Illustrated.”"
With the conclusion of this story being “…but he never did turn things around, the end,” this reads more like a cautionary tale against the entire concept of “hope” in general.
"“I went to see the Royals in Surprise for an upcoming SI story, and I made a special effort to watch Francoeur. I saw just what I expected to see.”"
WARNING. WARNING. PARAGRAPH OF RIDICULOUS DESCRIPTIONS IMMINENT.
"“He was bursting with life.”"
My god. Is he okay?
"“He was hustling like mad.”"
Hustling is the “hope” of physical activities.
"“He was talking constantly, and making everyone around him feel a little better, work a little harder, smile a little more.”"
I admire Posnanski’s dedication here. That he made the rounds to every player who’d been around Francoeur that day and took a tally of the amount of smiles there were, and compared that number to the smiles of previous workouts, shows indescribable dedication.
"“Sure, I told myself, everyone looks good in batting practice. But he hit a another line drive, and the sun was shining, and everybody in camp was happy, and he another line drive, and I’m pretty sure I saw Hall of Famer George Brett nod, and I’m pretty sure I heard batting coach Kevin Seitzer shout “atta baby,” and the day had warmed enough to take off my jacket, and I looked up Francoeur’s numbers again and saw that he and I share a birthday (17 years apart) and Frenchy hit another line drive, and his swing definitely looked more fluid and more powerful and the stark numbers of the last five years began to fade and …“"
I took the liberty of putting in bold all the parts of this paragraph that are not connected to Jeff Francoeur’s hopefulness, or anything, really. According to that last sentence, though, Jeff Francoeur’s hopefulness is so strong that it actually erases past instances of hopeLESSness.
"“And I had to remind myself that this is spring training, and this is baseball, and it wouldn’t be quite as much fun if you couldn’t at least root for Jeff Francoeur.”"
I don’t know. I’m having a great time, and I wrote this blog post.
God, I am obsessed with him, aren’t I?