what could have been

Try not to think about what could have been, because that was then. And we have taken different paths. That’s the lyrics to the song What Might Have Been, by the country band Little Texas. Excuse me, as I have listened to this piece of music several times since hearing the news of the Jeff Francoeur trade for the Atlanta Braves.
Several weeks ago, I wrote an article stating that it was time for the Braves and Francoeur to go their separate ways, in the hope that each party could find true happiness and success separately. That was my head talking. The part of me that wants the best for the Atlanta Braves and their chances of making the playoffs. I never thought about the bond that had formed between Frenchy and the Atlanta area.

Francoeur had high expectations on his shoulders when he debuted for his hometown team in the summer of 2005. That season was supposed to be the year the Atlanta Braves’ division title series came to an end. It was something of a transition year, with Atlanta integrating several rookies into prominent roles with their club. However, with instant contributions from the likes of Brian McCann, Kelly Johnson, Ryan Langerhans, Wilson Betemit, Pete Orr, Kyle Davies and Francoeur, the team clinched the NL East crown for the 14th straight year. The youth group were labeled the Baby Braves.

McCann and Francoeur were the two who became instant fan favorites, Jeff even more so than Brian. The two had played peddler ball all over Georgia together since they were 12 years old. They played against each other several times a year in high school and remained close friends. By the time the 2002 MLB draft came around, both were highly regarded and Atlanta targeted both local products. The most celebrated player was clearly Francoeur, by some scouts’ estimation a 5-tool player, and the Braves snatched him up with their first-round pick, 23rd overall. When their second-round pick came around, they were pleased, if not amazed, that McCann was still on the board. Without hesitation, Atlanta took the receiver from nearby Athens, Georgia. Jeff Francoeur and Brian McCann became teammates again.

Francoeur and McCann rolled much the same way through the minor leagues and were called up within a few weeks of each other. While both were successful, Frenchy always seemed to overshadow B-Mac. Jeff had the undeniable presence of a superstar. He was a handsome, athletic outfielder with a cannon for an arm and a smile that made the ladies go crazy. As recently as a few weeks ago at Turner Field, more Francoeur jerseys and jerseys were worn by women than all other Braves players combined. Meanwhile, McCann was the chubby redheaded catcher whose face always seemed to be hidden behind his catcher’s mask. He’s not exactly the most marketable guy in the world.

Beyond the celebrity appeal for Francoeur, and the lack thereof for McCann, Jeff put up better numbers when the two burst onto the scene in 2005. Before I present some of these stats, I must inform you that Francoeur had 77 more career at-bats. . rookie season than McCann. In that season, Francoeur hit .300, 22 points more than McCann. Frenchy also hit 9 more home runs and drove in 22 more runs than Brian. As mentioned above, those numbers helped contribute to another postseason birth and took Braves fans on a new kind of journey. One that involved many exciting new young faces.

That rookie year led Francoeur to many titles, which have recently been used to mock him. Most famously, Sports Illustrated put him on the cover, deeming him “The Natural.” When Bobby Cox started all 162 games the following season and saw him hit 29 home runs and drive in 103 runs, the local media began labeling Jeff the “golden boy,” meaning he couldn’t be wrong. . It seemed that Jeff Francoeur was born to be an Atlanta Brave. Perhaps the old saying “love is blind” is true, since no Braves fan could have seen that the honeymoon would end. Not only did it end, but Jeff Francoeur’s train went completely off the tracks and we were all blindfolded, trying not to look.

Many people point to the beginning of their demise, as well as the loss of affection from the Braves fan base, until the offseason prior to 2007. The Braves, impressed by the play of Brian McCann and Jeff Francoeur, offered both long-term contracts that bought out the remaining years of arbitration. McCann quickly accepted the 6-year, $27.8 million offer. However, Francoeur did not accept the long-term deal presented to him by the front office. I’m just speculating, but it seems likely that the dollar figure has probably outpaced McCann’s by a few million. For an organization that for the past fifteen years has seen players take less money to come play for Bobby Cox and the Atlanta Braves, fans of the team scorned Francoeur’s rejection.

All contractual frustration was put to one side in 2007 when Francoeur managed to raise his batting average by 33 points, even though his power numbers dipped. Apparently, the decline in home runs that year weighed heavily on Jeff’s mind. He reportedly put on 20 to 25 pounds in the offseason, hoping to improve his power punch. As is often documented, he backfired in 2008. Francoeur’s performance at the plate was completely abysmal, culminating in a demotion on July 4 in Double A, Mississippi. Francoeur made it known that he was very upset about being ejected, and after a couple of well-timed injuries, the Braves were forced to call up Francoeur again. The complaint of his demotion only further alienated him from fans and members of the front office. He finished the year with a .239 batting average and what once seemed like a match made in heaven began to look like a nasty and inevitable divorce.

Francoeur slimmed down again ahead of this season, trying to regain the form that had endeared him to so many across the South. It didn’t work. His average was only a few points higher, yet he was fighting for an even lower percentage than last year. Frank Wren and John Schuerholz had simply seen enough. They couldn’t keep letting Bobby Cox add Francoeur, in the midst of a two-year slump, to an already anemic lineup. Atlanta sent him to the first club that offered some kind of major league-ready player in exchange. Oddly enough, that team turned out to be a divisional rival, the New York Mets. A lifelong Peachtree Estate native to the Big Apple. It is better for Francoeur to act if he wants to rest in the city that never sleeps.

How did we get here, Jeff Francoeur? The hometown hero. The next face of the franchise. Golden Boy. The natural. No one could have known that you would be out of town gambling before your 26th birthday. Now there are only two Baby Braves left, and without a doubt, your departure has been the most devastating blow. It wasn’t supposed to end like this. The stars were never intended to align for such an abrupt death. The suave, charismatic right fielder has brought his act to New York, and the chubby redhead, whose face remains behind the catcher’s mask, has become the face of the Atlanta Braves.