July 31, 2005

Viva la Murph

You probably weren't watching the other day when some rookie Braves outfielder homered in a late July game, and if you were watching, you probably didn't think much of it -- the Braves' roster is swarming with rookies this year (they started seven rookies in one game against Texas back in June). If you were tuned in though, you might have laughed for a second when the rookie went back to the dugout after his homer only to find that his teammates were completely ignoring him instead of coming out to give him the customary high fives -- a little piece of rookie hazing -- and instead of getting remotely flustered or caught off-guard by the prank, the rookie seamlessly proceeded to give a number of convincing high fives to the air, pretending as though he was getting props from his teammates even though he wasn't. A moment later, they all got off the bench to congratulate him for real, clearly amused and impressed by how deftly he had reacted to the prank.

That was just a brief moment in the game, but it perfectly summarized Jeff Francoeur's first three weeks in the big leagues. He may be a 21-year-old straight up from Double-A soon to be figured out by big league pitching, but at this precise moment, the kid looks like he belongs. Consider: a standing ovation from the hometown fans before he homered in his first big league game (Francoeur went to high school in the Atlanta area); 6 homers, 16 rbi's and a .405 average in his first 42 at-bats. And perhaps the greatest sign yet -- while most of his teammates refer to him as "Frenchie" in a nod to his last name, Braves' clubhouse leader and fellow southern gentleman Chipper Jones refers to Francoeur as "Murph," because the kid reminds him of Dale Murphy. Dale Murphy may have been a Mormon and somewhat of a goofball, but the man could play ball.

It may not be sweeping the nation, but Francoeur Mania is completely out of control in Atlanta. One friend of mine (who will remain nameless) is professing a full-blown man-crush for Francoeur. On Sunday, the native son was a front page story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which is particularly incredible considering...actually, never mind -- the AJC puts rubbish on its front page all the time. The point is, there's a new Murph in town, a dynamic right-handed hitting outfielder who can run, hit, throw, melt fire hydrants with laser beam vision and, most importantly, will be the face of the Braves franchise for the next decade and beyond. (The comparison breaks down when you realize that Francoeur isn't a Mormon, but you can't have everything.)

There's little doubt in my mind that Francoeur is due to hit a rough stretch sometime before the summer's out -- he has yet to draw a single base on balls, not necessarily a great sign -- but right now the Francoeur Experience is a pretty sweet ride. And don't think a rookie slump will be the end for Francoeur. Just like his deft reaction to the prank from his teammates, it doesn't seem to take this kid long to figure things out.


Blogger jmals said...

I saw the Braves do this to Andruw Jones the other day. Was that before or after Francoeur? Anyway, I was most impressed with Bobby Cox's poker face after Jones' shot. He was the first guy Jones passed on the way into the dugout, and at his age, I doubt Cox can hold his bladder so the fact that he holstered a smile deserve a new round of high fives.

1:15 PM, August 03, 2005  
Blogger jimmyrad said...

Andruw got the treatment first. Matt, you left out Francouer High-Fiving the wall at the bottom of the stairs, after the air-Fives.

I've ruined several pairs of undies in the past couple of weeks watching him.

Viva Francoeur

3:22 PM, August 03, 2005  
Blogger The OCC said...

I didn't see the prank pulled on Andruw, but apparently the whole thing had him quite confused.

7:01 PM, August 03, 2005  

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