Viva la Murph
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.