J.C. Bradbury over at Sabernomics has a post up about Jeff Francoeur's radio interview yesterday on a local station here in Atlanta. I didn't hear the interview myself, but in reading his account I can almost hear it in my mind. It sounds like every interview I've heard with him for the past year.
I've tried to be a Francoeur fan, really I have. He's a fellow Parkview Panther and I'd like nothing more than see the hometown boy become a star. Francoeur has really tested my loyalty the past year, however, and I've been really disappointed in his attitude. The last straw for me wasn't his performance at the plate (although that was pretty pitiful this year), it was him saying that his relationship with the Braves was damaged when they sent him down to the minors before the All-Star Break. There's nothing I hate more than excuses, especially poor ones.
At least he's consistent though. Consistently bad at the plate this year and consistently refusing to admit that he needs some work. It sounds like Francoeur was defending himself yesterday by saying that his RBIs in 2006 and 2007 (slightly over 100 both years) prove he's capable of being a good hitter. As Bradbury points out in his post, that was hitting behind people like Chipper, McCann, Renteria and Tex all of whom are consistently on base.
Francoeur pointed out other players who have had seasons in the low .200s and have produced great comebacks the following year. Don't you have to first admit you have a problem before you can eliminate it and succeed? That's something I haven't really heard from Francoeur. All I've heard are excuses.
Because I'm a Florida Gator fan, I'm going to highlight the great Tim Tebow's approach for a moment. I normally don't talk about Florida loss to Ole Miss this year because it's such a painful memory, but I need to in order to make my point here. After that game, Tim Tebow addressed the national media and Gator Nation. He did something you rarely see a player in any sport do. He shouldered the blame for the loss. He didn't throw a coach or a teammate under the bus, he took responsibility. He also vowed to work harder and be better. For those who missed it (i.e., all you Dawg fans that are going to comment on how much you hate Tebow) here were his exact words:
I promise you one thing, a lot of good will come out of this. You will never see any player in the entire country play as hard as I will play the rest of the season. You will never see another player push his team as hard as I will push everybody the rest of the season. You will never see a team play harder than we will the rest of the season.
I don't care what sport or what team you're a fan of, I know that each and every one of you would respect a player who came out and said those words after a big loss or a bad season. Not only would you respect that man as a fan, but his teammates would respect him. I bet it would even fuel each of them to work harder. Sometimes you have to step up, shoulder some blame and be a leader.
We've all heard about how Francoeur was going to be the face of the franchise. Why? Because he's a hometown boy and good looking. I've said from day one that Brian McCann should be the one in the spotlight. And hasn't he proved me right the past four seasons? Francoeur should serenade McCann with the old Bette Midler song "Wind Beneath My Wings" because I'm sure it has been cold there in the shadows while he's let Francoeur be touted as the face of the future for the franchise. I can't imagine that after last season I'll have to hear any more of that nonsense. At the very least, Francoeur underperformed last year - I won't even go into previous years. Not once have I heard him acknowledge the issues or vow to do better. Sure, he said that he's already started his offseason hitting. But if he's not going to acknowledge his previous issues and address them, who cares if he's in the batting cage everyday? If there's not some personal reflection there and a commitment to change, all the practice in the world won't help. He needs to take a lesson from Tebow this offseason and become the leader and the player this franchise and these fans have expected him to be.
*See an entry in the comments from me on 11/23/08 pointing out the one instance I can find of Francoeur discussing last season candidly. This is exactly what I was looking for from him and wish it had been more widely heard or read by fans.