Ron Costello

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Francouer Made the Mental Adjustment

It's great to watch Jeff Francouer play.

He's happy with his role and he should be — he's done well with the Phillies. The man his teammates call "Frenchy" — his father is of French-Canadian heritage — appears to love his job. I'd say  he plays with a youthful enthusiasm.

At 31, with his career hanging in shreds — he brought himself back.

Nice to see, isn't it?

 Frenchy was once at the top of the baseball world — selected by the Braves in the first round of the '02 amateur draft. In '04 he was named the top prospect in the Braves system, then brought up to the Show on July 6, 2005.

His first major league hit was a three run bomb; he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in August, billed as "The Natural." He had a few good years with the Braves but in '08, his career ran out of gas. Mired in an ugly slump, he was optioned to Double A Mississippi. They brought him back up a month later but his slump continued and the following year he was traded to the Mets.

From the Mets, his baseball career spiraled down hill.

He was traded to the Rangers, to the Royals, to the Giants, and to the Indians, who released him in March, '14. The Padres signed him to a minor league contract, brought him up for a few days in July and released him in August.

"I want to know, have you ever seen the rain?
I want to know, have you ever seen the rain?
Comin' down on a sunny day...?

With his career in the balance, the Phillies signed Francouer to a minor league contract and he came north with the club in March. He re-found himself with the Phillies — as a spot starter and pinch hitter.

Friday he won the game in Chicago going yard in the 10th with a man on.

He circled the bases like he just  won the Word Series at Williamsport, while his teammates gathered for a punch party at the plate. You can tell he's a popular on the team.

But here's the thing about Francouer. Hanging on by his fingernails, he retooled and settled for a pinch hitter, spot starter role. He worked hard and brought himself back.

So much, in fact, he just might have more trade value going into the deadline week, than Hamels or Papelbon.

Why? Because happy role players and good pinch hitters are a sought after commodity  on teams headed to the post. Besides, Frenchy's a good man to have in the clubhouse and dugout.

He's attitude-less!

Chase Utley could take a page from Francouer's book.

If Utley could accept a role as pinch hitter and spot starter, it could extend his career considerably. Utley too is a good man to have in the clubhouse and dugout. But Utley has got to get over the fact he isn't 28 any more.

Utley is a student on hitting. He'll spend the hours in the cage it takes to keep himself sharp and ready to pinch hit late in the game.

And Utley would be a hell of a left handed pinch hitter.

It has nothing to do with ability, but what you think of yourself between the ears. Obviously, Francouer has made the mental adjustment, and for him, it's paying off.

And I like that.
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