Jeff Francoeur’s number will be retired tonight by his old high school baseball team. Francoeur will be on hand to throw out the first pitch. From the AJC:
The ceremony will begin about 6:45 p.m., after the 4 p.m. junior varsity game.
Francoeur will throw out the first pitch before the varsity game, and a replica of Francoeur’s jersey will be hung on the outfield fence next to the No. 20 jersey of former coach Hugh “Buck” Buchanan.
It’s crazy how quickly Francoeur has become an Atlanta favorite. I mean, it would be one thing if this were Albert Pujols, or Ryan Howard or Justin Morneau. But we’re talking about a guy who struck out 132 times last season on his way to a respectable, but not mind-blowing 29 HR and 103 RBI. Francoeur’s celebrity is no doubt enhanced by the fact that he’s a local guy, having gone to high school in the Atlanta burbs and come up through the Braves’ farm system. Not to mention he’s engaged to a totally adorable Georgia belle.
Still, it’s hard to reconcile all the love that gets piled on Francoeur, considering his on-the-field accomplishments are still few and far between. For the sake of comparison, Pat Burrell, who hit the same number of homers and only eight fewer RBI for the Phillies last season, is mercilessly booed by Philly fans pretty much every time he steps to the plate. And Burrell has had big seasons in the past, hitting 32/117 in 2005 and 37/116 in 2002.
The similarities between Francoeur and Burrell don’t stop at statistics. Both are favorites of the ladies, both are recently engaged, both have strong arms (Burrell has led the league in assists more than once). So why is Francoeur a hero and Burrell a goat?
The lesson here is, of course, that Philly fans are jerks and Atlanta fans are desperate for a local boy done good. Francoeur would seem to fit the bill, except that as long as he continues to wildly hack at every pitch within a foot of the plate, his OBP is never going to rise much above last year’s piss-poor .296 (Burrell’s 2006 OBP, btw, was .388).
Still, if Frenchy can sharpen his eye, learn to draw a few walks and steer clear of the Hooters waitresses, he may very well be the golden boy Braves’ fans are longing for. And if he can’t? I hear the Phillies are still looking to trade Burrell.