On June 16, the Phillies splattered against what many considered to be rock bottom. In a game in which the Orioles scored in every inning but the eighth, the Phillies lost 19-3, leading to one of the sport's most hotly sought novelties: a position player pitching.
In the seventh inning, following an eye-gougingly poor start by Jerome Williams and a mop-up session from Dustin McGowan that caused many fans to consider gouging out their only remaining eye, things were clearly not going to get better. With little recourse, Ryne Sandberg had his fourth outfielder head to the bullpen. And, after a hoarsely whispered tip on how to strangle his way out of any problem from Jonathan Papelbon, Jeff entered the game as a pitcher and went full Francoeur.
Ryne Sandberg sent Francoeur out for another inning for some reason, and then the team was faced with the unthinkable: What happens when you put Jeff Francoeur into a game...
...but then can't get him out of it?
The Phillies bullpen didn't have their phone hung up properly, so Bob McClure couldn't reach them from the dugout, thus preventing them from getting up a new pitcher to replace Francoeur. So, Frenchy just kept on pitching, clearly reaching and passing his limit. We were left to gape in awestruck wonder as a Phillies coach appeared on the dugout railing, literally waving a white flag; the most fantastically appropriate image for a Phillies season since Cliff Lee farted during a post game interview. No one could have blamed the Orioles for interpreting the image wrong and packing up and leaving.
Instead, a fuming Chase Utley met McClure on the mound and yelled at him, causing several hairs of McClure's mustache to wriggle free in terror. Francoeur seemed to laugh the whole thing off. You get the impression that he may not know exactly where is or what he is doing at all times, but god damn if he isn't just having the time of his life.
Francoeur served in many roles for the Phillies this season; clean-up hitter, veteran presence, runner-thrower-outer. His assist from right field to nail Steve Lombardozzi at the plate in mid-May got Jonathan Papelbon his franchise record-clinching 113th save as a Phillie, for which he gladly purchased Francoeur a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue.
And then, weeks later.
He would hit .258/.286/.433, with 14 HR, 45 RBI, 77 SO, and 13 BB (and actually hit .298 with an .833 OPS at Citizens Bank Park, as well as .367 in 30 AB as a pinch hitter). He generated -1.1 WAR for the cost of $950,000, and has expressed interest in returning. Maybe, for a 31-year-old everyone thinks is 38, he prefers the relaxed, no-pressure, last place environment that would allow any remaining skills of his to flourish before serving the team as a trade piece. Or maybe, he's Jeff Francoeur, and he'll go anywhere he gets to play baseball.
Following the Phillies' last game of the season, the bittersweet malaise of another bad year had enveloped the crowd, who cheered politely for the crew of tired, sore, anonymous Phillies jogging off the field after a meaningless finale. Changes had occurred in the franchise - big ones - and the young talent the fans craved was on its way, but it was accepted that it was still going to be a while before the 162nd game on the Phillies schedule was the beginning of something, rather than the end.
Another year in the books and another northeast winter on its way, Francoeur trotted toward the dugout, smiling, always smiling, and threw his glove into the crowd, as well as his jersey. It's not likely that a 2015 Jeff Francoeur jersey or mitt will be requested by Cooperstown some day, but for now, it was a keepsake from a chapter of Phillies history that will hopefully disappear behind a new chunk of glory years.
Francoeur, who'd made an error early in the game, had an entirely more logical motive for the move, however.
Jeff Francoeur threw glove and jersey to fans after game: "I dropped that ball in the first, so I thought, I don't need that glove."— Ryan Lawrence (@ryanlawrence21) October 4, 2015
The 2016 Phillies: Now Featuring Jeff Francoeur's New Glove!