We all know the deal from last night's 19-3 Orioles drubbing of the Phillies. Jeff Francoeur, who had pitched in the minors last season, came in during a "why not?" moment to throw an inning of relief. Why put Ken Giles or Jonathan Papelbon out there in a 19 - 3 game? Let Francoeur help mop up a mess and have a little light-hearted fun in an otherwise dreadful game.
It was a good idea. Francoeur had pitched last year in the minors. He is in great shape. He throws hard. He pitched at other levels of baseball. Maybe it could be a little fun to lighten up a miserable game, and it was -- that strikeout looking on Nolan Reimold was my favorite Phillies moment in some time. But like so much else this year involving the Phillies, it was horribly executed by the staff on the field.
Jeff Francoeur helped save the bullpen from eating an inning. He had the only 1-2-3 inning of the night. It was fun and glorious. As a fan, I felt he deserved a shot to finish another inning, and he got it.
Where this went horribly wrong is when he began to struggle seriously in the second inning and ended up throwing 48 pitches. His velocity dropped sharply. These were bad signs. The man makes a living for himself and his family as a baseball player, and his right arm is a key component of that ability.
The problem here is that nobody on the field thought this through. There should have been someone at least tossing when Francoeur went out. In a disaster mop-up situation like this, maybe you want to eat the innings with Francoeur, but how reasonable is it to expect any position player (other than in an emergency with no other pitchers available) to eat multiple innings? It isn't. The answer here was to have someone at least tossing so that they could monitor Francoeur and get him out if he was in trouble or laboring.
Look, I am a fan. I do not write about baseball for a living. I do not manage a baseball team for a living. The guys on the field do. In many, many years of Major League Baseball (and minor league and college and prep and so on..) Ryne Sandberg, Larry Bowa, and Bob McClure have probably seen almost everything that can be seen. They. Are. Pros.
They should have thought through this scenario a bit and had a plan ready to go when Francoeur (unsurprisingly) began to struggle. They didn't. Their mutual lack of preparedness and professionalism deserves the criticism it is getting today (and last night from Chase Utley). They endangered a man's livelihood because they were grossly incompetent.
What did Jeff Francoeur do? He didn't bitch about the situation (and I don't blame Utley for speaking up on the mound, mind you -- I fully support that). Francoeur played baseball and had fun. God bless him. He is not the greatest player, but he has his moments, and you see it in his face every time he is on the field - it is a game, and he loves it.
Francoeur's enthusiasm and enjoyment of the game are not reasons to re-sign him for next year, and they don't add up to extra fWAr or bWAR, but they brought something fun last night to a game that had none of it from any other source (from the perspective of Phillies fans).
In a world of baseball shit, Jeff Francoeur made me smile last night. He had fun, and he is not the problem with the Phillies. I am sure he recognized how poorly treated and used he was last night. What did he do? Perhaps foolishly, he appeared to lobby to stick it out and finish the job he started.
Character is the last thing I look for on a professional baseball field, but it was jammed in my face last night. There was a lot of character and professionalism revealed last night, from Francoeur to Chase Utley.
Contrast the professionalism and character that Utley and Francoeur displayed with that of the Phillies coaching staff and Sandberg. There could not possibly be a more direct, stark, and unfavorable comparison.
Everyone involved with keeping Jeff Francoeur in that game too long owes him a public apology, and I question whether I would ever want any of them to run any part of my baseball operation again.
Jeff Francoeur? He made a permanent fan of me last night, regardless of his talent level or production.