Friday, August 19, 2005

Franco & Francoeur

This being August, there’s one thing that’s certain in the sports world: the Braves are leading the National League East.  But this year has been a bit different from most.  While familiar names like Andruw Jones and John Smoltz have excelled, the big story has been the performance of the kiddie brigade.  Due to injuries, the Braves have used as many rookies as there are Peachtree streets in Atlanta.  They’re so young, they could have been invited to play in Williamsport this week (reportedly the Royals are still hoping for such an offer).


Foremost among these youngsters is 21 year-old outfielder Jeff Francoeur.  Seemingly every time I flip over to a Braves game and he’s at the plate, he drives in a run.  I mean, every time!  And the guy never even appeared in a major league game until July 7.  Now he’s the toast of Atlanta, although he’s barely old enough to be toasted in Atlanta.


However, it hasn’t all been “out with the old, in with the new” with the Braves.  Major leaguers don’t get older than Julio Franco, who turns 47 on Tuesday.  Rumors that Franco came up to the big leagues with the St. Louis Browns are simply untrue – but not by much.  Making his major league debut in 1982 with the Phillies, Franco was a teammate of Pete Rose, who was the National League Rookie of the Year while JFK was in office.


The one major similarity between these two is their last names.  Indeed, Franco could have many opportunities to pull pranks by posing as Francoeur, using a bad Pepe Le Pew French accent.  Otherwise, they make for an odd couple in the Atlanta dugout.  Especially when you compare the chronology of their careers.



Franco:  Signed by the Phillies as an amateur free agent.

Francoeur:  Six years from being born.



Franco:  Makes major league debut, getting 29 at-bats with Philadelphia.  Traded after the season, along with four other players, to Cleveland for Von Hayes.  The mere mention of Von Hayes’s name elicits boos from any Phillies fan reading this blog.

Francoeur:  Nope, still not born yet.



Franco:  Enters Indians’ starting lineup, where he’ll remain for six seasons.

Francoeur:  Still waiting on that birth thing.



Franco:  Leads American League with 658 at-bats.

Francoeur:  Born on January 8.  Spends much of year sleeping, crying, and pooping.



Franco:  Makes first major league All-Star Game appearance for new team, Texas Rangers.

Francoeur:  Considered future clubhouse leader in “plays well with others” comment from kindergarten teacher.



Franco:  Named MVP of major league All-Star Game.

Francoeur:  Dominates first grade class in “Duck-Duck-Goose” games.



Franco:  Wins American League batting title with .341 average.

Francoeur:  Wins numerous gold stars due to multiplication skills.



Franco:  Makes first appearance in post-season as Indians lose to Orioles in Division Series.

Francoeur:  Makes first appearance at middle school dance.  Claims to be too cool for the Macarena but secretly wishes he could do it.



Franco:  Signs with Braves, remaining on the team through the present.

Francoeur:  Roots for Franco while attending Parkview High School in suburban Atlanta.


Now their careers have converged in the Braves dugout, separated by 26 years but united in their admiration for Leo Mazzone’s rock-a-thons.  And it’s another hot August in Atlanta.