Those who might believe that the Braves were leaking a little oil entering the All-Star break – that shiny slick left behind the eight losses in their past 11 games is a clue – may want to take their concerns to Jeff Fancoeur.
Not that he’s the mechanic who can fix the problem. His playing days were done following the 2016 season, having worn eight different uniforms in a dozen seasons, the most notable being that of his hometown Braves.
But he can make you feel a little better about it, maybe.
A broadcaster with Fox Sports South/Southeast, where the Braves programming lives, Francoeur trends toward the optimistic when looking toward the closing stretch of this season. He figures his job – he’s scheduled to work 15 more games this year, mostly as in-game analyst – is going to be very interesting right to the end.
“I think it’s going to be a two-horse race, between the Phillies and the Braves,” he said. He has dismissed Washington from the conversation. We’ll see, starting this very day, when they resume play at home against the Braves. The Nats are 5-1/2 games back of Philadelphia.
His rookie announcing season behind him, Francoeur figures he has learned a bit about this strange, new craft. “One thing I’ve learned and done a lot better with,” he said, “is making sure I’m not talking over a pitch.”
While still appearing occasionally on the pregame and postgame shows, Francoeur has found his greatest enjoyment working as the third man in the booth during the game with Joe Simpson and Chip Caray. Talking baseball in real time is where it’s at for him – although he’s not sure exactly how deeply he wants to plunge into the task. With a third child on the way, he’s still calculating the right balance for him between days at the ballpark and days at home.
Francoeur, like a lot of former players who move over to the media side, traded on his immense local popularity to get the gig. Now, it’s a matter of actually becoming adept at it.
“I’ve been so much more comfortable,” he said of Year 2 behind a mike. “Then you add in that Joe and Chip have been phenomenal to me, teaching me when to be funny, when to be serious.
“I’m not much to throw out stats. I want to bring the analysis. I listen to color guys sometimes and they’ll talk about the stats and stuff. You can almost Google that. But telling someone why a play happened, what a person is thinking, you can’t Google that.”
As for the team he’s covering, the one he grew up watching, Francoeur seems to think it has enough – perhaps after GM Alex Anthopoulos tweaks the bullpen – to be a factor on through September. “I’d like to see us get a few relievers to take some pressure off those (existing) guys,” he said.
And the truth of his new profession is: The better the Braves play, the better he’s going to sound.
“It has been fun to watch these guys and be able to talk about them,” Francoeur said.
But there is more to watch than the game results of these next two months, Francoeur suggests. There is something bigger at play. Here, he offers some plush words, should you choose to accept them, to absorb some of the spilled oil of a messy July:
“I can’t tell you how many announcers, players, managers on other teams that tell me this Braves team is exciting to watch. That’s going to be the fun thing to watch these guys in a pennant race.
“This isn’t a one-year pennant race. We built this team to last. I think you’re going to see a team that continues to get better and better. I look at us like the Brewers last year. I think the Brewers last year were a good ballclub, and now I think this year they’re an excellent ballclub.
“I think we’re a good ballclub now, and I think we’re only going to get better as the year goes on – this year and into next year.”