Rarely does one look toward New York for less scrutiny, but not everyone is Jeff Francoeur.
The Braves jettisoned the right fielder to the Mets in a recent deal, sending the hometown, homegrown product to a division rival after just three and a half seasons.
The obtrusive spotlight of being the local kid is now gone for Francoeur. He’ll just have to deal with the New York media, which could be less taxing.
Few Braves faced such pressure to please as “Frenchy” did.
Francoeur grew up right down the road and every Braves fan knew it, making every homer a little sweeter, each strikeout a bit more sour.
Francoeur was already a quasi-celebrity in Georgia when the Braves nabbed him in the first round of the 2002 draft.
After all, he was one of the most heralded prep athletes to ever lace up spikes in this state, leading Parkview to two football state titles and two more on the baseball field.
Francoeur debuted to much fanfare for the Braves in 2005, hitting .300 and drilling 14 homers in less than half a season.
Then, 100-plus RBI seasons followed in 2006 and 2007.
The next Dale Murphy, anyone?
It was all going according to plan. Plenty of kids in this state declare they’ll one day play for the Braves, but how many do it?
Then add Atlanta native Brian McCann to the mix, and you had a rarity in professional sports: not one, but two local products starring for your team.
So with all the adulation that comes with being the toast of your hometown, the fall from grace had to be that much more sobering for Francoeur.
The past two seasons he’s deteriorated from an all-star-caliber player to something of an “out-machine.”
Francoeur hit a lowly .239 last year and was demoted to AA Mississippi for a short stretch. This year, he batted .256 as a Brave, but only managed a .282 on-base percentage — 16 points lower than McCann’s batting average.
As it stands, McCann is a four-time all-star. Francoeur is yesterday’s news in Atlanta.
But this isn’t to say this guy can’t still be great.
It’s been said many a time that maybe all Francoeur needed was a change of scenery.
I think New York will suffice for new scenery.
So when Francoeur returns to Turner Field in Mets threads (which will be today ironically), let’s hope he gets what he deserves — an ovation, for old-times sake.
After all, Atlanta is home.
Ben Munro is a reporter for The Madison County Journal.