No, I’m not being sarcastic. I have seen the freakin’ light. Read on.
Everyone knows that I have a long history of allowing Jeff Francoeur — or, rather, the idea of Jeff Francoeur — drive me crazy. I never liked his game. I mocked the claims of his surrogates in the media that he was better than we thought. I was highly skeptical that he’d ever match his lofty reputation, etc. etc.
Last year, you may recall, I met Jeff Francoeur and discovered that … he was a great guy. Like, super nice. It made me rethink the whole idea of how and why we rip players and what it all means. And then he went and had a really spiffy season in Kansas City, thereby rendering most of my Francouer whining moot. Yeah, at the end of the year he got a new contract that was probably too big, but at this point Francoeur has earned the benefit of the doubt with me. I have no standing to get on him for a very long time, truth be told.
Way less so now that I read this story by Bojan Koprivica over at The Hardball Times in which Francoeur gave opposing fans $100 and an autographed baseball with explicit instructions on it to use the money to purchase bacon dogs and beer.
Yes. It’s true. Go read it. And then tell me that Jeff Francouer isn’t the finest sonofabitch who ever put on a major league uniform.
After 18 years, 12 winning seasons, seven postseason runs and three World Championships, Dave Righetti is no longer a pitching coach for the Giants. He was removed from his post on Saturday, when the team announced a few reassignments as they shake up their coaching staff. Heading into the 2018 season, Righetti will serve as special assistant to general manager Bobby Evans, former bullpen coach Mark Gardner will step into a similar special assistant role to “assist in pitching evaluations,” and former assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will take a special assistant role in baseball operations.
According to MLB.com’s Chris Haft, Righetti was the longest-tenured pitching coach in the big leagues. He helped shape the careers of notable Giants’ aces like Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain — all Cy Young contenders (and, in Lincecum’s case, a two-time winner) at various points in their careers. He was there to assist Ryan Vogelsong during his stunning mid-career comeback in San Francisco. He helped newcomers like Chris Stratton and Ty Blach flourish even as the team stumbled to the bottom of the division. He was there to take the credit when a sterling rotation clinched the Giants’ 56-year, drought-snapping championship title in 2010 — and, when things went so horribly south in 2017, he took the blame as well.
Hardly anything went right for the Giants’ pitching staff in 2017. Madison Bumgarner was shelved after sustaining a serious shoulder injury in a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto couldn’t shake a cluster of blisters on his right hand and Mark Melancon found it difficult to justify a $62 million paycheck after pitching through an arm injury to four blown losses/saves and a 4.50 ERA. It would be a lot for any pitching coach to stay on top of, and given the team’s rapid descent from 2016 postseason contenders to last-place finishers in 2017, it’s not surprising that Evans felt the need to switch things up.
Successors have yet to be named for Righetti, Gardner or Decker, though Murray hears that the Giants could have interest in former major league pitching coach Jim Hickey. NBC Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic adds that Evans is searching for someone to “put a new voice” on the pitching staff and will likely target someone who, like Righetti, brings considerable experience to the role.