Jeff Francoeur is in The Best Shape of His Life

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He doesn’t utter the words, but when you have a story that spends multiple paragraphs on physical conditioning, change in diet and references to body fat percentage, all as a means of excusing last year’s poor performance and promising better performance in the coming year, you have captured the very essence of BSOHL.

I’m not gonna blockquote it. You have to read the whole thing to believe it. Not because of any specific passage, but because of how clearly this story is an apologia for Francouer’s shortcomings in 2012 and — as we’ve seen basically every year of his career — a rah-rah piece containing quotes about how he’s gonna turn it around in the coming season and assertions about how he’s too talented not to return to form, even if his good years are the aberration and his poor ones more the norm. I mean it: with the possible exception of last spring, every single year there is a story from someone in either Atlanta, New York or Kansas City talking about how Francoeur is poised to finally fulfill his promise and ascend to superstardom, as if it were preordained.

This edition of the story has it all: it has weight room talk, diet talk, swing-tinkering talk, change in bat weight talk, “gonna prove the naysayers wrong” talk. The whole deal. If he were a pitcher it would have something about a change in mechanics and pitch-tipping, I’m sure.

And like I said above: that’s what the BSOHL stuff is really about. It’s not about shape per se. It’s about optimistic spring training stories which serve as a basis for explaining away poor performance and raising expectations for better performance. Often as a player is either hitting free agency or entering his walk year. In this piece we have an almost perfect example of the form, applied to the player the meme was born to describe.

Battle of the Aces: Max Scherzer takes on Clayton Kershaw tonight

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I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.

Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.

This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.

Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.