Tuesday, October 02, 2007

No One's Afraid Of You, Jeff Francis

And the reason that no one's afraid of you, Jeff Francis, is because we remember when you were QBing the Tennessee Vols back in '88 -- and we'll never forget how you disgraced Rocky Top by guiding the team to an 0-6 record at the season's midway point, even if you did recover to lead the team in the Creamsicle-colored jerseys to a 5-0 finWAIT!!!

Are we talking about JEFF FRANCIS, the Tennessee Vols' right-handed QB from nearly 20 years ago or the JEFF FRANCIS, the Colorado Rockies' left-handed southpaw pitcher who was 17-9 this season, yet, in two starts against the Fightin' Phils, had a 15.12 ERA?

It makes ya wonder how many times ex-Vols QB Todd Helton and ex-Vols QB Alan Cockrell walk up to the pitcher in the Rockie clubhouse and ask him if he's aware that he has the same name as an ex-Vol QB.

And, in a semi-related note, ya wonder how many times people go up to Jerry Colquitt -- the Vol QB who got hisself all injured in that national TV game vs. UCLA (we remember this because it was the first, last and only time that some of us threw back some gin n' tonics and shot some stick in a Philly bar -- because we were one week into The Strike/Lockout/Whatever of '94 -- as UT-UCLA was on one TV and Oklahoma was blowing that 24-0 lead in a 30-29 loss to Sorrycuse on another TV ... and the only reason Helton was playin' was because Colquitt was injured on the game's first or second play and, now that ya mention it, didn't Helton get hurt and, thus, lead to the debut of that gangly frosh QB named "Peyton") -- and how many of those people ask Jerry Colquitt if he's related to the famous line of UT Colquitt punters ... (brothers Craig Colquitt and Jimmy Colquitt .. and Jimmy's son, Dustin Colquitt ... and, the joke's on you, Mister, because all them Colquitts is white boys and Jimmy Colquitt is black ... ) ...

Getting back to yesterday's Jeff Francis and today's Jeff Francis, the Phils need to re-connect with the Jeff Francis who pitched 8 1/3 innings against 'em this season and got cuffed around to the tune of 14 runs and 20 hits.

Y'know, the sad part of highlighting a dreadful stat such as that is oftentimes a super-jinx -- and almost always means that the guy you've singled out with the 15.12 ERA is guaranteed to pitch a complete-game, 5-hitter.

Happens all the time.

Anyway, Phillie Phan better get his/her mind right and realize that the Rockies don't have the Padres' pitching, but the Pod Squad doesn't have the batpower that Colorado has. Everybody knows about Helton and Holliday, Helton and Hawpe, but role players such as Troy Toiletwhiskey and Yogurt Torrealba are dangerous, too, despite their kooky names.

Before we get caught up in "Rocky Mountain High" euphoria, Colorado did everything in its power to give away that play-in game last night. Jake Peavey did a No. 2 on the mound and somebody named Brady Clark was attempting to play CF for SD.

The Fightin's vs. the Rocks has a myriad of X-factors -- such as Game 1 starter Cole Hamels (who hasn't been the losing pitcher since July 19) vs. a lineup with the usual assortment of players who have the usual Coors Field Compartmentalization Syndrome.

For example, Garrett Atkins (Chase Ugly's teammate at FUCLA) is a .349 hitter at Coors; a .254 hitter on the road ... Tulowitzki bats .326 at Coors; 256 on the road ... Hawpe (who is benched for Game 1 despite 29 HRs / 116 RBI) is a .308 hitter at Coors; .273 on the road.

Still, despite his struggles against the Phils, Jeff Francis is 8-0 in day games (for whatever that's worth).

Here's the so-called "kiss of death," though: On the late version of Baseball Tonight this evening, former Rockie, Eric Young, predicted that the Phillies will beat the Yankees in the World Series ... while ESPN's dummy llama (Gammons) proclaimed that the Yanks would beat the Phils in the Fall Classic.

That's a bad, bad sign, Phillie Phan.
The Phillies cannot perform if they use the all-too-familiar card of "we shocked the word" and "none of y'all all believed in us, but we believed in ourselves."

Bold prognostications which are "jinx factors" are dangerous -- and then there's what Dusty Baker said one night earlier when he -- acting all P.C. because he might want to wear wristbands and suck on his toothpick in the dugout as an MLB mgr. once again -- pontificated that the way to win in the postseason is to basically get your pitching staff all lined up so that your three or four aces can pitch those four-hit shutouts.

NOTE TO JOHNNIE B. BAKER: The way to win in the postseason is to somehow get some lights-out piching from unlikely sources, be it rookie Marty Bystrom for the '80 Phils or the poster boy for "pitching enigma" -- Anthony Reyes of the Cardinals (5-8 w/ 5.06 ERA last year ... strong outing vs. NYM in LCS, folk hero in Game 1 of the W.S. vs. Detroit, then ... the kid parlayed all that fame -- and that super-flat brim of his cap -- into 2-14 w/ 6.04 ERA this year ... ).

If we listened to Johnnie B., we'd be wondering what happened to all of that World Series hardware won by Moneyball's three aces Mulder, Zito and Hudson.

It didn't happen.

That's pretty much what the postseason is all about, considering that none of us knows if the world champion Chisox staff of '05 (Buehrle 16-8; Contreras 15-7; Garland 18-10; Garcia 14-8 ... all of 'em, nails during the playoffs) is as good as it was then or as bad as it was this year (Buehrle 10-9; Contreras 10-17; Garland 10-13; Garcia 1-5 w/ Phils).

So, the Phillies are going forth into this postseason with Hamels (who is only 23, lest we forget) and rookie Kyle Kendrick (the 23-year-old who was only 4-7 for Double-A Reading when he was called up) as the credentialed No 1. and No. 2 starters.

That big yokel, Chuck Manuel, is forced to do it this way because Brett Myers is a mental midget as a starter and because nobody knows when Jamie Moyer's 37 MPH pitches are going to get whacked around the yard.

It's a crapshoot relying on kids as No. 1 and No. 2 postseason starters (and, say, is Phils pitching coach Rich Dubee still seething at the organization -- his own -- which traded his son, Michael, to acquire Tad Iguchi?)

Bottom line: Francis' 8-0 record during day games ... a legitimate source of worry.

As legit as anything else in this postseason.


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