There’s a cold reality that many athletes in this city have learned the hard way over the years–once a player develops a negative reputation, it’s virtually impossible to shake it. And that, in short, is why Maikel Franco is fucked. Probably.
If you were paying close enough attention, and I can’t blame you if you weren’t, you may remember Franco’s better days that came during the infant stages of his Major League career. He emerged in earnest in May of 2015 after a brief call-up the previous September. Franco, playing on a brutal 63-win team, represented the biggest, if not only reason for optimism that the Phillies would one day again be relevant, or at least stop playing shitty and boring baseball. In 335 plate appearances, Franco swatted 14 homers and 22 doubles on his way to posting an impressive .280 average and .840 OPS. Now, here we are two years later, with expectations unfulfilled and the Phillies and Franco seemingly headed in opposite directions. Coming off a miserable year in which posted a disturbing .230/.281/.409 slash line, the optimism and hype once surrounding Franco has been replaced with varying degrees of disappointment and disgust.
His inability to adapt to the frequently utilized game plan of opposing pitchers working him with off-speed stuff low, away, and often out of the strike zone, has earned him the reputation of an impatient and undisciplined hitter–one who either lacks the intelligence to understand how he’s being attacked, or, worse, the concern. Is either characterization fair for a 25-year-old who’s logged a relatively small sample of just over 1,600 plate appearances? That’s debatable, but what I can definitively tell you is that for a player whose future is in limbo that this isn’t going to help:
Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco was suspended for three games by his Dominican Winter League team, the Cibao Giants, “for violating the organization’s discipline code.” Translation: Franco was photographed partying at 6AM this morning at a club when, at 4PM today his team was scheduled to play a game in the Dominican Winter League playoffs.
Here’s a SnapChat photo showing Franco, and three of three other teammates who were also suspended, getting it in at the break of dawn just hours before a Dominican Winter League playoff game.
ATENCIÓN: Maikel Franco, Moises Sierra, Garabez Rosa y Eduardo D’Oleo son SUSPENDIDOS por @Gigantes_Cibao por falta disciplinaria (estuvieron en discoteca de SFM hasta las 6:00 AM con juego en SD a las 2:00 PM). *Foto de un bloc de SFM. #RoundRobin #LIDOM pic.twitter.com/bt5w19WZe5
— Marino Pepén (@Marino_Pepen) January 7, 2018
To expect athletes to forfeit their social lives is both unfair and ridiculous. Athletes possess youth, fame and fortune–to waste any would be crazy. Step into their shoes for a second.
Everyone knows me, most of them love me, and I’m rich as fuck. I think I’ll stay in tonight.
Not happening. Contrary to popular belief, athletes don’t exist merely to hit baseballs, catch passes, or drain three-pointers, and they should party and bullshit just like everybody else does. But in this particular instance, well, I actually get the concern. In the club at 6 a.m. before a Dominican Winter League playoff game? It’s not the World Series, but it’s his hometown team and people down there take that shit seriously. The players apologized and the suspension was lifted after a Sunday rainout, so they won’t actually miss a game. It’s still not a great look for a guy entering a make-or-break year and it’s most certainly something Phillies fans will hold against Franco if he should continue to struggle.
Cutting ties with Franco now would be foolish, mainly because the Phillies have no reason not to play him at third base going into this season, but it’s become increasingly unlikely he’s here beyond it. There’s just simply not another legitimate option in the organization right now, unless they elect to hold onto César Hernandez and slide him to third when Scott Kingery arrives, but such a move would decrease the value of his bat. Moreover, the team isn’t going to compete and he still possesses enough raw talent that they can afford to collectively cross their fingers and hope he recaptures the form that made him such an intriguing piece only a few years ago, however unlikely that may seem. Still, given Franco’s declining production and failure to quell mounting concerns about his innate desire to succeed, it’s more likely that we will get more of what we’ve seen over the past two seasons. The writing is on the wall and his time in Philly may soon be up.