When you've exhausted Bobby Cox's legendary patience, you're probably not long for these Braves. Last week
Kelly Johnson went from being the everyday second baseman to being benched to being placed on the disabled list, and now Jeff Francoeur has been held out of the lineup three games running. And the sound you heard was of two homegrown players who've been Atlanta Braves since 2004 going, "Gulp.”
This spring Francoeur told me, "As long as Six has my back, I don't care about anything else.” Well, Bobby Cox wears No. 6, and he no longer stands in Francoeur's corner.
And Francoeur, who's no fool, already seems to have one eye on the exit. He told Dave O'Brien: "[I] just have to be patient and wait my turn, whether it's here or somewhere else.”
At this moment, I'd bet on the "somewhere else.” When you're a Brave and you've lost Bobby Cox, you've lost everything.
Schafer's now back in the minors (and struggling), having been replaced by Nate McLouth. Johnson's been replaced at second base by Martin Prado, who's a superior player. And now Francoeur seems to have been replaced by Matt Diaz, also a superior player. So now, somewhat suddenly, the Braves have only two holes in the lineup, and there's at least some reason to believe that Anderson and Kotchman will play better in the second half of the season.
I wouldn't give up on the Braves yet. They're only five games out of first place. They have five good starting pitchers and a solid bullpen. They're just 11th in the National League in scoring, but they're going to move up in that category with just reasonable health and luck. It's a shame that it took them so long to get Schafer ouf of the lineup, and to give regular work to Prado and Diaz. But it might not be too late.