Will discipline help Wander Franco?

by Gary Shelton on June 24, 2023

in general

Franco must respond to punishment./TIM WIRT

Saturday, 3 a.m.

Now that the Golden Boy has been tarnished, where do we go from here?

Wander Franco has had his hand slapped for "not being a good teammate." And now comes the fallout, and we will see the direction of the team and the player.

Yeah, this is a big deal. To publicly call out your most talented player, the future of the franchise, is not a minor thing. You risk a funk by the player. You risk the reactions of the team.

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In other words, this is a move you make only if you feel you have no choice.

Granted, Kevin Cash could have handled this privately. He could have talked to Franco and his agent and handed out a quiet two-game benching without addressing it out loud. He could have talked to the team, and had the team talk to Franco, behind closed doors.

But what makes. you think the Rays didn't try that?

Know this: Rays' manager Kevin Cash is not one of those bare-knuckle my-way-or-the-highway managers. He bends over backward most of the time to protect his players. That he chose to handle this out loud is a statement in itself.

A manager resorts to public discipline only after private discipline doesn't work. The Rays expect more than what they're getting from Franco. Franco should expect it, too.

But, yeah, something had to be done. Franco had not run hard to first several times. Against Baltimore, he hit a high bloop to left field that fell in...and he never got beyond first base. He has argued louder, and harder, with umpires. Yeah, it was noticed. I'm guessing the team noticed it, too.

So how does Franco take it? He can pout, and he can grumble, and he can threaten a trade. Or he can look at his performance and say, yeah, Cash has a point. He can use this as motivating factor and resolve to never have anyone question his effort again. Because another team? They'll want Franco to hustle, too.

Look, Franco is 23. He didn't steal signs or bet on the game. But in the journey of a young player, sometimes guidance needs to be present.

Once, the Rays had a young phenom named Josh Hamilton. You remember. His lack of motivation was noticed one spring, and I wrote about it. Another player, Jason Tyner, took offense that I would criticize a prospect.

But the Rays didn't address that properly, and Hamilton lost much of his career to drug abuse.

No, Franco's ills aren't of the same order. But he's developing some bad habits. And the team needed to say something, whether it was the players, or Cash, or the front office.

Hey, I like Wander, and a blind man could see his gifts. He is just 23, but he's old enough to know the value of his name. He should be known for his youth, his talent, his riches. He has a chance to be one of the best players in the history of this franchise.

But there is playing the game the right way and the wrong way. Sure, some managers would have looked the other way. But is that the right way to handle things?

This much is clear. Taking away Franco's playing time is a harsh penalty. I suspect he'll swallow hard and play the game hard.

His reputation depends on it.

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