Wander Franco Home Run Swing | PastimeAthletics

Wander Franco once stood on top of the world in Major League Baseball. The jewel of the Tampa Bay Rays organization and one of the brightest young stars of America’s Pastime, he had an array of skills and enough flash and be a darling of the fans and media. Unfortunately for the 22-year-old phenom, the maturity and intelligence that he displays on the field don’t seem to guide his decisions in his personal life.

Wander Franco throws a runner out at first | Baseball Maniacs

Franco was placed on administrative leave indefinitely by Major League Baseball last week while authorities in the Dominican Republic investigate the All-Star shortstop for an alleged relationship with an underage girl. It was a shocker for fans around the Bay, as ‘El Patron’ is one of the club’s most popular players. He was widely (and in a sickly ironic way now) beloved for his almost childlike love of the game.

Franco, an All-Star this season, was expected to be a big part of the playoff push for the Rays ( 80-52, 2nd in the AL East), but that won’t happen now. Instead of taking swings, he’ll likely spend this fall taking questions. From the media, from Commissioner Rob Manfred, and from law enforcement. So, he’s all booked up. Literally.

In the short term, he will be away from the team for the remainder of the year, but that’s just the first domino to fall. There’s definitely a lot more to come, and it’s generally accepted that his future in Major League Baseball is seriously in doubt.

Even if Franco isn’t convicted of any criminal charges in the two cases, he could still face suspensions and heavy fines through MLB’s morality clause.

RELATED: Rays’ Wander Franco Faces ANOTHER Allegation Of Having An Inappropriate Relationship With A Minor

On Tuesday morning, baseball insider Héctor Gómez reported that a source close to the matter says it is “very unlikely that Wander Franco will play in MLB again, judging by the results of the investigations that are currently being carried out, which directly commit him to the accusations against him.”

Then, there is the matter of him potentially losing his personal freedom. For Wander Franco, life as he might know it could very well be over forever. All before he turns 23. And all over a relationship that was not only stupid but perverse.

Morality seems to be the biggest issue with Wander Franco, who either saw nothing wrong with his actions, was completely oblivious, or simply didn’t care. No matter the motive or the meaning, we see – once again – an athlete who basically has everything blowing it all by getting involved with guns, drugs, or violent behavior.

Or every once in a while? Women. Just like Wander Franco did.

Wander Franco making a running catch (2022) | Aces of the Staff 2nd Coming

If money and fame truly make someone the person they are? Then based on these allegations, they have exposed the talented shortstop as not only someone you wouldn’t want on your tea, but someone you don’t want wandering the streets.

Sadly, it’s not just a baseball-only problem. And it’s not a race problem. Instead, it appears to be more of a ‘young-men-with-too-much-money’ problem. A case study in petulancy and immaturity, with the highest of stakes involved. For fans of the Tampa Bay Rays, it’s about wins and losses.

Yet, for a misguided or troubled athlete like Wander Franco, it’s life-altering. Not just for him, but for those around him, including underage girls. In that situation, all the pure talent in the world can’t wash away the big stain associated with someone’s name.

Wander Franco, Tampa Bay Rays | MLB Network

That’s why Franco – if even a portion of his allegations are true – has to be held accountable to the highest extent that Manfred sees fit. With MLB suffering serious image problems in 2023, it can ill afford to let a player with this type of image off lightly. The league is not in a position to soft-pedal anything to its fan base regarding this issue.

In the end, Wander Franco fell into the trap that he did because he never developed as a human being in the same way he developed as a baseball player. He could have practiced how to turn an electric double play or hit to the opposite field. He might’ve toiled for hours in the sun, taking ground ball after ground ball.

Wander Franco likely did every drill possible to build the perfect baseball player, but he never practiced how to be a man.

Now, he may never get to play a boy’s game ever again.

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NEXT: Tampa Bay Rays All-Star Shortstop Wander Franco Responds To Accusations He’s Dating A Minor