Archive: January 26th, 2012

John Franco is a Mets Hall-of-Famer

Franco as Team Captain

Today, the Mets announced that John Franco will be inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame this season.

The long-time Mets closer compiled 424 saves in his career, good for fourth all-time.  276 of those came as a New York Met.  Unlike the man for whom he was traded, Randy Myers, Franco didn’t fit the power-pitcher mold.  He instead relied on a changeup that moved away from a right-handed hitter, much like a screwball.  Most batters found it too tempting to lay off, especially when they were behind in the count.  Because of this pitch, and his lack of a notable slider or curve, he was often more effective against righties than lefties.

During his career in Queens (which lasted from 1990 to 2004), Franco was generally a solid closer, despite his disturbing penchant for loading the bases before recording the third out of the ninth inning.

In 1999, Franco abdicated the closer’s role to Armando Benitez after a trip to the DL.  From then on, Franco transformed himself into reliable setup man.

The defining Mets moment for the St. John’s graduate came during the 2000 NLDS versus the San Francisco Giants.

In Game 2 in San Francisco, The Mets went into the bottom of the ninth with a 4-1 lead.  However, Benitez allowed 3 runs to blow the save and send the game into extra innings.  The Mets answered, scoring a run in the top of the tenth to take a 5-4 lead.

After allowing a leadoff single, manager Bobby Valentine brought Franco in to relieve Benitez.  Two outs later, Barry Bonds stepped to the plate with a chance to win the game with a long ball.  Franco and Bonds battled, and the count reached 3-and-2.  On the payoff pitch, Franco grazed the inside corner with a changeup to strike Bonds out, and end the game.  Bonds couldn’t believe it, and the momentum of the series had swung the Mets way.

Now, 12 years later, Franco will attain Mets immortality on June 3.  He wasn’t always perfect, but he was better than you remember.  He was a team leader and a true Met.

 

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Jeff Francis Also Forsakes Flushing

You just can’t make this stuff up — yet another high-profile free-agent has refused to take the Mets’ money. The latest is former 17-game winner and 16-game loser Jeff Francis, who opted instead to accept an invitation to spring training and minor league dealoffered by the Cincinnati Reds. It was a wild, wheel-and-deal day for the Reds, who also picked up former Met Wilson Valdez in a trade with the Phillies.

As reported in various outlets, the Mets had been keeping a close eye on Francis, perhaps fearing he might pickpocket an employee. In any case, I’m a little sad they weren’t able to bring him into the fold — anyone with the guts to wear a Vancouver Canucks hat around Denver has to have some moxie and would add interest to the team.

OK in all seriousness … with Francis off the table, there aren’t many starting pitchers left on the market who the Mets can consider for depth. They do have to sign at least one more arm, don’t they? Here’s who I believe is still available, likely fits into the Mets’ financial plan, and might be willing to sign a minor-league deal with the club, in no particular order whatsoever:

Kyle Davies
Zach Duke
Ross Ohlendorf
Clay Hensley
Scott Kazmir
Sergio Mitre
Micah Owings

I’m sure I’ve missed someone, just as I’m sure one or more of the above have already been signed and I wasn’t sent the press release. Either way it’s not an inspiring group.

No, Jon Garland, Roy Oswalt, nor Edwin Jackson are on the list, as I just don’t see the Mets affording any of them. Livan Hernandez is not there, either, since he seems to be considering retirement; also, he might still be ticked about being released by the Wilpons in 2009 just prior to his performance bonus kicking in. If you want to consider Rich Harden, Chris Young, Brandon Webb, Ben Sheets, Mark Prior, Wayne Garland, Steve Busby, David Clyde, or some other guy who was a great pitcher for a brief period and then blew his arm out go right ahead — but, to me it doesn’t make much sense to go down that road again, when what the Mets need right now is someone with the potential to remain healthy in the event one of their projected five starters breaks down. I just don’t see the point in signing a disaster as your disaster plan. In fact, Kazmir and Mitre are teetering on the edge in terms of potential reliability.

Tim Wakefield is still a free agent, and it would be really cool to have two knuckleballers on the staff, but I’m just not seeing it become reality. Word on the street is Wake will retire if Boston doesn’t re-sign him.

Owings is intriguing, both as an arm and as a fourth outfielder. But is he still available after going 8-0 with a 3.57 ERA last year? I haven’t heard anything about him this winter.

I keep looking at these seven names and thinking I must be missing someone, because it seemed to be only a few days ago that there were two dozen healthy starting pitchers looking for work. Help me out — who am I missing? Who would you consider? Do you think the Mets still need to sign a starter for depth or am I all wrong on this? Answer in the comments.

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