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.


Paul is a freelance writer, blogger, and broadcast technology professional residing in Denver. A New Jersey native, he is a long-suffering Mets fan, a recently-happy Giants fan, and bewildered Islanders fan. He's also a fair-weather Avalanche and Rockies supporter. In his spare time, he enjoys the three Gs: Golf, Guitars, and Games.
  1. Brian January 26, 2012 at 4:26 pm
    Congrats to Mr. Franco!
  2. Dan B January 26, 2012 at 4:45 pm
    There have been a lot of flash in the pan closers in baseball but a consistantly good closer has always been hard to find. Franco might never of been the best in any one year, but he was always good. For a decade, the Mets never had to worry about trading for nor grooming a closer. That was probrally his biggest asset to the team.
    • Glenn January 26, 2012 at 6:35 pm
      I think this is why Franco deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. No he wasn’t a flamethrower but consistently day in and day out John Franco was a top quality closer for more than a decade. I think the saves stat is highly flawed but for a player to accrue 400 of them means he was bringing it for a long time, that a team thought enough of him to let him close games for them. To see his value you need only think of Benitez. Great arm, great stats and always failed when you need it the most. I will always remember the playoffs in 2000 against the Giants. Benitex gives up the game tying HR. Franco strikes out Bonds to save it an inning later.
  3. Izzy January 26, 2012 at 5:22 pm
    I remember a lot of metsie fans not liking him and ticked off over the trade to get him. But it was a great trade as Meyers self destructed way before Johnnie be good stopped being good.
  4. Joe January 26, 2012 at 7:00 pm
    As Seinfeld said in the episode with the nude guy on the train, with Franco you had the closer set. And did until the show was done.
    • Paul Festa January 27, 2012 at 2:05 pm
      LOL! Love that scene.
  5. Joey Gargiulo January 27, 2012 at 9:26 am
    John’s a phony. Always has been.


  6. Tom January 29, 2012 at 2:02 am
    Interesting side-note. In his interview on SNY last week he said that Piazza kept calling for a fastball to bonds on the strikeout pitch but he wanted to throw the changeup. That was the first changeup he ever threw to Bonds.

    He also said he got the idea talking to John Olerud. He asked him what he thought the toughest pitch to hit was, and Olerud said the changeup because no one ever threw it to him.

    • Johnny O. January 30, 2012 at 12:24 pm
      Johnny’s a great story-teller in hindsight.

      I wasn’t even on the team in 2000.

      • Tom January 31, 2012 at 12:37 am
        So he wasn’t allowed to talk to john olerud before 2000?
        • The Rookie January 31, 2012 at 8:52 am
          John’s just the type to refer back to a conversation he “had one time with Johnny Olerud”….and bring it up as some kind of inspiration he had during that Bonds AB.

          Maybe they can make a movie about it.

          Guy was 39 years old, with 17 seasons in the league by 2000. He needed to refer back to a conversation he had with Olerud a year earlier to tell him that a change-up is an effective pitch?


  7. MLB Ballparks January 30, 2012 at 1:09 am
    Franco was before my time as a hardcore MLB fan but his numbers weren’t all that tantalizing. I’m sure his reception into the hall of fame by Met fans has been mixed.