sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

July 2, 2005

old ball players
posted by soe 11:19 pm

The last few days have been tough on my fantasy baseball season. As I’ve mentioned before, I chose my players predominantly based on whether they’d ever played for the Mets.

What this meant was that while I sometimes picked players who’d been let go for bad reasons (Fonzie), more often than not, my players are older and past-peak.

But the thing about old ball players is that you love them just the same.

Mike Stanton has played his last game for the Yankees. He knew it after he gave up a game-winning home run earlier this week and went gently into the night.

John Franco, on the other hand, never wanted to leave the Mets, but he did want to keep playing (even if on a more limited basis). But the Mets weren’t interested in keeping a work horse around, even though he’d grown up a Mets fan, had played most of his career with the team, and was team captain.

So he went to the Astros, where they used him as a lefty specialist and allowed his season ERA to reach an appalling 7.20. Anyone who ever watched Franco play knows that he always needed a batter or two to get into the groove, and when you’re only being brought into the game for one or two batters, you just don’t have that luxury.

But what this season’s numbers don’t show is how marvelous a pitcher he really has been:

  • 1,119 games
  • 424 saves
  • 1,245.2 innings pitched
  • 81 home runs given up
  • 975 strikeouts
  • 2.89 ERA

Comparatively, Roger Clemens has pitched in only 656 games, has given up 341 homeruns, and has an ERA of 3.14.

Drafted in 1981 by the Dodgers, Franco spent his first six pro years with the Reds before coming to the Mets in a trade for Randy Myers, where he remained through the end of last season.

He is second on the all-time saves list, and his career ERA is one of the best in history for a reliever. He holds Mets franchise records for most games pitched and for most games saved.

A four-time all-star, Franco is the second-oldest player in the majors (two years younger than Julio Franco of the Braves and two years older than Roger Clemens).

Franco’s style was never a flashy one, but it was exciting. When he came into the game, you sat on the edge of your seat waiting to see if he’d pull it off or if he’d blow it. He did both, but he did both with great style. He used to drive Mum nuts with that, but I preferred him to our other closers. After all, he simply epitomized the Mets club I loved.

Unfortunately, his numbers since his Tommy John surgery have not been good, even before this season. Because of that, I would be surprised if another team picks Franco up. I suspect this is the end of the line for him (either via a trip to the minors or through walking away).

I’d love to see him bring his knowledge and love of the game back to New York as a pitching coach for the Mets.

Good luck, John. We were lucky to have watched you play, and we hope to see you coach in the future. I eagerly await your induction into the Hall of Fame.

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