Sunday, January 29, 2012

N.Y. Mets ~ Johnny Franco "Did Us Proud"

From the desk of:   HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET

NEW YORK METS:   Neighborhood Guy Elected to Mets' Hall of Fame.

He did the neighborhood proud.  It's no secret John Franco is from Brooklyn; more specifically Bensonhurst; which happens to be my neighborhood.  Lee Mazzilli's too.  He graduated from nearby Lafayette High School, as did the Mets' embattled owner Fred Wilpon and Dodger great Sandy Koufax - among others.  This week, John Franco was the fifteenth player elected into the Mets Hall of Fame.  We're always so proud when another local kid did us good.

I was fortunate to come across Johnny three times in the normal course of my life.  The first time came in the Staten Island Mall while simply doing some toy shopping.  Then two more times I just happened to run into him here on 86th Street in Brooklyn.  That's one thing about John Franco - he always stayed home in the city and was always very cool to the public.  Stories about his affability abound, whether through encounters like mine when ever he pops back into the 'hood, or catching him at a Cyclones' game, or from his fellow Staten Islanders.  He always remained a NYC guy.

Is he a legit candidate for Baseball's Hall of Fame?  I doubt it.  Although, there are arguments to be made on his behalf.  Being fourth All-Time in Saves and second All-Time when he retired should count for something I guess.  He's additionally the All-Time Saves Leader for Lefties.  My one knock on him would be that he doesn't have over 1,000 strikeouts (975) for over 1,200 innings pitched.

Were the Mets wrong to trade Randy Myers for John Franco?  After all, Randy Myers went on to lead the League in Saves three times after the trade.  In his career, John Franco led the League three times as well, but only twice for the Mets.  Franco wasn't as dominant as Myers turned out to be.  Then again he was never a power pitcher.  He was a lot cooler though with a slick slider.  Both pitchers' relative effectiveness came to an end at basically the same time; somewhere around the 1998 season or so.  But were the Mets wrong in hindsight?  Nah.  Johnny Franco was a great Met and an equally good leader on the team.  Captains have never played much of a role in Flushing.  That's something I can easily do without and so I don't get caught up with it.  However, that doesn't take away from the fact John Franco was a fine one none the less.

But is John Franco a New York Met Hall of Famer?  Yeah!  Absolutely.  It was great watching him celebrate the Mets 2000 National League Championship.  And back in 1990, he and Darryl Strawberry almost willed us to another division title under Buddy Harrelson.  Yes, Franco is deserving.  He was emblematic of a decade of Met Baseball.

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This always starts the "Who Belongs To Be In" debate.  If John Franco is in, then shouldn't Jesse Orosco get elected as well?  His work between 1983 and 1985 goes largely under spoken.  What most remember is 1986 and his glove being flung up in the air in triumph.  Back in 1983, he started receiving League wide recognition winning Pitcher of the Week honors as the Mets began turning things around.

Are there any more candidates for the Mets' Hall of Fame?  Certainly.  But no one stands out as an absolute no-doubter.  There are however, very very strong arguments for several players.  Ron Darling, Edgardo Alfonzo, and Lee Mazzilli, strike me as three strong candidates for future consideration.

Mike Piazza is a given and just a matter of time.  His number will probably be the next to be retired by the Mets as well.  But no talk of retiring numbers however should take place without mentioning Jerry Koosman.  What the Mets are waiting for is beyond most fans.  Retiring any player's number before retiring #36 is an insult to this Franchise's history.

In light of the sad and latest turn in Gary Carter's health, there will be growing sentiment to retire his number too.  And personally, in a similar sentiment since his passing away, I'd like to see Tug McGraw's #45 retired.  I know I'm on an island with that one.

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While we're at it, this is a great time for a light Honorable Mention List:

CATCHER:    "The Dude" John Stearns!  -  Todd Hundley  -  I thought Mike Fitzgerald was a fine receiver.

FIRST BASE:   John "The Hammer" Milner!  -  John Olerud  -  Donn Clendenon  -  Eddie Murray, a personal favorite player of mine  -  insert Dave Kingman here.

SECOND BASE:   Ron Hunt, of course  -  Wally Backman  -  Felix Millan!  -  Gold Glover Doug Flynn  -  Fonzie  -  Do we have to put Jeff Kent on this list?

SHORTSTOP:   Yes, Jose can be on the list.  -  Rafael Santana was slick and had 65 RBI from the 8th spot!  -  Frank Tavares.

THIRD BASE:   Hubie Brooks!  -  Wayne Garrett  -  Lenny Randall anyone? -  Hojo  -  Robin Ventura  -  Ray Knight.

LEFT FIELD:   Cliff Floydd  -  Bernard Gilkey  -  Joel Youngblood, Man I liked him!

CENTER FIELD:   Lance Johnson now moves ahead of Lenny Dykstra because Lenny is proving to be such a mess.  Yes, Carlos Beltran makes the cut too.

RIGHT FIELD:   Doesn't anyone stand out?  Or is it just too early in the morning for me to think of someone.  Xavier Nady; we hardly knew ya.

STARTING PITCHERS:   I know there's a great divide to include Nolan Ryan into these lists.  -    Gary Gentry  -  Sid Fernandez  -  Craig Swan  -  David Cone  -  How can we not include Ed Lynch?

RELIEF PITCHERS:   Skip Lockwood was my guy!  -  Niel Allen  -  Roger McDowell.

MANAGER:   Frank Howard deserves a good mention  -  Bobby Valentine too  -  Yogi Berra.

COACHES:   Rube Walker  -  Joe Pignatano  -  Bob Gibson  -  Frank Robinson.

COACH/EXECUTIVES WHO GOT AWAY:   Jerry Hunsicker  -  Whitey Herzog.

OWNERS:   Nelson Doubleday - Buy us back...!  Please?

Let's Go Mets


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