Building a case for former New York Mets closer John Franco and why he belongs in the Hall of Fame.
Since their inception as a Major League Baseball team in 1962, the New York Mets have had the honor of sending 16 former players to the Baseball Hall of Fame (HOF). Of those players, only two (Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza) have entered the hall with a Mets hat on their plaque.
As the team awaits its next Hall of Fame inductee, fans and analysts have debated which players are most deserving. Some expect third basemen David Wright will be selected when he becomes eligible.
However, there is one former Met who did not receive the consideration he deserved: John Franco. During the relief pitcher’s first (and only) year on the ballot, he received a meager 4.6% of the votes. His failure to receive the necessary 5% threshold eliminated him from further opportunities. Despite his dismissed candidacy, Franco deserves to be considered as one of the best relievers in baseball history.
The most difficult hurdle during Franco’s HOF push was his position. As a former closer and relief pitcher, his chances of election were slim. In the history of baseball, only eight players (Hoyt Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley, Bruce Sutter, Goose Gossage, Trevor Hoffman, Lee Smith, and Mariano Rivera) have ever been voted in. Saves have simply never held the same perceived importance as starting pitches statistics.
Because eight players have been selected for the Hall of Fame, there is a baseline with which candidates can be evaluated. The average number of career saves amongst Hall of Famers currently stands at 413 (Wilhelm has the least at 228 and Rivera holds the most at 652). Their average Earned Run Average (ERA) is 2.86 (Eckersley is highest at 3.50 and Rivera is lowest at 2.21). The group has also averaged 1,404 strikeouts over their careers.
During his 21-year major league career, Franco was able to amass comparable numbers. His 424 career saves put him above the HOF median. His 2.89 career ERA also placed him well within the range of other Hall of Famers.
While his 975 strikeouts were below the pace of the other relievers, Franco did not have the benefit of serving in a dual role of starter and reliever like many of the Hall of Famers did. In fact, in Franco’s 1,119 career MLB games, he never appeared as a starter.
In addition to HOF worth numbers, Franco also recorded several noteworthy accomplishments. He was a four-time All-Star and is a member of the Mets’ Hall of Fame. His 424 saves are the fifth most in baseball history (and ranked second when he retired in 2005 and the most ever by a left-handed pitcher.
If would have been difficult for Franco to get the 75% vote necessary for election into the National Hall of Fame, his career accolades were worthy of multiple years of eligibility. It’s a shame the former Mets’ team captain didn’t receive an opportunity to keep his place on the ballot.
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