1) John Franco
From 1990 until 2004, John Franco was a fixture at the back of the Mets’ bullpen. It is very rare for relievers to spend 10+ years with one team, which makes Franco’s Mets career even more special. His first year in Queens was one to remember, featuring an All-Star appearance and a new team record (since broken) of 33 saves, which also led the National League.
The Mets were not a great team for much of the 1990s, but Franco’s performance as Mets closer was mostly excellent (except for one blip in 1993 when he had a 5.20 ERA). Throughout the 1990s, Franco averaged 27 saves and a 2.81 ERA per year. He also finished top ten in Cy Young voting and top 20 in MVP voting in 1994.
Franco only appeared in two postseasons during his time in Flushing, but in three of those five postseason series, he did not allow a run. Franco also did his best to give the Mets a chance to win the 2000 World Series, appearing in four games with no runs allowed, but it was not quite enough to give the Amazins the championship.
Despite Franco’s consistency as a premier MLB reliever, he has the unfortunate distinction of pitching in the same era as Hall of Fame closers Mariano Rivera, Lee Smith, and Trevor Hoffman, all of whom took more of the spotlight. However, Franco’s career accomplishments should not be overlooked just because he was underrated when he was playing.
Franco is in the top 10 in several Mets franchise pitching categories; he holds the franchise save record with 276, and is tied for 7th in Mets history with a 3.10 ERA. Franco’s 424 career saves also places him at 5th on the all-time list.
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Though other closers have had single seasons that exceeded Franco’s brilliance, his longevity as an elite reliever is unmatched in franchise history. This longstanding excellence in a Mets uniform is why he is number one on my list, the greatest Mets closer of all time.