John Franco was the best of the frustrating New York Mets closers. He is among the all-time saves leaders in MLB history because of his longevity and ability to bear down in the most important moments. His 276 successful saves lead all Mets pitchers.
However, he was far from perfect. Franco was on the mound for 25 walk-off losses.
Former Mets closer John Franco was the bearer of 25 walk-off losses for New York
Before joining the Mets, Franco was the victim of two walk-off wins for New York. Both times, it was Darryl Strawberry who hit a home run against him. The first was in 1985. The second was in 1988.
Franco would later join the Mets in a trade with the Cincinnati Reds. On September 5, 1990, the first walk-off loss of his Mets tenure took place. Barry Bonds was the one who hit a single against Franco in the bottom of the ninth for a 1-0 Pittsburgh Pirates win.
There would be 24 more over the years with the final one coming on July 8, 2004. Once again, it was a home run. This time, future Mets outfielder Bobby Abreu went yard to give the Philadelphia Phillies a 5-4 win.
As a closer who spent parts of 14 years with the Mets, tough losses like this were bound to happen. Franco still managed to save 276 games for the Mets. If he was able to convert saves in many of those walk-off losses, he is a lot closer to 300. Not all of those walk-off losses he was on the mound to witness were save opportunities—including the first with Bonds and last with Abreu when the game was tied.
Franco’s time as the closer for the Mets was a bit tumultuous. By 1999, the team was looking for something else. Armando Benitez was acquired and he was getting more regular appearances in the ninth. That year, Franco’s 19 saves would be the last time he ended a year with more than 4. He’d actually save only 8 more big league games before calling it a career after 15 innings with the 2005 Houston Astros.