John Franco has always been one of the more popular Mets. You can catch him on SNY from time to time.
On this date in 1994, Franco passed Dave Righetti for the most saves by a lefthander with 253 in a 5-2 victory at Atlanta.
Franco finished with 424 saves, an average of 26 per season playing for the Reds, Mets an Astros. He had eight seasons of 30 or more saves – five of them with the Mets – with a career best 39 with Cincinnati in 1988.
That season was one of three times in which he led the National League in saves.
Franco is fourth on the career list behind Trevor Hoffman, Mariano Rivera and Lee Smith, but has received little consideration for the Hall of Fame, largely because he has one save in 15 postseason appearances.
Franco has always been a straight shooter, which accounts for much of his popularity among Mets fans.
During the summer of 2009 when the Mets were hit hard by injuries and struggling, Franco wanted to hear none of the excuses and pointed in a different direction.
Said Franco: “You know, there’s still something missing there. I don’t know what it is the last couple of years. Watching them almost every day, there’s no leadership there. Nobody wants to step forward and be a leader. Something is missing, and it’s hard to put your finger on it.
“They got some great, talented players — [Jose] Reyes and [David] Wright and [Carlos] Beltran, now [Johan] Santana’s there — but I just can’t put my finger on it. It seems like, to me, they’re not having fun, even when they were winning.
“Playing in New York, the pressure cooker here, so I’m sure there’s a lot of pressure on them, but they need to relax a little bit and look like they’re having fun. It kind of looks like they’re not having fun and everybody’s on their own page.’’
That attitude continued in 2010 and led to the firing of Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel and the new regime of Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins.
The argument of a lack of leadership continues to this day with Wright out of the lineup with a back injury, and the constant talk of trading Beltran and Reyes.
One thing I’ll always remember about Franco was his presence after Sept. 11. His roots enabled him to relate to the city like few others.