Brooklyn’s John Franco knows as much about playing for the Mets as anybody. He is the second-longest tenured player in their history and inducted into their Hall of Fame last night. Franco was the closer in their last World Series appearance a dozen years ago, and said he sees a lot of that 2000 team in this overachieving squad.
Franco was honored before last night’s 6-1 win over the Cardinals, fittingly entering from the bullpen as “Johnny B. Good” blared. He had a bronze plaque unveiled in the Mets Hall of Fame and threw out the ceremonial first pitch to his son JJ — and for a St. John’s product and Bensonhurst native, it was just that much sweeter.
“Being born and raised here … it means a bit more for guys who’ve grown up rooting for the team. It’s a little bit extra special. It’s humbling and I’m very honored,’’ said Franco, the Mets’ all-time leader in saves and games pitched, who is in his fourth year as a club ambassador.
“It means a lot to me. Growing up in Brooklyn and rooting for the Mets as a kid, and always dreaming about one day playing for your favorite team and now … being in your favorite team’s Hall of Fame with guys that were my heroes — the [Tom] Seavers, the [Tug] McGraws, Tommie Agees and Bud Harrelsons — to be on the wall with those guys, it means an awful lot to me.’’
Franco notched 276 of his 424 saves — the most in history by a lefty — while with the Mets. The highlight of his stay was striking out Barry Bonds looking in Game 2 of the 2000 NLDS against the Giants. Franco said that team and this year’s are very similar, starting with David Wright, who was a rookie during Franco’s final Mets campaign in 2004.
“He’s a special kid. I just told David now that this team reminds me a bit of the 2000 team, when nobody gave us a chance,’’ said Franco. “We had one superstar in Mike [Piazza], and they have David. We had [Mike] Hampton and [Al] Leiter, they have [Johan] Santana and [R.A.] Dickey, and everybody else is contributing. Guys are getting hurt and the guys who’re coming up are doing the job.
“This team reminds me of that. They’re a bunch of scrappers, blue-collar guys. They come in every day, they scrap and fight and try to win the ballgame. I think the fans are starting to believe. Each day it’s someone different doing the job. It seems like there’s something special going on here. They’ve got the good mix. … As long as they get healthy, there’s no one in this division that’s [much better].’’
John Franco, the Mets, Mets Hall of Fame, favorite team, David Wright, Tommie Agees