Meet the newest member of the Mets' Hall of Fame

653364.jpg

Meet the newest member of the Mets' Hall of Fame

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- There's always been something about John Franco that made him the quintessential New Yorker. Now, the feisty little lefty from Brooklyn is a member of the Mets' Hall of Fame. Once an All-Star closer and New York Mets captain, Franco was inducted during a 35-minute ceremony at Citi Field before Sunday night's game against St. Louis. Wiping tears from his eyes at the podium behind second base, he thanked just about everyone he could think of and said pitching for his boyhood team was a dream come true. "For those 14 years that I played here, I gave it my best," a smiling Franco told fans who arrived early for the festivities. "It wasn't always easy, and I'm sure I kept a lot of you on the edge of your seats. But I had it under control all the time." Franco's family, friends and several former teammates from the Mets and nearby St. John's University were on hand for his big night. Dressed in a sharp suit and orange tie, he walked in from the right-field bullpen to the song "Johnny Be Good" and waved to the crowd. He was presented with his Hall of Fame plaque, to be displayed alongside the others inside Citi Field's main entrance. The ceremony started with New York City Department of Sanitation bagpipers playing in left-center field. Franco's dad was a sanitation worker for nearly two decades and a union shop steward in Brooklyn. In a touching tribute, the reliever wore his late father's orange Department of Sanitation T-shirt under his uniform when he pitched for the Mets, and he got choked up Sunday night when talking about his parents. "The sanitation department was like my second family," Franco said. His salute featured a 2-minute video tribute and concluded with Franco throwing out the first pitch to son J.J., who wore his father's No. 45 Mets jersey. J.J. Franco was drafted by the Mets out of high school and just completed his sophomore season as a college infielder at Brown. "Second-team all-Ivy," his dad said proudly. Franco is the Mets' career leader in saves (276) and games pitched (695). He joined the team in 1990 after a trade from Cincinnati and stayed in New York until 2004, making him the second-longest tenured player in team history, behind Ed Kranepool. The four-time All-Star finished with 424 major league saves, fourth on the career list and the most by a left-hander. "Great changeup," said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, who faced Franco during their playing days. "Great competitor." Highlights of Franco's stint with the Mets include a World Series win and a 1.88 ERA in 15 postseason appearances. Twice he struck out home run king Barry Bonds in crucial situations during the 2000 NL playoffs, helping the Mets advance to a Subway Series won by the New York Yankees in five games. One of only three captains in Mets history, Franco became the 26th member of the team's Hall of Fame, joining such luminaries as Casey Stengel, Gil Hodges, Ralph Kiner, Tom Seaver, Gary Carter and Tug McGraw -- another lefty reliever with a bubbly personality who was Franco's favorite player as a kid. "To be on the wall with those guys, it means an awful lot to me," said Franco, now a club ambassador with the Mets. "It's humbling. I'm very honored." Some of those Hall of Famers were on the field for the ceremony, including ex-teammates Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. "You deserve this as much as anybody," former Mets lefty Al Leiter told Franco, who pitched at the same Brooklyn high school (Lafayette) as Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax and team owner Fred Wilpon. Small for a pitcher at 5-foot-10, Franco was drafted in the fifth round by the Los Angeles Dodgers and beat the baseball odds to last 21 seasons in the majors. He did it with a crafty circle change and a fearless, fiery mindset on the mound. "You can't judge a person by his size, but you could judge em by the heart he has. And I have always had a big heart. Every time I went out there I gave 150 percent. It wasn't pretty at times," Franco said, "but I was under control and I knew what I was doing. And I enjoyed every minute of it, through the good times and the bad times." The surprising Mets are enjoying good times right now. Franco was in attendance with his son Friday night when Johan Santana pitched the franchise's first no-hitter and said it was "very, very satisfying" to see that. "I think the fans are starting to believe a little bit," Franco said before the ceremony. "It seems like there's something special going on here." When he stepped to the podium about two hours later, he told the crowd the same thing. "The 2012 Mets, they remind me of the 2000 Mets. Nobody gave us a chance at the beginning of the season," Franco said. "This team right now, with the leadership of David Wright and (manager) Terry Collins, watch out for those guys."

Giants spring training Day 10: Bochy on board with new rules

Giants spring training Day 10: Bochy on board with new rules

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — During his season managing Barry Bonds, Bruce Bochy watched the slugger get intentionally walked 43 times. 

“There were (managers) who had the (signal) up before he even got to the batter’s box,” Bochy said Wednesday. 

That’s part of the reason Bochy is completely on board with a new rule stating that managers only have to signal for an intentional walk. The elimination of the four pitches has been approved by MLB and the MLBPA, with the caveat that a manager can change his mind in the middle of the plate appearance. 

“I’m fine with it,” Bochy said. “I know a few pitchers are happy because they kind of have a thing about throwing (those pitches), not on our team, but last year it happened to us and we didn’t go. I’m fine with it.”

It’s rare that an intentional ball would go to the backstop, but the Giants experienced it last year against the Yankees. Dellin Betances threw wide as he tried to put Brandon Crawford on and Angel Pagan didn’t react quickly enough to score from third. 

Bochy met with league officials last week to go over some of the new rules and ideas, and he said he wants MLB to keep pushing to cut the time of games. 

“We talk about it so much but we really haven’t done a lot,” Bochy said. “I’m all for (limiting mound visits). I’m all for it, I am. It’s gotten more and more popular in the game. It used to be the catcher, and now it’s the catcher and infielders, and they go to the mound and come back and then the pitching coach goes out there.”

EXHIBITION SCHEDULE: Bochy said Madison Bumgarner is currently slated to start Friday’s Cactus League opener, with Matt Cain also throwing an inning. Ty Blach will start Saturday, Matt Moore and Tyler Beede will pitch Sunday, and Jeff Samardzija will start Monday. It’s possible that 18 or 20 different pitchers will take the mound over the first two days since almost all of them will be scheduled for just three outs. With the exception of Will Smith, every projected Giant should see the field this weekend. Hunter Pence is the only guy who has been held back at all, but his intercostal issue has cleared up. Pence put several on the left-field berm during BP on Wednesday.

“Hunter wants to (play Friday). He's ready to go,” Bochy said. “I’ll make that call tomorrow once I talk to the staff, but Hunter assured me he’s a full go with no limitations, and he really wants to play.”

PROSPECT WATCH: Bochy took the van over to the minor league facility to watch some of the projected Triple-A players take part in live BP. Jae-gyun Hwang hit a homer off Jose Dominguez during his session. 

“He’s a guy that rotates (well) and he’s got good power,” Bochy said. “He can go the other way. He’s got some bat control. He’s got a nice swing.”

Over on the main field, Gorkys Hernandez hit an impressive homer to left-center. 

ICYMI: From this morning, Smith is being held out of workouts. Reporters spoke to him in the afternoon and he said there’s no concern. Also, here’s a podcast with Derek Law and Josh Osich. Subscribe on iTunes if you haven’t … there’s a very popular Giant coming soon.

QUOTABLE: Smith missed time last season because he tore a knee ligament while taking his shoe off, so this spring’s speed bump is somewhat easier to take. He had a message for the trainers: “I said I’m going to sit down every day this spring,” when I take my shoes off.

Cousins reacts to playing with Davis: 'We can wreak havoc on this league'

Cousins reacts to playing with Davis: 'We can wreak havoc on this league'

METAIRIE, La. -- DeMarcus Cousins says his prayers have been answered, although not necessarily in the way he expected.

The New Orleans Pelicans' newest All-Star maintained on Wednesday that he liked Sacramento and initially wasn't happy about being traded Sunday night, but added he'd become frustrated waiting through six-plus losing seasons for the Kings to add more elite players.

"I would go home, just stressed out, pulling my hair out, you know, praying, praying, praying: Just send me some help."

Cousins is the one who wound up being sent away, but to a team where he joins fellow 6-foot-11 All-Star Anthony Davis.

"Our games complement one another and being together I think is going to make both of our jobs easier," Cousins said shortly before his first Pelicans practice. "We can wreak havoc on this league. Will it happen overnight? Probably not, but our potential is scary."

Davis and Cousins debut as Pelicans teammates at home Thursday night against Houston - a game Davis has been eagerly awaiting since learning of the trade on Sunday night. The deal excited him to the point he had trouble sleeping and texted Cousins around 3 a.m. Monday. Cousins' was up, too, an texted back.

"I was up all night just thinking about how far we could go and what we could do on the court together," Davis said. "We're both excited for the rest of the season, then next year."

Cousins is averaging 27.8 points and 10.6 rebounds this season and can become a free agent in 2018 unless the Pelicans can sign him to an extension commensurate to All-Star pay.

Cousins said he's not prepared to discuss his contract situation now, but stressed, "I'm all in. I'll make the best of this opportunity and see what the future holds."

Davis is averaging 27.7 points, 11.9 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game this season and is coming off his fourth straight All-Star game. On Sunday night, he scored an All-Star game record 52 points and was named MVP.

Without using the term "Big Three," general manager Dell Demps insinuated that he sees the two former Kentucky big men and point guard Jrue Holiday - a former Eastern Conference All-Star - in such a light.

"We just felt that those three guys, putting them together, it's exciting just to think about the possibilities," Demps said.

Holiday, who has struggled with injuries since being acquired in 2013, has been healthy this season and is averaging 16.3 points and 7.5 assists.

The key with Cousins is how he manages his notoriously combustible on-court disposition. Asked to describe how intense of a competitor he is, Cousins grinned and said, "about 17 technicals worth," referring to his league-leading technical foul total. His 16th technical foul resulted in a one-game suspension as would his 18th, 20th and every two technical after that for the duration of the season.

In describing how he and Davis would complement one another, Cousins said, "You've got a little fire; you've got a little ice."

Demps laughed and added, "I couldn't have said it better myself."

Still, Cousins said he was not averse to trying harder to reign in his emotions - a little.

"Being in the position I'm in right now, I'm going to have to turn it down a little bit, to find that balance," Cousins said. "I have to remain myself. That's the way I play. That's what makes me the player that I am, but I do have to find that fine line."

Davis said he knows Cousins is emotional and will be ready to step between him and officials or others to try to keep Cousins calm when tensions rise.

"I'm not afraid of him - at all," Davis said. "When you want to win, you've got to be comfortable telling whoever what they need to hear."

The Pelicans' can't afford any suspensions. The Cousins deal also brought New Orleans forward Omri Casspi in exchange guards Tryeke Evans, Buddy Hield, and Langston Galloway, along with first- and second-round draft picks this summer. The Pelicans need the move to pay immediate dividends. They are 2½ games out of the final Western Conference playoff spot with 25 games left.

"I'm extremely, extremely excited about the possibilities," Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. "It does take time. We're going to try to make it work quickly. That may not be the case but we don't have a whole lot of margin of error right now."