John Franco, who I believe gets a paycheck from the Mets for his work with the team in spring training, doesn’t seem adverse to burning bridges he’s still standing on. He appeared on SIRIUS XM and had this to say…
Host, Jeff Joyce: “Have you ever seen a team decimated by so many injuries?”
John Franco: “No, you know, it’s one after another with them. But, 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.”
Host, Kevin Kennedy: “They make mistakes, I mean mental mistakes, even like the game the other day: the errors and giving up early runs to the Yankees in a one-run game or two-run game it turned out to be on Sunday. I mean, you can’t do that if you want to win this division.”
Franco: “Absolutely. You know, you can’t give away outs. When you have to get four or five outs an inning, that’s cause for trouble. I was down in Spring Training and [manager] Jerry [Manuel] had them guys working on fundamentals every day and doing the things that you need to do to win ballgames – taking the extra base, heads up, knowing situations. Every day you go in the meeting room and that’s what they talk about. They go out on the field and do it. But once the game starts, I think they have maybe too much individuality, where guys are worried about their own stats instead of worrying about getting the guy over, not stealing third base with two outs which is really meaningless. These are the kind of things that they’re dealing with, but as far as management and the coaches, they have those guys prepared. And as you know, Kevin, you’re only as good as your players, and if they can’t go out there and do the job, it’s making the manager look bad.”
Joyce: “What kind of player does it take to really step up and push the guys and be a leader? It’s gotta be an everyday guy, doesn’t it? You were a closer out there, but I’m sure you probably didn’t feel comfortable doing that because you weren’t one of the guys out there playing nine innings every day.”
Franco: “Well, I was appointed captain of the Mets as a closer, so it was kind of weird that nobody wanted to do it. And I was a guy, even though I was a closer, if I thought there was a team meeting or something needed to be said, I had no problem getting in somebody’s face or kicking them in the rear. And everybody knew where I was coming from because on some of the teams I played with, some of them were very bad and some of them were good, and sometimes some guys maybe weren’t respecting the game enough or some guys weren’t playing the game the right way or some guys weren’t doing things that they should’ve done. And I would call a team meeting and call them out on it. And I didn’t care if they liked me or not. I wanted to win just as bad as the next guy, but I think I got my point across. With the Mets, a guy like David Wright is a guy that I’m hoping – you know, I tried talking to him and tell him to come forward and be that guy, but I think David feels that being that he’s such a young player and you have the [Carlos] Delgados and [Gary] Sheffields and veteran guys like that, he’s afraid that they’ll look at him like, ‘Be quiet and sit down.’ Gary’s here and Gary’s been great. Gary Sheffield’s been great, so I don’t have a bad thing to say about Gary, but I think you need a guy who the organization is building around and is going to be here for the next five, six years. David’s been here for five years already, and he’ll probably be here for another five years, him and Jose [Reyes], so that’s the core of the team. One of those guys has to step forward and take charge.”
Kennedy: “I agree with you. It’s gotta be a guy from within that’s gotten the contract like David and the upside is there, but you’re right. I’m glad you’re talking to him, Johnny, because that’s what I see when I watch that team, too. I just see a bunch of different individuals, and if they win, it’s almost like, ‘OK, well we won that day.’ It’s not a group yet.”
Franco: “And if they don’t win, guys pack their bags and they go home for winter and they say, ‘OK, I get my paycheck and that’s it.’ So something’s not right there and hopefully they’ll get it right soon because otherwise it’s going to be a long summer. Thank God the Phillies aren’t playing as well, otherwise they would be a lot further back than they are right now.”
To which David Wright responded, relayed by Bart Hubbuch…
With all due respect to Johnny, he doesn't know what's going on in this clubhouse. I don't feel the need to have to defend myself as a leader. If these guys in here respect me and think of me as a leader, then that's what I need.
Not a smart move, Franco.