To dig up a phrase a very mellow college buddy of mine liked to roll out six or seven times per conversation, Frank Francisco is a trip. I don’t think I’ve thought that about any of our modern-era closers. All my thoughts on our modern-era closers were laced with expletives rarely deleted.
Not that I don’t often find Frank Francisco an [expletive-deleted] trip, mind you, but once you accept that he is going to make your short-term life difficult, you could do worse than to put your trust in him to attain three outs with a two-run cushion.
You couldn’t do much worse, I’m pretty sure, but then again, how would we know? Remember all those easy 1-2-3 saves Franco, Benitez, Looper, Wagner and Rodriguez piled up, particularly in Subway Series affairs?
Neither do I.
The thing that makes him if not quite lovable then a mile shy of detestable — besides his not allowing that two-run cushion to be pecked to pieces — is he straddles the line between not knowing what he’s talking about and knowing exactly what he’s saying. This poultry business, for example…he wasn’t calling the Yankees chickens in the sense that we native-born Americans use that disparaging phrase. He wasn’t even close with it…the way he wasn’t close to the plate in walking Raul Ibañez with one out in the ninth. But his point (that didn’t necessarily need to be spoken) that the Yankees whine and complain? It was dead-on.
They do whine. They do complain. These alleged avatars of buttoned-up professionalism evince a sense of entitlement that is second to none, treating the loss column as a vestigial limb they could never actually be expected to employ. Have you noticed their leadoff hitter for the last umpteen years and the little pause sign he makes in the general direction of the umpire, the “I may be pitched to…now” gesture? This is the organization that for a generation has bellyached about being enough of a draw to be drafted onto Sunday Night Baseball, which makes their existences a chore because, heavens, they have another game the next night in another city!
I don’t know if any of this is precisely what Frank Francisco had in mind when he invoked and then explained his digression, but the more it sunk in, the more apt it was. And though the whole thing was pretty stupid, three cheers for Justin Turner playing “The Chicken Dance” and Tim Byrdak importing a live chicken from Chinatown to frolic in the Mets clubhouse like it was Pete Campbell’s old office, thereby letting Earnest Frank know the Mets would not be cowed by a little chicken talk — no matter how finely programmed the Daveotronic 5000 is to issue benign damage control jockspeak.
We can cluck about it now because after Andres Torres had to do a little Jim Edmonds number to retire Russell Martin, and Frank walked Ibañez and gave up a single to Captain Pause Sign to inject unwanted drama into the ninth inning at Citi Field, Francisco emerged only slightly scathed. Our closer of record (because apparently we have to have one) struck out the murderously dangerous Curtis Granderson and popped Mark Teixeira and his ill-fitting helmet to Omar Quintanilla, who apparently hasn’t seen enough ninth-inning, two-out highlight films to USE TWO HANDS! but cradled the ball anyway, and it was a win for Jon Niese, a save for Frank Francisco and a great relief to us all.
What I liked almost as much as Niese’s mostly solid start; the first-inning, two-out assault on erstwhile family man Andy Pettitte; neither of Nick Swisher’s airplane arms being long enough to bring back Ike Davis’s three-run homer to Erstwhile Utley’s Corner; and slugging Davis, in turn, not having to measure which losses are different from each other, was Francisco facing the reportorial horde afterward. He was smiling a humbly mischievous smile, thanking his Lord for giving him an assist in getting out of that jam and telling the Gotcha Corps that the end result of his Friday hayride through tabloid hell was “awesome”…which was absolutely true.
Way to make chicken salad out of something else altogether.