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He may not be a Hall of Famer, but Julio Franco's story will be told long after he hangs up his spikes. Even if that doesn't happen for another 10 years.

After hitting .294/.372/.454 at age 44 in 2003, he continued to work his magic at age 45 in 2004. His .309/.378/.441 line in 325 at-bats is easily the best performance by a position player of his age.

Julio Franco was signed by the Phillies as a non-drafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic at age 20 in 1978. Hitting .305/.381/.433 in rookie league that year was a good start, but he wasn't marked for stardom yet. He spent a year at each level in the Phillie system, hitting .300 with some secondary skills at each stop. In 1982, he established himself as a hot prospect at Triple A Oklahoma City by spiking his .300 average with 21 homers and 33 stolen bases. That off-season, the Phillies and Indians made a big 5 for 1 trade with Franco, and 4 lesser players, going to the Indians for Von Hayes. Hayes had a pretty good career, which ended in 1992.

Franco started out hitting .273/.306/.388 in 1983, but each year pushed his performance up a notch until he was hitting .300 with regularity and with good secondary skills. After six seasons with the Indians, he was traded to Texas for Pete O'Brien, Oddibe McDowell and Jerry Browne. He continued with Texas, performing as he usually had offensively, but now playing second base instead of shortstop, until 1993. He was 35 years old, and his travels had just begun. His first stop was a year with the White Sox as a DH/first baseman where he hit .319 with 20 homers. Next it was off to Japan for a season, then back to MLB in 1996 and 1997. In 1998, he played in Japan and in 1999-2000, he starred for the Tigres in the Mexican League. He returned to Atlanta at age 42 in 2001, and hasn't missed a beat, hitting his usual .300 with good secondary skills since.

Franco had a reputation as an adequate defender at shortstop and second base, but no one ever suggested that he was a Gold Glove candidate. His statistics appear to be average at both positions. He had good speed until he was 33, and was an effective base stealer in his early 30s. He has had five post-season appearances, and hit badly overall.

There is just one comparable in Franco's chart, because the match is quite close, and no one else really helps with the comparison:

Player    G      AB     H     HR    W     BA     OBP    SLUG    OPS+     
Franco 2269 8189 2457 161 863 .300 .366 .419 112
Trammell 2293 8388 2365 185 850 .285 .352 .415 110

So, there you have it. Julio Franco and Alan Trammell, two of the fine shortstops of the 80s, have ended up pretty much at the same place. Franco hitting for a better average; Trammell with a little more power.

Should Franco end up in the Hall of Fame? Will he? Julio Franco would be just short of the standards I would suggest. He played five years at shortstop, and four years at second base. His offense would be good enough for a career shortstop, but he's really only had half a career as a middle infielder. Now, as for his chances, I wouldn't want to guess. He has 2457 hits now, and had 99 hits last season. He might end up with 2600-2700 hits and that might be enough. Or, one of these years, he might have a big post-season and that just might do it for him in the minds of the writers.

Next up: The Third Basemen
Hall Watch 2004-The Shortstops-Julio Franco | 19 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
_Magpie - Thursday, February 03 2005 @ 10:20 PM EST (#792) #
If there hadn't been a strike in 1994, Fred McGriff would be comfortably over 500 HRs and if Julio Franco hadn't gone wandering around the world, his counting stats would pretty well guarantee his entry as well:

Hits by season

1994 - 138
1995 - 0 (in Japan)
1996 - 139
1997 - 68
1998 - 0 (Japan)
1999 - 0 (Mexico)
2000 - 0 (Mexico)
2001 - 27 (Mexico until 31 August)
2002 - 96
2003 - 58
2004 - 99

If he'd been in the ML for the almost 5 full seasons he missed - well, 400 hits is a conservative estimate.

What I really like is how he's raised his batting average by at least 10 points each of the last two years.

So he'll probably hit .320 this year.
_Marc - Thursday, February 03 2005 @ 10:32 PM EST (#793) #
Scary point... Franco has been in pro ball almost as long as I have been alive (born in 1977).
_Lefty - Thursday, February 03 2005 @ 10:51 PM EST (#794) #
Great article Mike. Its nice to remember the career of this exceptional player. I doubt he goes to the hall in the vote but he is certainly worth strong consideration.

And I guess thats what you just did.
_6-4-3 - Thursday, February 03 2005 @ 11:09 PM EST (#795) #
Scary point... Franco has been in pro ball almost as long as I have been alive (born in 1977).

Scarier follow-up: there are (now that John Franco has signed on with the Ancient Astros) two MLB players who have been playing baseball longer than I've been alive, and they're both named Franco.

Julio Franco, for me, doesn't pass the plaque test. What's the plaque test, you ask? Basically, if you can't find anything of interest to put on the guy's plaque, he's not a hall-of-famer. Take Ray Schalk (COMN), and compare him with Ruth, or Cobb, or Satchel Paige. Heck, compare it to Orlando Cepeda or Phil Rizzuto, even. (Seriously, though, if you want to kill time, flip through the plaques at the hall of fame's website. Highlights include the fact that they felt the need to define what a perfect game was on Cy Young's plaque, and Bill Veeck's plaque, which ends with a reference to Eddie Gaedel.)

Now, what can you put on Franco's plaque? "Steady .300 hitter. Appeared in three all-star games. Played in Cleveland, Japan, Mexico. Greatest elderly player since Phil Niekro"? I suppose 2,500 hits and lifetime .300 hitter work, but he was an all-star three times, only once figured into the MVP voting (finished 8th, between Puckett and Cone), only led the league in one category (batting average), and never figured into a playoff run. That's a long-winded way of saying his Hall-of-Fame monitor number is bad (55), and that his career just doesn't scream "Hall of famer!". Of course, if they were using Bill Simmons' pyramid-scheme, I'd let Franco in, on the ground floor.
_Rob - Friday, February 04 2005 @ 12:26 AM EST (#796) #
Of course, if they were using Bill Simmons' pyramid-scheme

One of his greatest ideas ever. Franco would be an ideal Level One member.

Was Franco the batter who broke up one of Steib's no-no's? I just got a DVD of Greatest Pitched Games, and I saw that bounce over Manny Lee's head for the first time, but I forget who the batter was.

Anyway, my entire position on his HOF chances is summed up in the very first sentence. But I'll say that Franco has three HOF-caliber players in his Most Similar list: Enos Slaughter (who is already in), Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker. And if the latter two aren't getting in anytime soon, I don't see Franco getting a plaque.

Did you know he played in Japan with Pete Incaviglia in 1995?
_Mick - Friday, February 04 2005 @ 12:29 AM EST (#797) #
the Phillies and Indians made a big 5 for 1 trade with Franco, and 4 lesser players, going to the Indians for Von Hayes.

I was in Ohio at the time, and Franco was in fact one of the lesser players, with the PHI-to-CLE centerpiece being All-Star 2B Manny Trillo.

I don't think Franco will get enough votes his first year to stay on the ballot because too many uninformed voters will think "Julio Franco? Are you kidding?" and not even consider him.
_Magpie - Friday, February 04 2005 @ 12:59 AM EST (#798) #
Was Franco the batter who broke up one of Steib's no-no's?

Yes, that was him with the hopper over Lee's head. The week after it was Jim Traber of the Orioles looping one just past McGriff...

PHI-to-CLE centerpiece being All-Star 2B Manny Trillo.

I remember, though, Bill James writing in the 83 Abstract that "Manny Trillo was a throw-in in the Manny Trillo trade. The essence of the swap was Franco for Hayes, a rare exchange of two blue-chip prospects..."

I don't think he should be in the HoF, but I'd love to see him in a WS. I know, that means the Braves have to be there too.
_Jabonoso - Friday, February 04 2005 @ 02:18 AM EST (#799) #
JF just declared in his home that he will play until he is fifty years old, he feels strong and healthy. Asked if he could have by now 3,000 hits if not for his wandering habits, he responded: i still have time to do that, if i get the chance to play at that level. Next question " would it be important for a HOF consideration ? " his answer: i guess so, something has to stand out...
On a related note.
Felipe Alou was asked if he has plans to retire: No, not at all.
i will be on a uniform all my life, well, as long as someone hires me.
_Magpie - Friday, February 04 2005 @ 04:46 AM EST (#800) #
"i still have time to do that"

Why not? He's still improving as a hitter.
_coliver - Friday, February 04 2005 @ 07:45 AM EST (#801) #
I wonder how old ol' Julio really is. He is listed as being born in August, 1958, which would make him a mere 46 years old!

Wouldn't it be something if he was really 3-5 years older than that, a-la Junior Felix. We could have the first legitimate 50-year old player since Satchel Paige (and who knew his age?).

Minnie Minoso doesn't count...haha
Mike Green - Friday, February 04 2005 @ 09:09 AM EST (#802) #
I was in Ohio at the time, and Franco was in fact one of the lesser players, with the PHI-to-CLE centerpiece being All-Star 2B Manny Trillo.

That was definitely how it was billed in the mainstream press. I should have mentioned that.

By then, I was reading Bill James, who accurately described it as a rare "top prospect-for-top prospect" trade, and that undoubtedly coloured my perception.
_groove - Friday, February 04 2005 @ 12:44 PM EST (#803) #
I don't think his counting stats would justify his enshrinement, even if padding it were to give him ~2900 hits. His ability to 'not decline' in any noticeable way is quite amazing - but unless he keeps trucking into his 50's, I think he is destined to be a member of the Hall of Very good. I think his biggest knock is that his #1 comparison is B.J. Surhoff.
_John Northey - Friday, February 04 2005 @ 01:48 PM EST (#804) #
Julio Franco could be another Harold Baines HOF headache. Someone who was very good for a very long time, but never a really big star by any stretch. If he reaches 3000 hits (still a long ways off) then the arguement becomes bigger for both sides. He only got there by platooning for years after he was washed up vs he did get there.

I recall similar debates about Baines a few years back, but he retired before 3000 thus removing the debate. His last 3 seasons he was 312/387/533, 254/338/417, then 131/202/143 (while making $1 million on a contract signed before the season).
Mike Green - Friday, February 04 2005 @ 01:55 PM EST (#805) #
That's not a bad analogy, John. Baines was a somewhat better hitter than Franco, but played the outfield for 7 years and then became a DH because of his knees. Franco's case could be a little tougher because of his half-career in the middle infield.
_Donkit R.K. - Saturday, February 05 2005 @ 12:30 PM EST (#806) #
Mickey Mantle's HOF plaque (COMN) says he played from 1951-68 and also that he was named to 20 AL All-star teams. Help me with the math, guys...
_AWeb - Saturday, February 05 2005 @ 01:03 PM EST (#807) #
Apparently they played an all-star team twice a year for 4 years, in a "double-header" format. It's odd that I've never heard of this (COMN) before. Both games seem to have had the same roster, but possibly different starting lineups. So "named to 20 all-star teams" looks to be right, but "picked as an all-star 20 times" probably wouldn't be...
_Sawney Snows - Monday, February 07 2005 @ 04:49 PM EST (#808) #
In this game in 1993, Franco hit a home run and was the only baserunner who reached against the Indians' Tom Kramer. Everything else being equal, and with Franco's home run replaced with an out, Kramer would have pitched a perfect game.
_Tim Francis-Wri - Tuesday, February 08 2005 @ 12:27 PM EST (#809) #
I like the idea of a double-header All-Star Game. It would put an end to the idea that You Have To Play Everyone On The Roster. And MLB could dump the home run hitting contest.
_Hartley - Thursday, February 10 2005 @ 01:06 AM EST (#810) #
Hi Donkit R.K.

In response to your question about how Mickey Mantle could play 20 allstar games in 17 seasons. From 1959-1962 there were two allstar each year in both the N.L. and A.L. parks. In 1963 it was back to one Allstar game in one park.
Hall Watch 2004-The Shortstops-Julio Franco | 19 comments | Create New Account
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