Preps Talk

Meet the newest member of the Mets' Hall of Fame

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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."

High School Lites Week 9 football roundup

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High School Lites Week 9 football roundup

High School Lites featured plenty of great action on Friday night as NBC Sports Chicago had highlights of many of the area's top matchups. Some playoff dreams came to fruition while others crashed and burned. 

Watch tomorrow as the IHSA playoff brackets are revealed tomorrow on NBC Sports Chicago+ at 8 p.m. Be sure to also follow us on Twitter @NBCSPreps for all of the latest IHSA football scores and highlights. 

DRIVE: Prairie Ridge: Episode 10

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Back of the Yards QB Jeremiah Harris

St. Xavier Team of the Week: De La Salle Meteors

Friday's Top 25 Games

No. 1 Lincoln-Way East 18, No. 19 Bolingbrook 14 

No. 2 Prairie Ridge 55, Dundee-Crown 14

No. 3 Maine South 56, Niles West 9

No. 4 Marist 42, Joliet Catholic 14

No. 5 Lake Zurich , Mundelein

No. 6 Phillips 53, Clark 0

No. 9 Homewood-Flossmoor 50, Sandburg 14

No. 10 Barrington 40, Conant 19

No. 11 Huntley 45, McHenry 7

No. 12 Naperville Central 35, Lake Park 21

No. 13 Hinsdale Central 42, Hinsdale South 14

No. 24 St. Charles North 35, No. 14 Batavia 28

No. 16 Wheaton North 20, Waubonsie Valley 10

No. 17 Crete-Monee 52, Cahokia 8

No. 18 St. Rita 47, Marmion 14

No. 20 Lyons 31, Oak Park-River Forest 14

No. 21 Nazareth 48, Marian Catholic 7

No. 22 Oswego 30, Plainfield Central 0

Mount Carmel 35, No. 23 Providence 34

Other Highlights

Tinley Park 29, Evergreen Park 0

T.F. South 21, Oak Forest 14

Glenbard North 24, Neuqua Valley 14

St. Edward 29, Wheaton Academy 28

Marian Central Catholic 44, St. Patrick 21

Saturday's Top 25 Games

No. 7 Loyola vs. Brother Rice

No. 8 Glenbard West vs. Proviso West

Cubs will be open for business as Theo Epstein weighs trading hitters for pitching

Cubs will be open for business as Theo Epstein weighs trading hitters for pitching

Theo Epstein answered questions from the Chicago media for more than an hour on Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field, but the most interesting part might have been what the Cubs president didn’t say, something along the lines of: These are our guys.

Or at least Epstein didn’t give the same full-throated endorsement of The Core that he delivered after engineering the Jose Quintana trade with the White Sox this summer, getting an All-Star pitcher without giving up anyone from the big-league roster.

Whether it’s the way the Los Angeles Dodgers dominated the Cubs throughout the National League Championship Series that ended Thursday night, the inconsistencies and frustrations during a 43-45 first half of this season or the reality of losing 40 percent of the rotation, you walked out of that stadium club press conference thinking big changes could be coming.

“We’re going to pursue all avenues to get better,” Epstein said.

The Cubs already understood this would be a challenging time to dramatically reshape their pitching staff, with Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta, Big Boy John Lackey and All-Star closer Wade Davis about to become free agents.

The Cubs don’t really have many (any?) high-end, headliner prospects left to trade after borrowing heavily from their farm system to acquire Aroldis Chapman for last year’s World Series run and get Quintana to help solidify the rotation through 2020.

All of Major League Baseball is looking beyond this winter and preparing for the monster free-agent class that will hit the open market after the 2018 season.

Meaning it’s time for the Cubs to make some difficult decisions about all these young hitters they’ve collected.

“It may or may not be,” Epstein said. “Those choices, they’re not unilateral things. You can’t sit there and decide: ‘Hey, this guy, we’re moving him.’ Because you don’t know what the return might be. You don’t know how the different moving parts might fit together.

“I think going into the offseason prepared to make some tough choices and execute on them — and keeping an open mind to anything — is appropriate under the circumstances where we have some obvious deficits and we have some real surplus with talented players who are really desirable.”

Let’s assume All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo, MVP third baseman Kris Bryant and catcher Willson Contreras are essentially untouchable.

The Cubs used the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft on Ian Happ with the explicit idea that the college hitter should be on a fast track and could be flipped for pitching later: Is it time to sell high after the rookie just put up 24 homers and an .842 OPS?

During an exit meeting with Albert Almora Jr., Epstein said he couldn’t promise an everyday job in 2018, though the expectation would be more responsibilities: Think anyone else would be interested in a potential Gold Glove center fielder who’s already playoff-tested?

Do you want Addison Russell or Javier Baez as your everyday shortstop for the next four years? Is there an American League team willing to bet big that Kyle Schwarber will crush 40 homers a year as a designated hitter?

The Cubs have to ask themselves those types of questions, which could mean getting outside of their comfort zone and taking on some riskier pitching investments and sapping the strength that has turned them into the dominant force in the NL Central.

“We’ve really benefitted from having two or three extra — and ‘extra’ in quotes because they’re not really extra — starting-caliber players on the roster,” Epstein said. “That helped us win 97 games in ’15, 103 last year, 92 this year. That’s as big a part of the club as anything.

“Having an Addison Russell go down and being able to move Javy Baez to shortstop — that’s an obvious example of it. But those things show up every week for us. There’s a day where someone can’t make the lineup and someone else slides in and you’re still starting eight quality guys. That’s huge.

“Sooner or later, you reach a point where you have to strongly consider sacrificing some of that depth to address needs elsewhere on the club. There’s no sort of deadline to do that. But I think we’re entering the phase where we have to be really open-minded to that if it makes the overall outlook of the team and organization better.”

Translation: The Cubs are open for business. Make your best offer.