Five-years removed from the white-hot start to his MLB career, Maikel Franco’s tenure with the Philadelphia Phillies ended with a whimper, not a roar.
A half-decade removed from their first World Series Championship of the century, the team never quite moved on from their aging champions, and quickly found themselves an old, ugly team with a losing record – sound familiar Philadelphia Eagles fans?
But in Franco, fans saw something they’d sorely lacked since Ryan Howard tore his Achilles on the final play of the 2011 season: Hope.
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Sure, the tenures of Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, and Carlos Ruiz all overlapped with that of Franco once he joined the 40 man roster for good in 2015, but with all-timers like Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, and yes, even Howard dropping off like flies with each preceding season (or sticking around long beyond their usefulness), the team was in desperate need for a new identity; the team was in desperate need for a new star,
Franco could have been that star, at least until he wasn’t.
In 2016, Franco led the team in home runs during his first ‘full’ season at 25, hinting at a changing of the guard with former MVP Howard – a player who ironically also had 25 homers in his final season with the club.
I mean could you even imagine lucking into another big-time slugger, only this time he played third base? Sure, his physique had more in common with a middle-aged riverboat gambler than a finely tuned professional athlete, but if you can hit 40, 50, *gasp* 58 home runs in a season, most fans in the 215 could care less if you’re a 7-foot-tall, googly-eyed orange hockey mascot.
But for whatever reason, Franco could never clear that 25 home run hurdle.
Over the next two seasons, Franco’s home run total dropped from 25, to 24, to 22, with his once-above-average fielding becoming less and less reliable. Factor in the surprise emergence of Rhys Hoskins as a legitimate franchise first baseman (in theory) and even a position change couldn’t have saved Franco’s future in Philly.
… At least until Franco came out of the gates scorching hot in 2019, and just like that, the hope was back.
At one point – very, very early in the season – Franco was on pace for over 100 home runs for crying out loud and looked like the missing piece in a championship-level offensive puzzle – again, until he wasn’t. Much like the Phillies as a whole, Franco’s play degraded from month after month until before he knew it, the 27-year-old was relegated to the Iron Pigs on assignment with no hope of October baseball.
And just like that, after 656 games in Phillies pinstripes, the Miaikel Franco-era is over; gone with a whimper, not a roar.
While I sincerely doubt that this will be the last we see of Maikel Franco, or César Hernández for that matter, it’s clear neither player had any future with the Philadelphia Phillies outside of sporadic play as an unpopular placeholder – a grim reality check that seemed virtually impossible not five years prior.