Remember when you'd play old Nintendo games, and the boss for a level would be scary and huge and fearsome, but all you'd have to do is know the secret trick to beating him? You'd have to say "Maybe I'll shoot at the glowing red dot on his forehead!" and execute the move before you could continue.
Frank Francisco, the new closer for the New York Mets is something like that. He's a closer, so that makes him the boss level of individual baseball games. Good for him. But he doesn't like throwing the ball to first base. From the New York Daily News:
A few phone calls to scouts confirmed that its no secret around baseball. Teams run on Francisco at first opportunity, and they bunt on him at times too, believing he's not comfortable making throws — especially shorter ones — to bases.
"It’s pretty common knowledge," said one scout.
At first glance, this seems ridiculous. Every leadoff single becomes a leadoff double. In a situation where runners in scoring position can turn into blown saves pretty easily, it would almost seem negligent to put Francisco in that position.
But there isn't a huge difference between a runner at first with no outs and a runner at second with no outs. It's not a good thing, but it isn't crippling. Francisco blew four saves last year, and here's how they happened:
- Home run to Adrian Gonzalez
- A pair of doubles against the White Sox
- A double, single, stolen base, and single against the Yankees
- A walk, double, and single against the Phillies
That's one scenario in which the fatal flaw of Frank Francisco might have been exposed, and it came after the save was blown. The runner was Curtis Granderson, too, who might have been running if Terry Mulholland were on the mound.
So it's probably not a huge deal that Francisco doesn't like to throw to first and keep runners close. It's significant, but nothing that should cost him his job. What it really is, though, is weird. It's a quirk, a glitch, something like the yips experienced by Steve Sax, Mackey Sasser, and Henry Skrimshander, but in a completely manageable way. And according to manager Terry Collins ...
"It’s something we’re working on," said the manager.
You're already excited about the return of baseball, but pay special attention to the Mets the first time they have a small lead heading into the ninth inning. Could be interesting.