May 9, 1983: John Franco is traded by the Los Angeles Dodgers with Brett Wise (minors) to the Cincinnati Reds for Rafael Landestoy.

December 6, 1989: John Franco is traded by the Cincinnati Reds with Don Brown (minors) to the New York Mets for Kip Gross and Randy Myers.

The Reds have had a rich history of baseball closers. Big Red Machine manager Sparky Anderson was known as Captain Hook for extensive use of his bullpen.

Pete Rose was the first Reds manager to start the modern usage one-inning usage pattern for the team’s closer. John Franco was the chief beneficiary of this role change.

In 1983, the Reds were a train wreck of a team. The bullpen was by committee, and Bill Scherrer was the 1983 team leader with 10 saves, Tom Hume had nine, and Ben Hayes had seven. During the 1983 season, the Reds traded utility infielder Rafael Landestoy to the Dodgers for Franco, and he made the team out of spring training in 1984. He had 12 saves in 1985, and by 1986 was the team’s chief closer, and he collected 29 saves. That season Franco pitched 101 innings in 74 games. By 1987, he dropped to 82 innings in 68 games, saving 32 and he continued that usage pattern throughout his career.

He broke the (then) team record for saves in 1988 with 39. Franco pitched six years for the Reds, collecting 148 saves over that period, with a 42-30 record and a stellar 2.49 ERA. Franco is second on the Reds for career saves, and is tied for 9th in career games pitched. Landestoy played two seasons in a utility role for the Dodgers never batting more than 67 times in a season.
Acquiring Franco from the Dodgers was a great move for the Reds; trading Franco to the Mets was a great move by the Mets.

Franco was traded to the Mets following the 1989 season for another all-star reliever, Randy Myers, and pitcher Kip Gross. Myers became the closer for the so-called “Nasty Boys” bullpen when the Reds won the World Championship in 1990, but faltered the next year and was dealt away before the 1992 season. Myers went on to pitch through 1998, pitching for six different teams through 14 seasons. He finished his career with 728 game appearances, 347 saves and a 3.19 ERA.

Meanwhile, Franco just got better and better, and finished his career with 1119 games pitched (2nd highest all-time), the third highest saves total, 424 and a 2.89 ERA. He pitched 14 seasons with the Mets after being traded by the Reds.

Kip Gross pitched one full season plus 5 relief appearances another season for the Reds, going 6-4 with a 3.52 ERA. He was dealt to the Dodgers along with Eric Davis for Tim Belcher and John Wetteland in 1991.

One can’t complain about the role that Myers had with the 1990 World Championship team. The Reds won it all, and their bullpen was their biggest asset. One has to believe the same results could have been achieved with Franco. Franco is not Hall of Fame eligible, but he is a Hall of Fame candidate.