October 23 – Happy Birthday Ben Francisco

ben-franciscoDuring the 53 years I’ve been a Yankee fan, I’ve sort of behaved by two rules. The first is that I do not disrespect Yankee players for failing to live up to expectations. Each and every one of them has been skilled and talented enough to accomplish something I know I never could and that is to reach the Major Leagues as a professional ballplayer. Mistakes, slumps and errors are part of the game and as upset as I get when individual Yankees  don’t perform well, I don’t hold it against them and I have never boo’d a Yankee player in my lifetime. The second rule is that despite how “against” I might have been about a transaction that brings a player to the Yankees, once he puts on a Yankee uniform, I root like crazy for the guy.

Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant is a perfect example of how I apply these rules in real-life. When I heard Brian Cashman was going to sign Ben Francisco as a right handed DH and spare outfielder, I screamed in anguish. I absolutely knew this native of Santa Ana, California was not the right guy for the slot the Yankees expected him to fill. When I first read reports that Cashman was going after him, I remember yelling out loud. “Go get Alphonso Soriano from the Cubs instead.” But since I was in my home’s basement office at the time, about 1,300 miles north of Cashman’s office in Tampa, the Yankee GM couldn’t hear my suggestion and he signed Francisco.

So I became an instant Ben Francisco fan, hoping with every fiber in my being that I was wrong about the guy and he would evolve into this year’s version of Raul Ibanez. Unfortunately, I seemed to be in a minority of those Yankee fans who were willing to be patient with him.  It didn’t help matters that so many Yankee regulars were physically unable to play on Opening Day of the 2013 season and the pressure on back-up guys like Francisco to perform was abnormally high as a result.

In his first five games,he got a total of eight at bats and failed to get a hit but judging by the boo birds at the Stadium and the vitriol of Yankee bloggers, you’d of thought he went 0-for-80 instead. His first Yankee hit against Arizona, started a three-run come-from-behind rally in a game New York would eventually win. But by the end of April, his average was just .103.

On May 1, Francisco hit his one and only home run as a Bronx Bomber in a 5-4 Yankee victory over the Astros. On June 4th, with his batting average at .114, Francisco was released by New York. A couple weeks later, he was signed by the Padres and spent the remainder of the 2013 season playing for San Diego’s Pacific Coast League affiliate in Tucson.

He was originally a fifth round draft choice of the Cleveland Indians in 2002. After a solid rookie season with the Tribe in 2008, Francisco’s name got thrown into the Cliff Lee trade negotiations and he ended up accompanying the pitcher to Philadelphia in return for four Phillies’ prospects at the 2009 trading deadline. The deal led to Francisco’s first and thus far only World Series appearance that fall against the Yankees (He went hitless in 7 at-bats.) But the outfielder struggled during his entire two-and-a-half season tenure in the City of Brotherly Love. He seemed much more comfortable playing in Cleveland.

Francisco shares his birthday with this former Yankee pitcher and this long-ago New York outfielder.

2013 NYY 21 50 44 4 5 0 0 1 1 0 5 11 .114 .220 .182 .402
7 Yrs 563 1771 1579 199 400 104 3 50 190 30 146 325 .253 .323 .418 .741
CLE (3 yrs) 235 920 817 123 213 58 1 28 99 17 76 164 .261 .332 .437 .768
PHI (3 yrs) 225 594 526 58 136 32 1 17 75 13 52 101 .259 .332 .420 .752
TBR (1 yr) 24 63 57 4 13 5 0 2 8 0 4 16 .228 .270 .421 .691
NYY (1 yr) 21 50 44 4 5 0 0 1 1 0 5 11 .114 .220 .182 .402
HOU (1 yr) 31 90 85 5 21 4 0 2 5 0 5 23 .247 .289 .365 .654
TOR (1 yr) 27 54 50 5 12 5 1 0 2 0 4 10 .240 .296 .380 .676
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/23/2013.

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