Philadelphia Phillies demote unloved infielder Maikel Franco

Franco is the better defender at the hot corner, and the Phillies are trying to make deals involving Santana to keep Franco. Photo by H. Martin/Getty Images.
Franco is the better defender at the hot corner, and the Phillies are trying to make deals involving Santana to keep Franco. Photo by H. Martin/Getty Images. /

The Philadelphia Phillies sent their underappreciated third baseman to the minors on Sunday.

Mike Schmidt has always pronounced his name Mike-ul Frahn-ko, which basically means that the Philadelphia Phillies Hall of Famer was saying one of the former Philly infielder’s names correctly. (It’s Mii-kell with an emphasis on the second syllable.)

However, maybe that should be forgiven since Schmidt’s first name is close to Franco’s, and it might be argued that Schmidt was just trying to make Franco seem like a real American or something like that.

However, on Aug. 4, the day Dominican-born Maikel Franco was demoted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley after parts of six seasons in Philadelphia (with only one 33-game revisit to the minors in 2015), Schmidt was in the NBC Sports Philly TV booth mispronouncing the player’s first name again. He tried to compliment Franco as a 20-home run, 80-RBI man and above average fielder, but I took his mispronunciation as a sort of emblem of Philadelphia’s attitude towards all their athletes. That is to say, “We actually don’t like you unless you play with your hair on fire,” to borrow from Mitch Williams, “and you also have to be successful, indeed ultimately successful, to get our love,” which is why Williams was not really loved.

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Call it a generalized frustration with the Phillies and all other professional teams in the city. It’s also why Schmidt was not much loved when a player. People mistook – I believe – a natively shy nature for aloofness. Only in retrospect is Schmidt “beloved.”

This means that Franco, who never has played with flaming hair, and can’t really run very fast, has never been loved since his MLB debut in 2014. He had, however, played in the Phillies system since he was 17, and had hit 100 MLB home runs for the club.

But Franco has always been streaky, and major league baseball is nothing if not a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business. So it matters little that Franco once came to bat in Yankees Stadium, after the preceding hitter had been intentionally walked, and homered (in a game I attended). What matters is that after a red-hot start this season, hitting in the 8-hole, he had cooled off greatly.

At one point this spring – so long ago, it must seem to Franco – he was casually being touted in the Philly area as the greatest number eight hitter ever.

Upon being banished to Allentown, Franco was hitting .231 with a .296 on-base percentage. The Phillies had thrown in the towel on competing for anything but a Wild Card, and fans were starting to walk away. The Eagles were back in camp! Some change, apparently, was needed, so the team seized on turning third base over to Scott Kingery, the wandering infielder-outfielder.

The immediate impact was negligible. The Phillies lost to the White Sox, 10-5 Aug. 4. Kingery was 2 for 4 and scored a run. He didn’t make any errors.

Maikel Franco is only signed through the end of this season. He may well rejoin the club when rosters expand Sept. 1. His future in Philadelphia, however, is no longer really visible. In the majors, that future may not be much longer anywhere since a streaky player doesn’t strike many as an ideal bench player.

Next. Phillies fight for the Phanatic. dark

However, Franco’s demotion at 27 seems weirdly sad. Or as a fellow Philadelphia Phillies fan often puts it succinctly, “Philadelphia.”