Today was a sad day for all of baseball, and especially its older fans still holding on to the shreds of their youth. Julio Franco is no longer the oldest player in Major League Baseball.
Just 5 1/2 weeks before his 49th birthday, the veteran infielder was designated for assignment by the Mets on Thursday.Franco was rarely used this season, appearing in 40 games, batting .200 with one home run and only eight RBI. Franco had essentially been operating as a defacto "player-coach" this season, giving guidance to the younger players. His departure is probably more due to the larger sweeping changes the Mets undertook today, with their decision to install Rickey Henderson as batting coach. And when you think about that, don't you wonder if the team is just asking for trouble there? It's like asking Dennis Rodman or Jose Canseco to join the coaching staff, isn't it? Fireworks ahead!
If no other club claims Franco off waivers or trades for him, he will become a free agent in 10 days. At that point Franco can begin looking for a new team in his quest to play until he's 50.
The release of Franco stings the most for the middle-aged man of America. For years they could point to the 1991 batting champion and say, "See, I could still do this if I tried." And just like nobody believes Tommy Lasorda wears size 40 pants if that's what is sewn in, we can all wink when Franco says he's only 48 years old.
Franco is an inspiring tale, and it will hopefully only be a matter of time before he lands a player-coach role with another MLB team.