Ryan Franklin closes games for a living. His job is to finish strong for the team. Nail down the final outs of the game for another “W.” In 2009, few closers were better than Franklin. He made his first All-Star appearance, finished with 38 saves, and a 1.92 ERA. The Cards fireman was lights out much of the year. Despite all that success, Franklin wants to make big improvements in 2010. The closer failed to close out the season effectively. A weak finish for him and the team has been on his mind all winter.
In the final month of the season, Franklin blew three saves and owned an ERA of 7.56.That’s not exactly what he worked for all season. In the “ninth inning” of the MLB marathon, Franklin flamed out. The struggles continued in the postseason with a blown save in the NLDS. For all his accomplishments, he was left with an empty feeling to wait for 2010. The new season has finally arrived.
With a new season comes excitement and anticipation — new expectations. Franklin wants to prove himself all over again. He doesn’t want to rest on last season’s success. He wants to earn the job again. That attitude has him focused and ready to go already.
It is an attitude he developed throughout his baseball career. Baseball is a brutal game of failure that requires great mental toughness and resiliency to survive. The closer’s role magnifies that intense contrast between a win and a loss. The last eight innings are on your shoulders, and that pressure can be daunting at times. Closers must be confident and have short memories when things get tough. Ask Brad Lidge how tough it is. From goat to perfect to a roller coaster ride, he’s been through it all.
Franklin has had quite a ride too. In Seattle, he was a starter for three miserable seasons, compiling a 23-44 record. Then it was off to Philly for half a season. Franklin pitched out of the bullpen for the Phils as he did at times for the Mariners. The unforgiving atmosphere was hard on him, and he would finish the year with the Reds. Most in Philadelphia thought he would never amount to anything more than a journeyman reliever. He was just another arm that didn’t have what it takes. But Franklin kept plugging and landed a job with the Cardinals in 2007. He did a decent job for St. Louis in middle relief. In 2008, he was great filling in for the injured Jason Isringhausen. Franklin piled up 17 saves. The potential was there, he could be something special. He may have been 35-years-old, but sometimes it takes time to appreciate how far you have come.
Last season, he entered as a candidate for the closer’s job, but it was still fuzzy heading into the season. Eventually, he stepped up, got the first save, and never looked back. Now, he’s looking forward. At 37-years-old, he has an understanding for the game now. He just wants to finish strong. Franklin is working on a cutter to tighten up his slider. He hopes the pitch will be a recipe for rolling groundballs and getting quick outs — both staples for a closer.
For Franklin, it’s always been about getting better. He’s never been able to relax; he’s always needed to make the team and prove himself. This year is no different. He needs to prove he can finish off the season as well as he can finish off the ninth inning.