Commentary

Commentary: Maikel Franco doesn’t need to become a superstar

CLEARWATER, FL - FEBRUARY 26: Maikel Franco #7 of the Philadelphia Phillies poses during Photo Day on Friday, February 26, 2016 at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Florida. (Photo by Robbie Rogers/MLB Photos via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Maikel Franco

There’s a new column at Philly.com. It’s by Bob Brookover. The headline: (Maikel) Franco needs to become next Phillies superstar.

No, he doesn’t.

Brookover’s basis for the superstar talk roots with a comment by Pete Mackanin. The comment: “I think (Maikel) Franco is going to blossom into a perennial all-star caliber player.”

Perennial means constant. All-star caliber means just about an all star, sometimes definitely, sometimes not quite.

So Mackanin thinks Franco can become a very good player for a number of years. He didn’t say he can become a superstar. And a very good player for a number of years doesn’t necessarily mean superstar.

Semantics aside, the point is that Franco doesn’t need to become the next Phillies superstar.

In fact, Franco doesn’t *need* to do anything. All we hope Franco does is play well in 2017. And hopefully he improves on his 2016 season, which was somewhat underwhelming (.255/.306/.427). Hopefully he can show more discipline, not swing at bad pitches, play better defense and stay on the field. If he does those things, we have a good player, maybe a very good player. Maybe he’s a superstar. But he doesn’t need to be that.

Look, we’d all love to see a guy swat 40 home runs again, play superb defense and be at the top of every offensive leaderboard. We’d love to see our guy on the cover of a magazine and getting feature spots on commercials and in MLB social media blitzes. Let’s wish someone from this current crop of youngsters can be that guy. Franco doesn’t need to be that guy.

This Brookover column is typical Philadelphia fandom, and it feels like it’s designed to plant the seeds of frustration toward one of the city’s athletic talents. Joel Embiid is doing incredible stuff at the Wells Fargo Center. We saw glimpses of a star in Carson Wentz this fall. There’s a guy named Provorov on the Flyers. Superstars are sexy, fun to focus on and easy to write about. And since Franco hit a bunch of home runs and made people go nuts two years ago, it’s time to throw more expectation on him. Now it’s not enough just getting better, Maikel. Now it’s time to be a (cue Mary Katherine Gallagher voice) superstar!

What if Franco didn’t become a superstar? What if the Phils had no superstar? Could a team actually contend without a superstar?!

There’s no hard and fast rule for these things, especially in baseball. The Kansas City Royals reached the World Series in consecutive years; do we see Eric Hosmer, Salvador Perez, Lorenzo Cain or Alex Gordon on every magazine and in every social media blitz? While Kris Bryant, Manny Machado and Mike Trout are wonderful, you don’t need a superstar to win a World Series.

Maybe this piece is just a guy wanting Franco to be better. Sure, we were slightly disappointed with Franco’s 2016, but it was his sophomore year, and – as Brookover noted – the guy hit a bunch of home runs and drove in a bunch of runners (even though we should, by now, know that a lot of RBI doesn’t mean good play). Anyway, Franco should be okay. Hopefully he’ll be better. And if not? Maybe he’s expendable. But his (or anyone’s) inability to become a “superstar” (whatever that means, really) won’t be what makes or breaks the Phillies in 2017 and beyond.

So maybe let’s lay off Franco, and the other guys, who are only trying to be better in 2017. And yeah, this team isn’t supposed to be a contending team, and maybe some of you fans aren’t in favor of another predetermined bad season, but have some patience and know that there is a plan taking shape. I would be just as mad if there wasn’t a plan. But there is a plan. The Phillies will contend soon. We hope that Franco will be part of that contending team.

And that’s all. Superstar? Nah. Doesn’t have to happen. Would we love to watch Franco bash the hell out of the ball in 2017, repeating his assault on pitching from mid-season 2015? Absolutely.

But if it doesn’t happen, it won’t mean the Phils can’t go on. They surely can. And they will.

And I’m sure there will be another column demanding some other guy becomes a superstar. Because Philadelphia.

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