The wandering hitting savant
Injury limited Franco to 35 games in 1992 and he struggled in 1993. In 1994 Franco moved to Chicago and hit to a .319/.406/.510 line with a .398 wOBA and 141 wRC+ for the Sox in 112 games before the strike ended the season.
Nothing stood in the way of Franco playing baseball and as the strike drug into 1995, free agent Franco went to Japan playing for Chiba Lotte. He returned in 1996 at the age of 38 to play for the Indians once more and hit .322/407/.470/.877 with a .387 wOBA and 124 wRC+.
He struggled in 1997, mostly due to injury, and no one wanted him in 1998 so he returned to Japan and once again posted strong numbers. The Rays signed him in 1999 but after one game they released him.
The next two years saw Franco play in Mexico, Korea and then back in Mexico.
Who’s on first?
Since acquiring McGriff at the deadline in 1993, the Atlanta Braves came to expect consistently high production at that first base position. From 1993 through 1997 McGriff compiled a .293/.369/.516/.885 line even though his personal OPS dipped to .797 in 1997.
Andrés Galarraga followed McGriff in 1998 and posted a .991 OPS. While “The Big Cat” fought and beat cancer in 1999, Ryan Klesko, Randall Simon, and Brian Hunter turned in a combined .843 OPS. Galarraga returned in 2000 to restore order with another super year and a .895 OPS. In 2001 all of those players were gone.
The Braves brought in Rico Brogna but back injuries hobbled him and he managed just 72 games hitting .248/.297/.335/.632. His back hurt him too badly to allow him to play, so the Braves placed him on the 60-day DL and although he was just 31, he never played major league ball again.
Wes Helms played parts of 65 games at first, but he hit just .231/.297/.421/.718 while manning first base. Current Nationals manager Davey Martinez, then 36-years old and in his final Major League season, played a handful of games at first as well hitting .154/.214/.154/.368.
Clearly, this was not good enough to win a championship; the Braves needed a real first baseman.