NEW YORK -- After he had taken the first couple of hundred flights in his 21-year big league career, John Franco understood what little control he had over at least one critical factor in his life. He put it into words Wednesday evening.

"When you're in a plane, you're in the hands of the pilot," Franco said. "You have no control."

It is with that sense of "What can I do?" that Franco viewed his brief and already complete run as a candidate for the Hall of Fame. The former Mets closer, who has the fourth-most saves in big league history (424) and the most by a left-hander, was named on merely 4.6 percent of the ballots cast by veteran members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America in the Hall balloting. As a consequence, he has lost eligibility for future consideration after his first year on the ballot.

The pitcher who finished 774 games is ... well, finished.

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"It is disappointing," Franco said from his home. "I was hoping for at least 5 percent. I thought I'd get five. Anyone who has the fourth-most of anything -- hits, RBIs, wins, saves -- you figured it had to mean something. But it's another one of those things that you have no control over. So you just have to take it.

"Everyone has their opinion of a player and the job that he's done."

Until a finger on his pitching hand betrayed him in the summer of 1999, Franco's job was to save victories for the Mets. He had 416 saves in his career, 268 with the Mets at that point. No Met was remotely close to him then. Franco saved eight games in four subsequent seasons with the Mets. With 276, he has 116 more than runner-up Armando Benitez.

The only pitchers with more career saves are Trevor Hoffman (601), Mariano Rivera (559) and Lee Smith (478). Billy Wagner has retired with 422.

"I know there are a lot of guys who vote who have problems with saves. ... the saves rule," Franco said. "But you have to be a pretty good pitcher to become the closer. And saves are the only thing we have to measure how a closer does.

"I know I had a good career. I'm proud of what I accomplished. I'm proud I was on the ballot."