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Frankie's 'chickens' comment stirs controversy

NEW View Full Game Coverage YORK -- When Mets closer Frank Francisco walked into the clubhouse Friday at Citi Field, a group of his teammates began shouting and dancing along to "The Chicken Dance." It was a not-so-subtle reference to the closer's comments in the New York Post, in which Francisco referred to the Yankees as "chickens."

"I said what I said," Francisco said Friday. "I'm not sorry. That's what I think. I think they complain too much about everything."

In a series of bizarre interviews from both clubhouses, reaction to the story ranged from embarrassed to curious to bemused, with most of Francisco's teammates shrugging away his comments.

"I'm not going to hang out in the clubhouse and watch what guys say, or tell them what they should say or what they shouldn't say," manager Terry Collins said. "They're grown men. Frankie's a grown man."

But Collins added: "I don't think we need to stir the pot when we play these guys. They're good enough already."

Partially because of that mentality, the Mets and Yankees rarely trade barbs when they meet each summer in the Subway Series. The most recent notable exception came three years ago, when Yankees reliever Brian Bruney criticized Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez's on-field celebrations, and the two nearly came to blows the next day during batting practice.

But mostly, the Mets and Yankees attempt to maintain the status quo when they meet each other twice per year.

"I can't speak for Frankie, but the majority of the guys in here, if not all of them, have the utmost respect for those guys," Mets third baseman David Wright said of the Yankees. "Their winning and their tradition speaks for itself. He was probably just having some fun, and it was blown way out of proportion."

Wright referenced a mutual respect in matters such as dealing with the media, considering the scores of dedicated baseball writers who work in New York City and the resulting scrutiny of individual players. Multiple tabloid newspapers such as the Post cover both teams on a daily basis, keeping their microscopes firmly trained on the Mets and Yankees all year long.

"I've seen myself worse in the paper," said Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, whose head was superimposed on a chicken's body on the Post's front page.

During summers such as this one, when both teams are playing well and potentially contending for playoff spots, that microscope comes even further into focus. The Yankees and Mets entered Friday's play in first and second place of their respective divisions, with the Yankees not far removed from a 10-game winning streak and the Mets coming off a three-game sweep of the Orioles.

If anything, the Mets feared only that Francisco's comments would instigate the Yankees to play even better -- though the closer, who is in his first year in New York, did not anticipate his words carrying the impact that they did.

"I made a simple comment because they complain a lot for every call, for everything," Francisco said. "I thought it was funny. But I didn't expect it to make a big deal like that."

Francisco has struggled as the Mets' dedicated closer this season, blowing three saves, posting a 5.14 ERA and nearly losing his job last month. But he has rebounded to convert nine of his last 10 save opportunities, compiling a 1.88 ERA over that span.

"I don't even know this dude and I don't think he knows any of us," Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher. "Those are some big words."

Ultimately, Collins said, he hopes his closer is able to back up those words on the field. Francisco did not appear in this season's first installment of the Subway Series at Yankee Stadium, because his team never held a ninth-inning lead. The Mets hope that will change this weekend at Citi.

But despite the magnitude of the weekend, the Mets were nothing if not relaxed in the hours leading up to Friday's opener, with first baseman Ike Davis and reliever Jon Rauch leading a makeshift football game in the middle of their clubhouse. As the pigskin whizzed back and forth, Justin Turner -- the club's utility infielder and self-appointed DJ -- blasted a series of chicken-themed songs, including "The Chicken Dance," "Chicken Noodle Soup" and "A Chicken With Its Head Cut Off."

"Never a dull moment," Wright said, shaking his head.

Frank Francisco