Baseball can be a great game, a dream come true, if you will.
However, baseball can also be a fickle game.
That sentiment rings especially true for Edgardo Alfonzo.
Alfonzo was once one of the top infielders in all of baseball, splitting his time between second and third base while playing for the New York Mets and San Francisco Giants.
From 1997-2004, Alfonzo hit for an impressive line of .291/.371/.448 and averaged 17 home runs and 77 runs batted in per year.
After that impressive eight-year run, things went south in a hurry.
Injuries and rapidly diminishing skills snowballed on Alfonzo, eventually costing him playing time and his job in San Francisco.
He would catch on again in short stints with the Los Angeles Angels and the Toronto Blue Jays, but by the end of 2006, Alfonzo was out of the big leagues at just 32 years old.
It was a shame for someone as classy and good for the sport as Alfonzo to be prematurely exiled from the game he loved.
Alfonzo has been quoted as saying, “baseball is the one thing in my life that I know how to do.”
In keeping true to that statement, Alfonzo has done his damnedest to not give up on baseball, the way it has on him.
Since his last big league appearance with Toronto in 2006, Alfonzo has plied his trade in the Mexican League, the Venezuelan winter league, for the Long Island Ducks, and, most recently, playing in Japan for the Yomiuri Giants.
Now, more than three years removed from his last Major League at-bat, Alfonzo wants one more shot.
According to Kevin Kernan of the New York Post, Alfonzo is looking for a spring training invite from the team that signed him as an undrafted free agent back in 1991, the New York Mets.
“My dream is to retire with the Mets colors,” Alfonzo said. “That’s my dream. That’s what I’m praying for, maybe it will happen, maybe not, but dreams sometimes come true, you know.”
Alfonzo was beloved in his eight seasons with the Mets. He was a major contributor during the club’s deep playoff runs in 1999 and 2000, coming up with clutch hits and playing his usual stellar defense.
He was a selfless player who switched positions twice at the big league level to accommodate aging veterans, Robin Ventura and Roberto Alomar, respectively.
Alfonzo was a classy player who loved playing in New York so much that when he signed with San Francisco as a free agent following the 2002 season that he ran a full-page ad thanking the fans for embracing him during his time with the Mets.
Essentially, Alfonzo is exactly the type of player the Mets need in the clubhouse after last year’s disastrous campaign.
The club lacked a presence like Alfonzo last season, someone who has been there and done that and isn’t—well—Gary Sheffield.
Alfonzo has a .284/.357/.425 line and 1532 career hits in the majors.
Does that mean he deserves a spot with the Mets? Probably not.
He also hasn’t had more than 87 at-bats in a season since 2005 and hasn’t shown himself to be anything more than a shell of the player he once was in nearly half a decade.
What it does mean is that the club—coming off a morale-killing 2009—would be wise to bring back Alfonzo, a local icon, if for no better reason than as a reminder of the last wave of Mets’ success.
Sure the odds are against Alfonzo making the club out of Spring Training, despite being three days younger than fellow New York favorite, Johnny Damon and just a year older than Derek Jeter and Hideki Matsui, but his presence would be about more than just the game on the field.
New York is a town that embraces stars of any age, if they can contribute.
Alfonzo may be beyond the point where he can contribute on the field, but his knowledge, approach, and respect for the game could pay huge dividends off the field.
Inviting him to Spring Training seems like a no-brainer and keeping him around in some capacity, no matter the results in February, seems like it would also be a wise move.
Alfonzo, for his part, is doing everything he can to make the decision an easy one for New York.
He is heading back for another year of winter ball in Venezuela with the hopes of keeping the dream alive.
“I love the Mets and I love the Mets fans,” Alfonzo said. “I would like that dream to come true.”
Biased opinion be damned, I’m pulling for Alfonzo. He’s one of the good ones and deserves to go out on his terms.