It has been two years, two months and a week since Edgardo Alfonzo signed with the San Francisco Giants. Not that I’m counting. I raged against the Metchine all through the winter of ’02-’03 over this crime against humanity, loyalty and good taste. The only things that got me through this dark period were the word on Reyes and Richie the Electrician cluing me in on a third-base prospect who tore it up in the Florida State League. Watch out, he told me, for David Wright.
Okey-doke, I said, considering Richie is a reputable source (his cousin is Dave Giusti and his Little League coaching is legendary). I waited through Ty Wigginton’s irrepressible Sluggo act, which wasn’t altogether painful, and when Wright came up last July, he was as good as advertised. Yea, a hitter! Whereas I couldn’t take the pressure of Scott Kazmir turning into Pulse or Izzy, I treasure every offensive prospect we have, knowing they are as rare in these parts as unassisted triple plays in the second game of a Sunday doubleheader. I was on hand for Wright’s first hit, Wright’s first Shea homer and, will swear someday, Wright’s no-hitter. Yessir, this kid could do it all. Nearly threw a perfect game, too, but the ump was distracted by a plane and called ball four on one right down the middle.
Understand this doesn’t let Steve Phillips off the hook for his oily, self-promoting, destroyer-of-worlds ways. 2003 was the only season in which I took pained pleasure in Met losses, all the way into July. Glavine the Brave being pelted on Opening Day was beautiful. Art Howe demonstrating himself Jean Doumanian to Bobby V’s pre-mogul Lorne Michaels was managerial justice. Rey Sanchez proved a fraud as a player and a person and I giggled. I know as fans we’re supposed to be glad when our worst fears don’t materialize, but 2003 was an exception to the rule. I couldn’t live with the idea that Steve Phillips was right to bring any of these guys on board, that Steve Phillips had earned a single extra day as GM.
If Steve Phillips is right, I’d rather live a wrongdoing life.
It wasn’t until Phillips was axed and most of his collectibles were auctioned off for cents on the dollar that I could look my team in the eye and not automatically wince, blanch or shudder. Glavine and Howe I learned to live with. I had to. I had too much invested in the Mets literally. Clothes, for example. If I truly gave up on the Mets, my wardrobe would be down to three random college t-shirts and an Expos cap I bought as a goof.
But Phillips’ stain, despite the yeoman scrubbing by Duquette and the expensive Minaya-formula detergent applied liberally lately, remains soiled into this organization. I don’t care how limited Edgardo Alfonzo’s production in San Francisco has been or what a dud his contract is for them. He never should have been allowed to walk. After 2002, it was simple. I can see it now in the transactions agate of my dreams:
METS Decline to pick up option on 2B Roberto Alomar.
That’s all. Admit Alomar and us, an intriguing proposition and one worth trying, was a mismatch. Let him walk and shift Fonzie for the final time in his career back to second where he could tutor young Jose Reyes when he was ready. Fonzie, feeling no pressure of living up to a free agent contract in San Fran, produces like he used to. Reyes is installed at short to stay. Proceed with Wiggy, then Wright at third. Richie’s scouting report would have come no strings attached, not making me choose sides between past and future, because with Robber Baron gone, Fonzie and Wright play different positions. Kaz Matsui, yet another folly on ice from another wacky Wilpon winter, is never heard from. Take that money and put it toward Vlad where it belonged. And this year, maybe we’ve somehow replaced Piazza with LoDuca or Kendall because we’re not desperate for Beltran.
Yeah, you can drive yourself to distraction with what-ifs. I’ve only just stopped running the John Olerud stays/Western Civilization doesn’t decline scenario.
My Fonzie ardor, I have to admit, has abated somewhat. He’s an opponent now, even though he shouldn’t be. But he should be moving up our lifetime charts. He should own our lifetime charts. Even with his last two uninspiring years, he has 1,419 hits. Let’s assume he gathered only exactly as many hits as a Met in ’03 and ’04 as he did as a Giant. He’d be the all-time Met hit king, one ahead of Eddie Kranepool (gawd, what a franchise). Using the same template, he’d be but 37 RBI behind Strawberry for leadership in that category. Except for homers and triples, he’d soon have everything.
It’ll take a few years, but we’ll cross our fingers that we follow David Wright up those charts. He’s closer than you’d imagine to Met immortality. If he plays 148 games at his position in 2005, David Wright will be the No. 11 Met third baseman in terms of service at his position. Ever. He’s 179 games away from being No. 6 on the list. If he stays on track and healthy (and if he doesn’t, we’re all screwed anyway), he will be almost indisputably the greatest third baseman the Mets have ever had by his fourth season.
Which reminds me of one of the glow jobs written on his behalf over the weekend. Adam Rubin made a fey case in the News that David Wright could have won the N.L. Rookie of the Year award when one considers how similar his and EX-MET FARMHAND TRADED BY STEVE PHILLIPS FOR STEVE REED Jason Bay’s numbers were while both were in the bigs in the second half, and how a few guys (McCovey, Horner, Darryl) have won it with less than a full season under their belts.
Nice try, I thought, but irrelevant. It’s a strange award anyway, as it guarantees nothing regarding future success and they don’t issue corresponding awards for second-, third- and other-year players. Barry Bonds lost the ROTY to Todd Worrell in 1986. Wally Moon beat Ernie Banks and Henry Aaron in a landslide in ’54. A Taste of Honey topped Elvis Costello in ’78, though I think that was music.
Not that I’d throw a Rookie trophy back if it came our way. It still rankles me that Andre Dawson edged Steve Henderson in 1977. Look at the stats, prorate the ABs and remember the situation Hendu came into. Then again, Debby Boone won the Grammy as Best New Artist that year, so we know the judging of freshmen was askew all over.